April 22, 2024


Fashion come on you

How greenwashing appears in the fashion industry | Pop

Greenwashing is misleading marketing used to portray a company or product as sustainable and eco-friendly. This practice can include nature imagery, vague claims or unverified labels. The fashion industry is a prime example of where greenwashing can be spotted, especially in fast fashion.

Fast fashion describes cheap and trendy mass-produced clothing items. Yet with speed and affordability come countless environmental consequences.

“The amount of clothing that is wasted yearly is simply horrible,” said Gabriela Rivero-Ramirez, senior wildlife biology major and president of the Green Student Alliance. “So much labor, water and materials go into it, for it to just be wasted. It’s a shame.”

According to the Princeton Student Climate Initiative, the environmental impacts of fast fashion include water scarcity, high carbon emissions, waste production and the spread of harmful plastic microfibers into waterways.

One of the biggest offenders is Shein, a popular clothing website known for its affordable and trendy products. It’s hard to beat $20 jeans and $5 tank tops, but a fashion brand that produces such large quantities of products in such a short amount of time faces numerous challenges to sustainability, despite the company’s claims found on their social responsibility page.

Shein’s sustainability claims are vague and limited. Although they do have a recycling program and prohibit animal testing, their environmental initiatives ignore the larger issues of the fast fashion industry, such as carbon emissions and water usage. 

Lack of details and proof often accompany greenwashing claims. According to Ethical Consumer, an England-based sustainability and ethics magazine, Shein’s “strict no animal policy” is not entirely true. Several products derived from animals can be found on their site, including products made of down and silk. Additionally, the fake leather and fur they proudly claim to use are still unsustainable and damaging to the environment.

According to fashion brand Panaprium, Zara and H&M are also guilty of greenwashing. These brands convince consumers that they are eco-friendly by changing one of their many unsustainable practices – H&M has announced plans to use recycled materials, and Zara to use more sustainable cotton. Without addressing other significant concerns such as waste production and greenhouse gas emissions, these claims about future sustainability are flawed. 

“I have noticed a lot of companies have added a little recycling symbol to their clothing without actually claiming anything about it,” Rivero-Ramirez said.

In order to avoid unsustainable companies and products, it’s important to know what to look for. Unexplained policies, vague claims with unclear wording and nature imagery are all forms of greenwashing to learn to notice.

Fast fashion will always be unsustainable. Despite greenwashing attempts, overconsumption is an inherent part of the industry. 

While fast fashion brands are often the easiest and cheapest options for college students, there are other options. Affordable alternatives to new clothes and accessories include second-hand clothing from thrift stores or online shops. Websites like Poshmark and DePop allow users to sell and buy used clothing, which greatly reduces the amount of waste produced and resources used.

“Go to thrift stores often and keep an eye out for Facebook groups in which people sell their clothes,” Rivero-Ramirez said. “Avoid going online to look at clothes, especially Shein.”

The food and fashion industries are not the only places greenwashing can be found; fossil fuel production companies also dodge criticism with ambiguous sustainability claims and hidden practices. 

Keep an eye out next fall for part three of this series, which will cover greenwashing in the fossil fuel industry.


Follow Jenna Murray on Twitter, @Jenna_Murray5

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