Greenwashing, a compound modeled after “whitewashing” is defined as the attempt of making a product seem to be sustainable or environmental-friendly. This is a practice that many companies in various fields do, including in the fashion industry. The term was coined in the 1980s by environmentalist Jay Westerveld.
Just as a lot of companies claim to be “luxury companies”, when in fact they are not, many claim to be “green” or extremely conscious about the environment.
The definition of “green”, “sustainable” or “environmental friendly” seems to be the first problem with this practice, as many companies actually lack a good or normal definition of these terms, if they even have one.
Generally, a practice that is done by lots of brands is the refusal to make clothes of genuine leather or fur. The reasons for this practice vary, but mostly people claim that by making clothes from fur or leather, animals get harmed and thus, the whole practice should be verboten.
This idea, however, falls under the narrow narratives sin. While it is true that not wearing fur won’t harm any foxes or rabbits, many people omit the fact that creating and destroying faux fur and faux leather can be a lot more harmful not only to more animals, but the environment at large. Faux fur and faux leather are generally made from petroleum. The practice of drilling the earth for petroleum is harmful to animals, as it can destroy their environments or cause disastrous oil spills. Secondly, the processing of petroleum to create these materials is also harmful. If you only think of the air pollution caused by the factories, which harms lots of bugs and birds, of the chemical dyes and substances thrown in rivers, you already get a picture of how entire eco-systems are destroyed so that people can wear faux fur or faux leather. Moreover, once the garments are not used anymore, given that they are not bio-degradable, like real leather and fur, they are either burnt, which, again, causes bad air, they are thrown in the oceans, which, harms lots of birds and animals or they are recycled, where they are generally reprocessed with chemicals and dyes, which, once again, end up in the ground and the rivers of our world. Of course, we can’t wear nothing and thus avoid all harm and this is why we must always be careful that the impact that our clothes have on environment is minimal. Nowadays, more and more companies are creating clothes from basically nothing (milk, bacteria, etc.) or even growing leather in laboratories, which could be the next big thing in fashion.
Also, wearing just hemp or cotton is also not very environmental-friendly, as, when these are collected and processed, many chemicals are used as well. This is not to mean that furs and leather are not processed with chemicals too, but their residues are a lot smaller than those of creating faux fur and leather.
Also, leather and fur can come from other industries, such as the meat industry, whereas faux leather and fur are not byproducts of any industry.
Generally, because of their quality, leather and fur are quite expensive. This creates a series of people who are becoming richer and thus, who can bring more cleanness to the planet. Cheaper fabrics, such as faux leather and fur are often transformed in clothes in fabrics from poor places, where people get paid very little. This means that those people will not be able to have a lifestyle that allows them to be green in their own lives, thus brining harm to the environment.
Of course, the fact that for most people foxes and rabbits are above people is another debate, just as whether wearing fur or leather is.
The main problem with the greenwashing process is that it is often based on virtue signaling. Virtue signaling is defined as “the conspicuous expression of moral values done primarily with the intent of enhancing standing within a social group”. In other words, people will rather lie or choose not to see the truth in order to be seen as virtuous by their peers, when in fact they are exactly the opposite.
Thus, before really going green, we must face the fact and the truth of the matter and don’t let our egos stand in our way. It’s fairer not to make any environmental or “green” claims at all than to make fake ones. Fake environmental claims are not only non-environmental-friendly, but are anti-environment.
The problem with greenwashing is not whether a brand is green or not. Yes, it is desirable to try to minimize having a bad impact on the world. That is a concept one should apply in every aspect of life, not just clothes. However, the problem is the false claims. Ethics, such as whether it is OK or not to use animals for clothes can be debated and conclusions can be reached, but making unsustainable claims is definitely brow-raising, a lot more when it comes to the consumers than the labels. To say the least.
While some greenwashing techniques are just marketing and are based on twisting words or inflating impacts, others are downright bizarre and are more hurtful than helpful. This is the reason why one must always have an overview and a logic of the things they say, offer and buy.
Fraquoh and Franchomme
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