If there’s one thing that I’ve learning on my journey to purposeful living, it’s that people love to feel good about what they buy. We all want to believe that what they’re buying makes a difference. People don’t always want to put the effort into making sure that’s true though. Living purposely takes a lot of work and dedication, and there will always be some greenwashing along the way.
Greenwashing: when an organization or company feeds the public misinformation about its environmental responsibility
Basically, when a company makes it seem like what they are doing is great for the environment, when it’s really not. This isn’t just fake advertising. It’s when a brand hides behind one great fact that makes it seem like its’ doing good for the environment.
Let me give you an example really quick. Specifically around Earth Day, you’ll see a lot of products that donate money to charity. That makes you feel good about buying, right? Well, sometimes — not all times, but most of the time — the product isn’t really that great.
Think about it this way; if a non-sustainable, non-environmentally friendly brand donates 10% to a green charity, 90% of the money you’re giving is still not helping the earth. That, my friend, is greenwashing.
I fell into the greenwashing trap when I first started on my journey to live purposefully. I felt good about my purchase going to a good cause. Plus the clothing item was really cute, and I wanted it. After a while, I realized that there were better things that I could do with my money. Moral of the story: greenwashing happens every day and no one is perfect.
It feels good to give back to environmentally friendly companies and causes. Not to mention giving a little and getting something in return is extremely appealing. But you have to be aware of the brand that you are buying from. Not just the great deal that the brand is sticking in front of your face.
To fight greenwashing, you have to make sure that both the company and the deal are ethical.
This is especially true around Earth Day. Brands love to team up with organizations that are doing great. Not all of them want to give the money to the organizations that they deserve though. I have seen a whole lot of brands create shirts that give anywhere from 10% to 25% back to charities. Simply put, that is not enough. Other brands, the ones that go against greenwashing, give 100% of proceeds to the charity instead.
There are ways to give and get in the fashion world and still not fall into the trap of greenwashing. It just takes a little bit more effort and awareness. While some people buy at impulse, you have to be the person that makes sure the company and the deal is ethical. Do the research. Ask the questions. Make sure your money is going to where you think it is.
The more research you do on an item, the better you will feel about buying it. I can completely say this from experience. After taking a year to look at what I purchase and where my money is going, I have some tips for you to avoid greenwashing once and for all.
1. Read the company’s about section
If a company is built around giving back, it will be in its’ about section. This is true even for companies that aren’t non-profits. A company doesn’t have to be completely non-profit to be doing good in the world. Every brand needs to make money, but it’s the companies that build a platform around giving back to people and helping the environment as a part of the business plan that you should feel great about giving your money to.
2. Look for the number 100 in the product description
It’s as simple as that. Any product that is giving less than 100% is still doing a good thing. But it’s not doing a great thing. The brand is still taking over half of your money. If over half of your money from the purchase is going to an unethical, fast fashion brand, it is not doing the world much good.
3. Listen to your gut
Let me emphasize here that you should list to your gut — not that little voice inside your head that says, “omg pretty, I need this.” You work hard for your money. It’s worth taking the extra five minutes to see if your dollar can be stretched further. Read the description on the product and listen to your gut. If it sounds like the donated money is an afterthought, it’s probably because it is. That’s greenwashing.
I’m not trying yo guilt you into anything or make you feel bad. I’m simply presenting the facts about what is happening around us every day. Greenwashing is like a magic trick. Watch this hand, while I take your wallet with the other. I don’t want you to fall into that trap.