Sustainable Living: Greenwashing vs. The Real Deal

Written by Jo Lorenz

Discerning customers are increasingly demanding for sustainability and transparency in their fashion and lifestyle choices - and this demand means we are very happily at the precipice of mountainous shift towards a greener and more equitable circular economy. Yet with so many companies boasting they are eco-friendly, sustainable, organic et al, how do we know when the companies we are supporting are legit, or when they are simply ‘greenwashing’ us?

‘Greenwashing’ refers to when a company or organisation spends more time and money claiming to be green than actually enacting business practices that minimise environmental impact. It’s when a company or organisation’s claims are purposely vague, ill-defined and/or misleading. What are the regulations, for example, on how and when a company can place a ‘green’ label on their product?

I love discovering a new product that boasts being eco-friendly and sustainable, yet only if the company making the claims can easily back it up with some facts, figures and methodologies.

 Dalston Trench, made from excess luxury fabrics. 

For example, the aim at The R Collective is to reduce textile waste and pollution created by the fashion industry. A typical The R Collective upcycled jacket has a 60% reduced carbon footprint, compared with a similar jacket created using virgin materials, which is equivalent to diverting 14,882 plastic bottles from landfill, according to estimates provided by RESET Carbon

Another two examples are Hong Kong lifestyle brands Coconut Matter and Plastic Free HK, who are both transparent and clear with regard to their products, ingredients, brand philosophies and production process. All necessary information is clearly communicated on these websites and social media, with the aim of empowering consumers to make more sustainable fashion choices. Their sites are never vague in their messaging or their intent - they are purposely clear, and therefore powerful!


Left: Paper and hemp packaging and metal straws by Plastic Free HK. Right: EARTH Coconut Oil Soap by Coconut Matter.

As perceptive people in a disposable and expeditious era, we all have a concerted responsibility to live a conscious life. If you are worried about the businesses you are supporting, here is a simple litmus test for whether the products you are buying are bonafide, or whether there are tell-tale traces of ‘greenwashing’:

- Can you easily find information on eco claims, such as organic, cruelty-free and/or environmental certifications?

- Can you find a simple and transparent explanation of how, where and from what the products are made (or do you need a PhD in Science to understand their claims!)?

- And finally, is this business emphasising one tiny eco attribute, while glossing over all other aspects?

Help to minimise the disastrous environmental and humanitarian effects of unconscious consumerism, by being conscious of your surroundings, your consumption, your words, your impact - and accordingly, be a badass conscious citizen!

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