Emma (@ethical_emma over on Instagram and Youtube) uses her platform to inspire others with her quirky second-hand style, informative posts and upcyling hacks. Emma shares her thoughts on sustainability and fast fashion issues, as well as exploring political themes within the industry. Here, Emma discusses the issues of greenwashing and the need for policy change …
The term greenwashing, surprisingly has been around from the 1960’s. The first known case of greenwashing originated within the hotel industry, as guests were asked to reuse their towels in order to ‘save the environment’. The hotels then proceeded to benefit from reduced laundry costs.
Within modern society, as environmental concerns begin to pierce the general market, green washing is simply everywhere. We are all familiar with H & M and Boohoo’s false claims of sustainability, their feeble attempts to reduce plastic in their packaging or encourage re-wearing clothes. These efforts were painfully transparent, done in the name of ‘seeming to care’.
One form of green washing which is not addressed as often, is the creation of new ‘environmental’ products, designed to help the eco conscious consumer reduce their impact. Whilst some brands do provide a valued alternative to unethically produced goods, there are businesses which are blatantly capitalising upon new eco trends for profit.
An example from my own personal experience of wanting an unnecessary ‘greenwashed’ product, was my strange desire for a reusable cutlery set I could eat my pack lunches with. I am ashamed to admit I spent a good few hours trawling through Google and Instagram in order to find the best reusable set. Should I go for bamboo, stainless steel or plastic which is recyclable? Do I want my cutlery to come in a leather or bamboo pouch? Do I want a cloth included? What colours do I want?
The search for the perfect set of cutlery weighed quite heavily on my mind for a couple of days. I then found myself seeing advertisements for said cutlery when scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, as brands continued to compete for my attention and money.
It wasn’t until a few days later did it click with me, how ridiculous this product was. Why on earth do I need a reusable knife and fork when I have about 20 of each in my kitchen drawers?!
This strange lightbulb moment helped me realise the power of ethical and environmental marketing. The fact that a company could make me want something I already have sitting in my kitchen, was a terrifying concept to me. Being an eco- conscious consumer, a company knows I am vulnerable to emotional messaging related to the climate crisis, thus they are able to target not only my desire to consume, but also my inner morals and sense of self.
Companies are quite literally selling us things we already own, with a few added bells and whistles , with a tagline that tugs at our heartstrings, and it works. I find it so exhausting navigating through wades of advertisements telling me this item will help save the planet, but it simply can’t and won’t. The only thing that can help stop climate change, is system change.
There is no ‘green capitalist alternative’, the society we live in draws so much from the planet, it thrives on consumerism and the idea of ‘new.’ This will never be a sustainable structure. The only way to truly tackle climate change is to collectively change our habits, modes of thinking and how we spend our money and this can only be enforced from a governmental level.
Thus, the answers to the climate crisis does not lie within more products, it relies on individuals applying pressure to our governments and policy makers. As just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions, it is clear our politicians have failed us, choosing profit and revenue over respecting the earth. Thus, it’s time those in power accepted their responsibility for climate breakdown, instead of allowing businesses to pass the guilt onto wider society. It’s time to put planet OVER profit, before it truly is too late.
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Big Sister Swap is a sustainable fashion platform, allowing users to swap their unwanted clothes for pre-loved hand-picked clothes in return