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What is green washing?

GREEN WASHING

What Exactly Is Greenwashing?

So in short Greenwashing is giving the false sense that a company and/ or its products are actually good for the environment or better for the environment than they actually are. It can be explained as –
 “the phenomena of socially and environmentally destructive corporations, attempting to preserve and expand their markets or power by posing as friends of the environment.”

Greenwashing is a simple play on the original term of “whitewashing,” which means using misleading information to gloss over bad behavior.

How Green Washing Works

Greenwashing is also known as “green sheen,”. Greenwashing is an attempt by companies to make the most of the growing trend in the publics growing awareness and demand for products that minimise their environmental footprint and impact, they are environmentally sound whether that means they are healthier, more natural, free of chemicals, recyclable or are more efficient and less wasteful of natural resources.

The term Green Washing originally comes from around the 1960s when the hotel industry came up with one of the most obvious and well known examples. If you have ever stayed in a hotel you will probably have seen it. The hotel places a notice in the hotel room that they care for the environment and they do this by asking the guests to reuse their towels and to only place them on the floor when they want them replaced. The idea they put forward is that this would help to reduce water consumption and help save the environment… Of course this is true but it is not their driving reason for this practice – it is simply about cutting hotel laundry costs and reducing the amount of time the maid spends in each room. You could look around the room at all the individually wrapped items and single use plastics to know they sadly don’t care about the environment or water consumption except for where it hits them in the pocket. Although this practice isn’t for the benefit of the environment it is worth following as we do not need our towels and linen replaced everyday.

 

Thanks to the cartoonmovement.com for this great drawing on the issue.

Examples of Greenwashing

As just mentioned above hotels are an obvious example with the hotel towel washing green sheen. They carry on with the practice to this day and still push that it is for the environment.

More and more companies have been re-branding themselves as champions of the environment, giving the impression that they actually care when they truly don’t.

For example, recently, some of the world’s biggest carbon emitters, such as conventional energy companies have attempted to re-brand themselves as environmentally caring and conscious companies. Another big example is the major car manufacturer Fiat Chrysler were facing huge fines for their car emissions and to get around he EU emissions limits and avoid the real problem of having high emissions in their vehicles. They have decided to pool it’s fleet of cars with Tesla’s. By paying Tesla hundreds of millions of dollars to allow them to pool their vehicles together it lowers Fiat Chrysler’s emissions per vehicle therefore creating the image that its cars are better for the environment than they truly are. This allows them to bring down the CO2 level per car so that it’s emissions will fall back below the EU limit and they therefore avoid heavy fines. Other green washing techniques are to rename, re-brand, and repackage. Nothing inside the product may have changed but by doing so they may reach new Eco-conscious customers as they appear more wholesome, free of chemicals or better than other competing brands.

The National Trust in the UK does a lot of good things and it is re-positioning itself as caring about the environment, making products from recycled materials, less packaging but when the products are arriving in the warehouse they are coming heavily wrapped in layer upon layer of plastic on the pallets. They may look good on the shelves but behind the scenes nothing has changed and the environmental face of the company is only facing the customer. The rest has remained the same.

Companies can also be greenwashed via press releases, news articles and television adverts about their new clean green enegry or about them minimising their pollution efforts. Even though they may state that they are a clean green company the efforts of this may or may not be true. One positive company to note is Patagonia who seem to be truly involved and pushing forwards with their eco policies as well as paying staff to work on eco projects around the world. We at Charmio are doing our best to stay green and clean through our use of fabrics and production processes. While our impact maybe insignificant compared to the others we believe it is important for everyone to play their part no matter what size. While some companies making real concerted efforts and meaningful commitments to green initiatives and projects shout about it, some don’t and the ones not really doing so much seem to shout the loudest.

Green Peace have said one of the most common Green Washing practices are when an inherently polluting or unsustainable company shout about an environmental program or product while at its core the business continues with its bad practices.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers several illustrations of greenwashing on its website, which details its voluntary guidelines for deceptive green marketing claims.

  • A plastic package containing a new shower curtain is labeled “recyclable.” It is not clear whether the package or the shower curtain is recyclable. In either case, the label is deceptive if any part of the package or its contents, other than minor components, cannot be recycled.
  • An area rug is labeled “50% more recycled content than before.” The manufacturer increased the recycled content from 2% to 3%. Although technically true, the message conveys the false impression that the rug contains a significant amount of recycled fiber.
  • A trash bag is labeled “recyclable.” Trash bags are not ordinarily separated from other trash at the landfill or incinerator, so they are highly unlikely to be used again for any purpose. The claim is deceptive since it asserts an environmental benefit where no meaningful benefit exists.

What Can Be Done?

Greepeace launched its Stop Greenwash campaign in 2009 to call out companies green washing and with the aim of helping consumers make better choices.

Customers need to be able to look beyond the green advertising and noise making of the companies and differentiated between who is trying to make money and who actually wants to make change. Read the ingredients list – what are they actually putting in there? Palm Oil? If so why and where is it coming from. Palm Oil is another can of worms that needs to be looked at in details. What are they using to make their clothes? Organic materials? Bamboo? Recycled materials? If not why not? Can you directly ask an employee of the company? Look for labels that have been vetted by a reliable third party. Just because a label states that it is “made with organic ingredients” or “all-natural” this does not mean that the product actually qualifies for Certified Organic status.

Some labels placed on products can be suspect. If you do come across a label that you deem to be suspect then you can check it out on the Ecolabel Index, this is a global directory of eco-labels which at the time of writing tracking 463 different eco-labels in 197 countries across 25 different industries. This is a useful online resource that provides information on which company or group i behind each certificate and whether or not independant third party assessments are required.

The FCC guidelines can be useful to consumers who seek to differentiate real green companies from greenwashed:

  • Packaging and advertising should explain the product’s green claims in plain language and readable type in close proximity to the claim.
  • An environmental marketing claim should specify whether it refers to the product, the packaging, or just a portion of the product or package.
  • A product’s marketing claim should not overstate, directly or by implication, an environmental attribute or benefit.
  • If a product claims a benefit compared to the competition, the claim should be substantiated.

Key Points To Takeaway

  • Greenwashing is an attempt to capitalise on the growing demand for products that are environmentally sound.
  • Greenwashing can convey a false impression that a company or its products are environmentally sound.
  • Truly green products back up their claims with facts and details.

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What Is The Difference Between Standard Cotton And Organic Cotton?

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STANDARD & ORGANIC COTTON?

We often get asked about why we use and believe in Organic Cotton rather than the usual Standard Cotton. What is wrong with Standard Cotton? Is Organic Cotton really better for us and the planet?

Cotton is the most popular fabric in the world and accounts for more than half of all fibre needs across the globe. To keep up with this demand cotton farmers often resort to an intensive artificial means of production, using excessive amounts of pesticides and incredibly heavy water consumption. The products manufactured with this type of cotton tend to be full of chemicals, can be damaging to the skin, cause allergic reactions and damaging to the environment. The pesticides used affect the soil, leech into the water tables, damage the local natural resources and disturb the ecological balance of the surrounding area. The process of cotton production causes damage through out the chain from seed to harvest and all this unnecessary harm to the environment to produce only a single T-shirt on account of profit over the planet!  


Due to recent global events and media coverage people around the globe are finally waking up to the realisation that the textiles industry is one of the biggest polluters of the environment. People are realising that we need to be more environmentally conscious when it comes to purchasing garments, people are doing this by selecting what they are made of, finding out who and how they’re made and making sure to reuse or donate the clothes once they no longer fit or want them. Thankfully with more attention focused on these environmental issues it has opened the door for better production methods and an increased demand for responsibly farmed organic cotton.

(Source http://cottonedon.org/)  

Purity of the Cotton 

The purity of cotton fibres is judged from the way the cotton is picked; cotton is either handpicked or machine picked. Organic cotton is completely handpicked, which is more labour intensive but it ensures the preservation and purity of every fibre. Where as regular cotton has an unnecessarily high demand created by the fast fashion industry and therefore it is usually machine-picked to cope with this. Machine picking doesn’t maintain the purity of the fibres, damages them in the picking process, which leads to clothes being weaker and having a much shorter life span than that of organic. 

Organic cotton products are softer than regular cotton because of the longer fibres resulting from the hand picked process. Being handpicked ensures these fibres don’t get weakened or broken, resulting in softer and more durable products. 

What if the regular cotton was picked by hand meaning that it would last longer and therefore negate some of its environmental impact? True, this would mean that the products would last longer but it would not help reduce the other negative elements involved in the farming process.

Cotton Farming

lntensive cotton farming starts with genetically modified seeds (GMO). They are modified to build a resistance towards bugs, but over time more pesticides are required. Organic cotton is produced using 100% natural seeds so there is no use of pesticides or other harmful chemicals. The bugs are controlled by the use of other insects that kill the pests. As a result, organic cotton products are safer for the skin and the process is much safer for the workers involved in both production and harvesting.

Intensive cotton is grown on the same soil repeatedly which deteriorates the quality of the soil, removes the variation of natural nutrients found in the soil and leads to an unhealthy crop harvest. The crops require more water as they are forced and irrigated heavily. This leads to immense amounts of water wastage which takes the pesticides with it into the water tables, the surrounding rivers, streams and eventually the ocean.  

Organic cotton benefits from crop rotation from one soil to another so the natural nutrients are retained and the water is held for longer, this in turn means that the land requires less irrigation and produces much healthier crops. Following this process allows farmers to grow food on the same land and allows them to diversify their income. Growing food or other crops helps to ensure organic farmers against crop failure, climate variability, price volatility and changes in market demand.  

It takes 2,700 litres of water to make one T-shirt using intensive cotton farming methods.

Weeding 

The weeding process of intensive cotton farming uses herbicide chemicals to kill off the weeds. The use of such toxic chemicals affects the quality of crops and harms the farmers working on the land. Out of the total amount of pesticides used in farming, more than 25% is used for cotton production. This constant use of insecticides and carcinogens can lead to life threatening illnesses for farmers and can dramatically affect the neighbouring environment. In organic cotton manufacturing, weeding is done only by hand, with no harmful substances used in the process, this causes no harm to the people who are cultivating the crop.  

Up to 77 million cotton workers suffer poisoning from pesticides each year.(http://cottonedon.org/)  

Manufacturing 

Processing intensively farmed cotton uses a large amount of chemicals. Even after washing the finished product, the residue of these harmful chemicals remains and can cause irritations on the skin and allergies.

Organic cotton can still be dyed using traditional toxic chemicals but that voids the whole idea and concept of Organic Cotton. The best is to use natural, water based dyes which are in a closed loop system which ensures the water isn’t dumped into the natural environment and can be used and dealt with as needed. At Charmio we ensure that our T-Shirts are dyed using safe water based alternatives to chemical dyes and whitening agents. Natural or water-based dyes are used to ensure that the balance and benefits gained by the organic cotton are not lost in this stage of the process. Organic cotton is softer, hypo-allergic and lasts for a long time due to the picking process. The most important benefit of this natural fibre is protecting the ecosystem, reducing water wastage and ensuring a safer working environment for the farmers and manufacturers. Organic cotton is therefore a sustainable and Eco-friendly alternative to regular cotton. The future must be sustainable or there will be no future at all!

This is why at Charmio we only use organic cotton and any polyester that is necessary in our clothing is recycled. All the Organic Cotton we use has GOTS certification which is incredibly important to maintain the high standards the industry needs.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the international standard for textile processing for organic fibres. The GOTS certification isn’t only about the cotton growing process but it also includes social and ecological criteria, backed and certified independently throughout the supply chain. The link to GOTS is here.

Charmio Organic Wear is committed to ethical, sustainable fashion, being socially responsible, favourable to the environment, and the health of everyone involved from field to customer. All of this is within the reach of an eco-conscious company putting the planet before profit.

You can read more on the adverse affects of cotton farming here: https://web.archive.org/web/20141013211441/http://www.cottonedon.org:80/Portals/1/Briefing.pdf