Is it ‘green’ or greenwashing?

Fashionable women and men sitting on wooden chairs in a lush, healthy field. The people are dressed in sustainable neutrals. In this article, Ocean Generation and Lydia Dupree breakdown what greenwashing is and how to spot it.

How to tell the difference between sustainable fashion and false claims like greenwashing 

The fashion industry is swept up in buzzwords — especially when marketing sustainable fashion. “Eco-friendly”, “natural”, “green”—the list goes on. But what do they mean? Do they have substance, at all? 

Most of them are fluff, jargon to make a brand sound environmentally conscious without any true scientific backing as to their impact on our blue planet. Sustainability is easy to market, but hard to prove.  

Saying that, we can welcome our next buzzy term into the mix —greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

No, greenwashing is not an expensive non-toxic clothing detergent or the latest dry cleaning method. 

Greenwashing is “the act or practice of making a product, policy, activity, etc. appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is”.  

Definition of greenwashing by Lydia Dupree and Ocean Generation. Greenwashing =
making a product, 
policy, activity, etc. 
appear to be more environmentally friendly
than it really is.

What is greenwashing in fashion?

Greenwashing in fashion can range from a fast fashion brand debuting a “sustainable” collection that lacks evidence supporting how it is environmentally conscious, to sprinkling eco-friendly terms into marketing without defining what they mean.  

In short, greenwashing is the use of false claims to hop on to the sustainability trend without evidence (if only Legally Blonde had come out now, Elle would be all over this one!). 

Greenwashing instructions including exaggerating positive contributions to ethical and sustainable fashion and distracting from the ongoing mass of fast fashion garment production. Shared by Ocean Generation and Lydia Dupree. Via Project Stopshop

How can you tell the difference between sustainable fashion and false claims? 

5 ways to identify greenwashing in fashion. 

If you see these red flags, run!

  1. The use of sustainability jargon, such as “green”, “eco-friendly”, “sustainable”, and “natural” in marketing without a definition explaining what the brand means when using the term.

  2. A fast fashion company that comes out with new items often (think: daily, weekly, monthly, even large numbers released seasonally) markets their new line as “sustainable”.

    Releasing large volumes of clothing indicates that the company as a whole is not following an earth-conscious business model and thereby cannot justify one of their lines truly being sustainable. 

  3. Claiming fabrics to be “organic” or “non-toxic” without certifications to support (see below for more information on certifications to look for).

  4. The lack of scientific reports exploring their sustainability impact . If a brand has the data to prove how they are sustainable, they will show it.

  5. Using the term “vegan” to make clothing sound like a healthier, cruelty-free alternative , when the fabric is derived from petrochemicals (meaning, they are fossil-fuel derived plastics).  

    However, some “vegan” fabrics are plant-based materials, which would be a sustainable alternative.  

    Watch: Lydia’s short video about how to avoid plastics in clothing. 
Women wearing three pairs of sunglasses on her head: One pink, blue and yellow. A tranisiton to slow fashion is needed to safegaurd our planet. This article explores greenwashing red flags.

5 signs of sustainable fashion

Look for these green flags!

  1. Look for transparency in fashion.

    The brand has sustainability reports backed up by data readily available.

    Sustainability reports can include their efforts towards lowering carbon footprint, reducing water usage and overall waste, treating and paying garment workers fairly, and outlining future sustainability goals.

  2. How traceable is your clothing?

    Clothing is fully traceable back to the source, such as the farm that grew the cotton or the alpaca whose wool you are wearing.

  3. Is your sustainable clothing certified by credible sources?

    Fabrics and processes can be certified by credible sources, such as: 

    ➡️ What does a GOTS certification mean?
    Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) ensures no pesticides or insecticides are used in farming and all chemistry used by the brand in the production of clothing is in alignment with being truly organic.

    GOTS-certified facilities also adhere to social criteria based on leading social sustainability standards.  

    ➡️ What is OEKO TEX in the fashion world?
    OEKO-TEX® is all about chemical safety. They have a variety of certifications, but the most popular one is the STANDARD 100 which ensures that the final product was tested to confirm that it is free from over 3,000 different toxic chemicals. 

    ➡️ What does bluesign credibility mean?
    bluesign® approved facilities look at the overall chemistry used by a brand from fiber to finished product to ensure safe chemistry practices are used. 

    ➡️ What is Fairtrade?
    Fairtrade International and Fair Trade USA follow criteria that support ethical working environments for farmers and garment workers, eco-friendly practices and prioritise fair pay. 

     
  4. Are the clothes you’re wearing part of circular fashion?

    “Circular” fashion stops the linear “take-make-waste” model of fast fashion and instead closes the loop on production, including responsible manufacturing, use, and recycling for every garment.

    Look for brands that have take-back programs to recycle and reuse garments when they are at the end of life.

  5. Is the clothing you’re wearing from small batch production?

    A brand launches only a few items at a time in a limited supply to combat waste from the fashion industry, such as increasing landfills. 
A sustainably made scarf rustles in the wind. It's being held up, by a set of hands. In the background is a blue sky. Shared by Ocean Generation: Experts in Ocean Health.

Now in the know.

Although greenwashing is an indicator that the industry is slowly becoming more conscious of their impact on the environment.

But the only way to truly make a positive difference is to be honest and straightforward in their environmental efforts.  

Every decision we make – from what we wear to what we eat and how we move – has an impact on the future health of our Ocean and planet.  

With these tips to spot greenwashing, you’re now equipped to decipher the sustainability cons from the true conservationists. Go forth with your newfound skill and tell a friend.  

Greenwashing is an indicator that the industry is becoming more conscious of their environmental impact. But to truly make a positive difference they must be honest about their environmental efforts. In this article by Lydia Dupree, Ocean Generation is unpacking what greenwashing is and what red flags to look out for.


Connect with Lydia via her website or Instagram page.

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How to turn eco-anxiety into eco-agency

To protect Earth’s most precious ecosystem – our Ocean – we must first understand its importance. Our Wavemaker Programme empowers young people between 16 – 25 to use their voice and talents to make a positive impact on our blue planet. This piece was written by one of our Wavemakers. Submit your own story.

Ocean threats don’t just impact the environment and non-human creatures, but our own health and wellbeing too. One key way the environment’s degradation can impact us is through eco-anxiety. 

Shrinking ice caps, disappearing biodiversity, fiercer bushfires, heat waves , and flash floods. The effects of climate change are difficult to ignore.

These disasters not only cause immense physical destruction – a growing body of evidence shows they’re also taking a toll on our mental health. 

What is eco-anxiety anyway? 

Eco-anxiety is extreme worry about current and future harm to the environment caused by human activity and climate change. 

Eco-anxiety can be caused by the stressful and frightening experience of “watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children and later generations“, according to a 2018 report.

What is eco anxiety and how can it be turned into eco agency? Ocean Generation explains.

How do I know if I have eco-anxiety? 

Eco-anxiety can feel like feelings of loss, helplessness, frustration, and guilt, as the sufferers feel they are unable to stop climate change.

Feeling this anxiety is an emotionally mature state to be in, which shows that you are aware of the crisis that we are all facing. 

So, whilst it can be unpleasant, it can show a willingness to face painful truths and facts, and that should be acknowledged and almost (though not quite as simple as this) be celebrated. But how? 

When facing eco-anxiety, remember you’re not alone. 

First of all, try to recognise your feelings as completely reasonable and necessary, rather than push them away.

Taking time to acknowledge my feelings helps me maintain a healthy relationship with them, and often motivates my work and activism.  

Finding your place in a community can also be a huge help with feelings of despair and anxiety. There are a lot of support and activist groups you can join (read on to the tips section to see some example groups). 

Shared belonging and concern can be a great support and working towards tangible solutions can give a much greater sense of control in overwhelming circumstances. 

Know when to seek professional help: 

If your eco-anxiety is so severe that it causes you to be unable to function, or feels unbearable, you could consider seeking professional help. Try to bring empathetic understanding and connection to, ideally, find meaning in this experience. 

It is often the loss of meaning that causes people the most suffering.

Understanding that these feelings have meaning can be comforting. The ideal is to find balance between feeling these emotions, and then using them in different ways to create meaningful change, better relationships with your family and friends, maybe even more meaningful work and activism of some kind.

At least know that you are not alone with your fears. 

Eco-Agency: Steps to tackle eco-anxiety  

Since 2017, and especially since autumn 2018, there has been increasing coverage about eco-anxiety and climate anxiety in various media.  

One focal point in this discussion has been the young climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has openly spoken of her climate change anxiety.

Climate anxiety became perhaps the most discussed form of eco-anxiety, and it was often discussed in relation to the children, youth, and young adults who participated in climate action.  

Greta Thunberg on why we all need to make daily changes to protect our planet, shared by Ocean Generation

More studies on the mental health impacts of climate change have been published. In 2020, books for the general public began to appear, providing suggestions for self-help and social action in order to alleviate eco-anxiety and especially climate anxiety.

Book recommendations to learn more about eco-anxiety and how to deal with it:

A guide to eco-anxiety: How to protect the planet and your mental health.
A field guide to climate anxiety: How to keep your cool on a warming planet. 
Turn the tide on climate anxiety: sustainable action for your mental health and the planet.
Why has nobody told me this before?

Book recommendations about eco anxiety, shared by Ocean Generation and Mia Celment

Acknowledging that there are many people feeling this anxiety and looking at options of how you could help yourself and others, helps you move from an eco-anxious mindset to an eco-agent perspective.  

Eco-agency is being proactive in looking after yourself and your wellness within your environmental actions.

It means ensuring you are mindful of your mental health and keeping fit and healthy. The next couple of tips are ways I found have helped me move from eco-anxiety to eco-agency. 

Tips to deal with eco-anxiety 

Here are five steps I find have helped me live, cope with and overcome eco-anxiety. 

1. Try and live in alignment with your values 

The impact of individual actions can be very small, but psychotherapist Mary-Jayne Rust suggests that changing your lifestyle to be more compatible with your values can help with eco-anxiety.

Researchers from Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute offered several ways to do this: eat less meat and dairy, drive less and stop buying and disposing of so many items. 

2. Don’t feel ashamed about feeling anxious

For example, environment writer and activist Emma Marris noted that billions of people fly.

“My individual actions are not actually capable of solving climate change,” she said.

While changing how you live and travel may help you by letting you live more closely in accordance with your values, you shouldn’t feel ashamed for not being fully able to comply with these.

“The systems in which we are all enmeshed essentially force us to harm the planet, and yet we put all that shame on our own shoulders,” said Marris. “The shame is not helping anybody.” 

3. Focus your efforts on changing systems, not yourself 

Marris argues that we can’t get where we want to be through individual action, and that accepting this has therapeutic benefits.

“I don’t think a complete narcissistic focus on the self is healthy,” she points out. Instead, Marris suggests you can have a much more meaningful impact by working with others to lobby governments.

The Grantham Institute advises letting your MP, local councillors and mayor know that you think action on climate change is important and writing to your bank or pension provider to ask if you can opt out of funds that invest in fossil fuels. 

4. Find like-minded people 

Finding a community of like-minded individuals can help you express and share your feelings of eco-anxiety. You can’t solve climate change on your own. Joining a group of some kind will enable you to make friends. 

I’m not an expert on mental health but I feel like making friends is helpful – giving you a space to share your thoughts and feelings.  

Organisations that address eco-anxiety: 

Eco-anxiety support group with Waterspirit
Force of Nature community
Take Climate Action
Climate Psychologists
Climate & Mind
The Climate Dreams Project
Climate Journal Project
EcoAnxious Stories
The Mental Health and Climate Change Alliance

– Talk about the changes you make 

The importance of talking about your experiences – the challenges as well as the positives – and bringing other people along with you. 

Talking about the practical things you can do in their day-to-day lives can give you some sense of control back and empowers you to take ownership of your choices and agency. 

I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a lot of time when you think, ‘Why do we bother?’ But, when you sit down, chat to other activists or advocates and have a bit of a think about it, you realise that there’s a huge amount that we can still do.

Yes, our planet and Ocean are in trouble. But it’s in our power to protect what’s left and make a meaningful difference.
And that’s why we do this.
That’s why we carry on. 

If you’d like a chance to meet others, learn more about our Wavemaker Programme. And if you’d like to submit your own Wavemaker Story, do so here.

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Dear Ocean, sorry we didn’t write back

Seagull flying over the Ocean against the backdrop of an orange sunset shared by ocean Generation: experts in Ocean health since 2009.

To protect Earth’s most precious ecosystem – our Ocean – we must first understand its importance. Our Wavemaker Programme empowers young people between 16 – 25 to use their voice and talents to make a positive impact on our blue planet. This piece was written by one of our Wavemakers. Submit your own story.

The Ocean is the world’s most shared resource.

Social, economic and environmental sharing is caring

The Ocean is the world’s most shared resource. The vitality of the Ocean is necessary to support and sustain Earth and here’s why.

Covering over 70% of the planet, our Ocean takes responsibility for regulating our climate and weather from the poles to the equator.

As if her generosity wasn’t enough, the Ocean’s environmental benefits have continued to protect and conserve biodiversity and create global sources of natural carbon sinks. It does this by providing services to ecosystems, including coastal wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs.

Aerial view of a beach and the Ocean shared by Ocean Generation - experts in Ocean health since 2009.

Human health and Ocean health are connected

The health of our Ocean is intimately tied to our health. No, really…with every breath we take, with every drop we drink, we’re connected to her.

Not just physically, but emotionally. When we take a step back to enjoy the magnificent view of our Ocean (whilst adding her to our IG stories #SoGrateful), it welcomes a sense of calmness, for how life can be so gentle and beautiful.

But to take this mentality forward with how we care for her every day is the next essential step.

Why?

Well for one, the Ocean provides us with over 50% of the world’s oxygen.

No matter her physical forms, whether stormy and rough, warm and clear or frigid and cold, she, the Ocean, has always helped us breathe during our time on Earth and should never be gone unnoticed.

What resources does our Ocean provides us with?

The Ocean continues to provide a vast number of economic and social benefits, including: jobs, food, medicine, recreation and wonderment – to name a few.

Our Ocean boosts sustainable economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries, which supports the well-being of coastal communities.

“[A healthy Ocean is] critical for combatting rural poverty, ensuring food security, improving nutrition and achieving zero hunger.”

José Graziano da Silva

Economically, about 38 million people rely on the fishing and fish-farming industry, 95% of whom live in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The economic benefits the Ocean provides has sparked several positive domino effects for many communities, including: food security, job security, sustainable trade in Ocean -based goods and services, sustainable shipping, and an attraction to sustainable tourism.

In addition, OECD confirmed that over 90% of the world’s trade uses sea routes thereby making the Ocean a heavily reliant agent to access essential resources and necessities, including food, medical supplies and drugs, and fuel.

It is important that we not only take notice but also speak about how many communities around the world have learnt to grapple and adapt to the Ocean’s gifts – as opposed to altering the Ocean to fit their needs, they learnt to navigate their lifestyles with the Ocean.

Island communities depend on the Ocean for their livelihoods. Image shows a scattering of islands in the Ocean with lush green trees and blue water/

The impact of our Ocean on communities:

Sri Lanka’s Ocean wealth

The island we know today as Sri Lanka has thrived on the Ocean’s economic resources as it has made remarkable contributions to the country’s economy.

Sri Lanka’s coastal zone hosts 1/3 of the country’s population, accommodates over 2/3 of all industrial facilities, and over 80% of tourism infrastructure.

As the Ocean provides social benefits for many communities, the wellbeing dependency on the Ocean is clear. These communities have been able to cultivate a sense of stability and economic growth, through fishing and aquatic agriculture. Moreover, the little island is well known for its touristic cities, from mountain tops to the clear, blue Ocean with its golden sand.

The tropical country’s sandy coast lines continue to attract many tourists to the Ocean, to soak in the sunsets and fresh air – reflecting again on the wonder and wellness the Ocean provides us.

Economic exploitation: The new high school bad boy

Unfortunately, utilising the Ocean‘s resources and services have come at a cost – exploitation and economic dominance.

The Blue Economy was a concept initiated with the goal of sustainably sourcing the Ocean’s resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and healthy ecosystems.

However, this goal became somewhat of a fever dream when humans started to deteriorate marine ecosystems, resulting in widespread biodiversity loss and habitat damage – sort of like when we were content with the High School Musical trilogy, but Disney thought we needed another version which ended up disappointing us…

Although the exploitation of marine resources was apparent in the 17th-19th century – where the Caribbean coral reefs, faced a massive loss of fish and sharks – the consequences are more distinct now.

How is our Ocean’s health today?

Today, overfishing, destructive fishing practices, and pollution are some of the major enemies facing the long-term nature of our Ocean. To add to the chaos, deep-sea mining is having a detrimental impact on her physical nature, and hindering on the Ocean’s health and societal benefits.

The power of our Ocean only continues to weaken as it loses its harness over the Earth’s environmental and climate systems due to climate change.

A spike in unprecedented environmental conditions, such as acidification, deoxygenation, more frequent marine heat-waves, and El Niño, and La Niña events are predicted to have severe negative impacts on marine ecosystems and species – and we thought the Kardashians carried all the drama.

While these major shifts in Ocean health may appear to feel ‘far off’ and ‘manageable’, our reliability on the Ocean is having greater deep-rooted effects on different demographics and societies than we know.

With over 3 billion livelihoods depending on the Ocean for jobs, 680 million living in low-lying coastal zones, and food security at risk (noticeably after COVID-19 hit), we need to emphasise, now more than ever, that without our Ocean’s wellbeing looked after, our survival is at stake.

Quote shared by Zayna - an Ocean generation Wavemaker. It says: It is time to rethink our choices and care for the life-support system that has been with us since the start of time.
Zayna is talking about the Ocean. On the image is a seagull against the backdrop of the Ocean.

Our apology to her will not be enough this time. It is time we take accountability and action to restore our Ocean.

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How to take the fast out of fast fashion

Fast fashion: The pursuit of more

The fashion industry pushes the idea that more is better — more trends, more products, more shopping; but who benefits from this? Certainly not consumers who feel the pressure to constantly stay on trend, or the environment struggling to keep up with the growing landfills and increased plastic count in our Ocean.

So, how do we break free from this craze? We slow down. 

A mindful approach to fashion

What is “slow fashion”?

Slow fashion is a mindful look at clothing from environmental factors to health implications and ethical working conditions for those that make the clothing. It is bringing fashion in harmony with our world.

Five simple ways to transition from fast fashion to a slow fashion wardrobe

1. Check the labels

Credit: Clothing label by Lydia Dupree.

Opt for natural, plant-based fibers

When selecting new pieces of clothing, look for products made out of fibers such as cotton or linen .

Many times, brands will claim their items are natural, but in fact are mostly synthetic with only a small percentage of natural fibers.

The tag on the inside of the item is the place to go to confirm what the fabric is made of — think of it as the garment’s ingredient label. Choose pieces that are a majority natural — the closer to 100% the better!

Which fabrics should we be wearing? Here’s a list.

2. Support certified brands

In addition to fabric type, look for GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), OEKOTEX®, and bluesign® certifications to be sure that the all-natural clothing is truly organic and not processed with toxic chemicals and dyes. 

How to choose clothing created in ethical working environments:

Beyond fabric composition, there are certifications indicative of a sustainable brand. 

Fairtrade certified brands follow criteria that create ethical working environments for farmers and garment workers, support eco-friendly practices and prioritise fair pay.

B Corporations adhere to levels of transparency, ensure ethical employee treatment and charitable giving, and demonstrate positive environmental impacts. Look for these when shopping to support brands that support their workers and the environment. 

3. Build a capsule wardrobe

Clothing line with sustainable fashion and capsule wardrobe pieces
Credit: Photo by piotr szulawski on Unsplash

Building a sustainable wardrobe starts with investing in quality pieces for everyday wear based on your style, known as a capsule wardrobe.

Think of the 3–5 items that you wear most often and feel the best in. Then, invest in all-natural items that will complement the staples you already own.

The goal is to have a closet that can be paired countless ways without having to own a lot of clothing. 

4. Buy less, wear more

This brings us to the mantra, buy less, wear more. When you need to shop for something new, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Will this pair well with what I already own?
  2. Will I wear this for more than just one occasion? 

Sometimes an outfit is specific to an event, such as a party, graduation, or a wedding. But, if more often than not you are making the most of your wardrobe, then you are participating in this more mindful approach to fashion.

Be a proud outfit repeater, Lizzie McGuire!

5. Re-love clothing

Woman in a second-hand clothing store looking at sustainable fashion pieces.
Credit: Photo by Cam Morin on Unsplash

When you feel that an item no longer fits in your wardrobe but is still in good shape, donating to a shelter is a great option.

Many brands offer buy-back programs where you can send back your pre-loved item from their brand, and they will recycle it properly for you.

Try thrifting or renting wardrobe items

Thrifting and renting clothing have become popular options, thrifting for its lower cost point and unique finds, and renting for when you need an outfit for a specific occasion.

Do your friends also have clothes they are bored with? Hold a clothes swap where you each bring a few pieces and trade off. 

There are endless ways to extend the lifetime of clothing and bring mindfulness into fashion – which all contribute to better caring for our Ocean and planet. Have fun with it!

Connect with Lydia via her website or Instagram page.

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