September 16, 2022 | OPINION | By Maddie Mollerus | Photo from the Catalyst Archives
It wouldn’t be a typical week if there wasn’t a Kardashian in the news. This time, there were headlines about Kourtney Kardashian helping to greenwash the fast fashion retailer Boohoo by becoming their new sustainability ambassador. I usually fall for the gossipy, sensationalist titles about the Kardashians and then I forget whatever fluffy information I read half a second later and go about my day. But this article stayed with me.
How could “sustainability” and “fast fashion” exist in the same sentence? Why was an over-indulgent celebrity the face of a new sustainable line? And what in the world is greenwashing?
After more digging, I learned that greenwashing is when a company tries to make consumers think that they are environmentally aware when in reality their sustainability attempts pale in comparison to their actual business models and production methods. Boohoo is unquestionably a fast fashion brand, dropping on average 500 new styles a week.
I also navigated a Twitter minefield and found that people were upset at Kourtney for preaching about “loving the planet” on Instagram but then using 101,000 more gallons of water than were permitted under California’s drought restrictions. The combination of Boohoo and Kourtney Kardashian in pursuit of protecting the environment is laughable. In fact, I would sooner call Rastall’s gourmet than I would Boohoo or Kourtney Kardashian sustainable.
It’s not just Boohoo that greenwashes—once I learned the term, my eyes were opened to other corporate campaigns that could be misconstrued as genuine environmental crusades. PrettyLittleThing, Fiji Water, Coca-Cola, Tide, United, and more are all guilty of making consumers believe that they’re buying a greener product or using a more environmentally friendly service.
I understand why people are mad. Brands are trying to capitalize on our efforts to save the earth. In a world where transparency and accountability are increasingly valuable, it’s insulting for companies to sell us products that are thinly wrapped in a veil of sustainability.
Unfortunately for them, we Gen Z-ers are good at seeing through these fake eco-conscious efforts. I have trust issues with my clothing brands now, but I’ve also been researching how to tell if our favorite brands are actually sustainable.
For starters, look carefully at the language on your products. Do they use vague words like “eco-friendly” and “natural” without providing statistics to back up their claims? Another good tactic is to look up online where a company’s factory is based, and if they practice ethical manufacturing and provide good workplace conditions. And lastly, check websites like EthicalConsumer.org to see their ratings and descriptions of companies.
So, should we blacklist brands that greenwash? It’s up to you. I encourage everyone to explore their local secondhand stores. If you’re stuck on fast fashion, try buying from companies that have sustainable lines, like H&M. Avoid ones who blatantly mass produce styles on a daily basis, like Shein. And if you ever feel bad about your impact on the environment, just know that you will never use as much water as Kourtney Kardashian.