Green marketing arguments under the microscope (part 2) 🌱

What's hiding beneath environmental labelling and advertising

We're back to better understand what is hidden behind performative ecological adjectives and green logos. Our production and consumption patterns are so complex that it’s difficult to understand everything that our purchases involve. We like to be reassured by appellations, commitments in favor of the environment. But often there is no more information than a logo about the qualities of the product. Let us demand transparency rather than slogans.

➡️ Recyclable 🌀

Recycling is a guilt-free argument which is having a good time at the moment. If some brands have managed to reuse their DNA, the majority of those who display the logo take little action to give their products a second life.

The limits of revaluation are numerous:

• The majority of recovered textiles will be “sub-cycled” into a lower value product. Only 1% of these will be “recycled” into clothing fiber.

• Only textiles made from a single material can be recycled into a new fiber that can be used by fashion (i.e. a 100% cotton or 100% polyester t-shirt).

• The raw material is the only saving made if we compare with a 100% new article (because it is again necessary to spin, dye, weave the material, ...).

The footwear industry is not immune to the complexity of recycling. The diversity of materials needed to make a shoe required that the shoe has to be dismantled in order to be able to be recycled: a difficult and expensive process. Even if some projects are thinking about the shoes ends of life, the sector currently doesn’t have a specific channel for its recycling. Extending the life of shoes by repairing, reselling or donating is currently the best solution.

✔️ Better than recycling, up-cycling, with the Andrea Crews brand. She collects unsold, defective or second-hand clothes to make new unique and very artsy pieces. To see here

➡️ Biodegradable 🍂

The Holy Grail! The shoe is too worn, no more desired, off you go! A hole back in the garden and the waste disappears. Or better, turns into compost. Unfortunately, it’s just a beautiful dream at the moment. As explained above, the complexity of the materials and assemblies of a shoe make it difficult for everything to disappear in a short time. Even in the case of a 100% natural material, the decomposition time varies between 1 year for a light canvas, 40 years for leather and 80 years for rubber.

✔️ Even if it is not possible to let our old shoes rot until they disappear, the use of natural fibers considerably reduces the pollution generated during their decomposition. And as the future dawns, researchers are working to create living textiles made from algae or fungi that could degrade very quickly.

➡️ Carbon neutrality 🌳

This is the goal displayed by companies, but also states and communities. It’s about not emitting more carbon dioxide (CO2) than the earth can absorb to limit global warming. Carbon neutrality only concerns CO2, excluding other greenhouse gases (GHG: methane, nitrous oxide, etc.), whereas we speak of "net zero emissions" to describe the neutrality of all GHGs. The calculation of carbon neutrality is complex on several levels.

Which emissions are taken into account?

There are direct (through the use of machines, vehicles, heating, etc.), indirect (use of electrical energy, for example) or extended emissions (production of consumer goods, etc.).

The majority of companies that communicate on their carbon neutrality only talk about what they have directly released into the atmosphere, excluding products purchased from other companies (electricity consumption, construction materials, raw materials, finished products, transport, etc.).

How to calculate the “absorbed” emissions?

• There are natural greenhouse gas sinks, such as forests, oceans or archaea that capture CO2 from the atmosphere. These natural sinks do not enter into a company's carbon offset, but if a company finances a reforestation project to constitute a new sink, it deduces what this forest absorbs from what the company rejects to achieve carbon neutrality. Note that the calculation of the CO2 removed from the atmosphere is estimated upon planting, when the trees have not yet reached their maturity and absorption capacity, which distorts the GHG balance calculation. Plantations also raise questions about land appropriation by the richest companies to the detriment of local populations in order to allow them to produce more CO2 while showing neutrality.

• Emissions that are “offset” are also counted. By financing renewable energies, it is estimated that they avoid the production of fossil energy and therefore the emission of CO2. However, this does not reduce emissions but limits, in theory, additional production.

✔ Companies claiming to be "carbon neutral" rely mainly on offsetting. “I pollute, but I pay to compensate elsewhere”. Even though emission reduction is the priority in the fight against global warming, in order to limit as quickly as possible the increase in the concentration of atmospheric GHGs. If compensation and storage have a role to play in the fight against global warming, it is a palliative role mainly concerning emissions that cannot be reduced by other means.

These too green communication strategies reassure our eco-anxiety to better encourage us to consume. There is no such thing as a beneficial or neutral product. Don't let slogans fall asleep. Our real room for action for the environment is to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of our purchases.

As shoe designers, we know that even by choosing eco-friendly and ethical alternatives, our shoes have an impact on the environment.

To take concrete action, let's reduce our purchases, prefer local fashion, support initiatives that aim to reduce the ecological impact and give a second life to our old items by repairing or donating! Visit our site to get to know us better and to discover the inside of a shoe production.

📖 To go further:

TAKING STOCK: A global assessment of net zero targets