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Eco Myth Busters: Debunking 10 Common Misconceptions About Sustainability

You probably have your own idea of what sustainability is and you’re most likely to be well-informed on the subject. Due to the issue’s urgency and its colossal impact and importance, however, there’s still a lot of misinformation circulating. Despite being a buzzword, sustainability can often be daunting or too much to digest. Either way – it's important to separate fact from fiction.

1. The word ‘sustainability’ has no actual meaning

These days, it has too much meaning that it’s not concise anymore. Originally, sustainability only concerned ecology. The word itself was coined in 1813 by German tax accountant Hans Carl von Carlowitz, the father of sustainable yield forestry. The most referred-to definition comes from a seminal 1987 report, titled ‘Our Common Future’, by the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations. It defines sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

2. Sustainability is interchangeable with other terms like eco-friendly, circular, recyclable, etc

The term is not interchangeable but you can consider it as an umbrella sheltering other related terms, which usually indicates how a product was made and with what as well as what to do after its use. This can be confusing because there are so many words, and these terms are not entirely regulated for use on products (this is where certifications can come in handy). Learning each distinction is useful in determining whether your needs and expectations are being met by a product.

A campaign still from Net-a-Porter’s Net Sustain initiative, which screens all products against a five-pillar sustainability checklist. Brands include Veja, Loren Stewart, and Goldsign.

3. Sustainable products are always expensive

Many fashion enthusiasts are probably first exposed to sustainability via luxury brands like Stella McCartney. The market, however, has diversified and many reasonably-priced products are available that are equally fashionable. Check out brands like Baserange, Cuyana, Fame and Partners, Ganni, House of Sunny and Lacausa – you’re sure to find a good dress in the $100 price range. Sustainable edits from various online retailers such as Browns, Luisa Via Roma, and Net-A-Porter are also worth browsing.

Scandinavian label Ganni is one brand often commended for its robust sustainable practices.