Latest Issue

From clothes to coffee, “sustainable” is retailers’ favourite buzzword—and a comforting myth

We may feel better about buying clothes and goods labelled "sustainable." But not only is the actual definition of the word unclear, the truth is, none of us can buy our way out of climate change

By Emma Flynn  

Even clothes marketed as "sustainable" can cost the planet. Photo: Prospect composite

From coffee cups to menstrual pads, the buzzword du jour is “sustainable.” But what does that mean when used to describe consumer goods?

I first noticed the proliferation of sustainable products in Instagram advertisements; everything from runners and sandals, to lingerie and socks, cotton swabs and toothbrushes, water bottles, coffee cups, bags, jewellery, and lunchboxes. It’s as common in real life, the word often emblazoned across food and drink packaging. Seemingly everything I could ever need has…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect