Green Glossary: Sustainable Fashion Terms Explained

Two girls (Left: tween, eyes closed, brown curly hair pinned back with purple clips. Right: teen, long brown hair, eyes staring into camera) wearing Gen Woo’s ‘Focus On The Earth’ tee.

Whether you’re an eco-fashion newbie or consider yourself a seasoned veteran in all things sustainable dressing, we can all agree that a lot of the terminology can feel confusing at times. 

So, what do you need to know? 

From fast fashion and greenwashing to the uber-technical GOTs and BSCI’s, we’re here to give you the rundown. An added bonus? We’re going to (hopefully) explain in the easiest way possible. Because at Gen Woo, we’re all about making sustainable fashion accessible, too.

We’ve put together a comprehensive glossary of our top 21 ethical and sustainable terms, to help you navigate your future green wardrobe with confidence. 

Terms & Phrases You Need To Know


Amfori logo: white text on blue background.

With a proven strategy to assist businesses in their people and planet missions, Amfori strives to enable organisations to enhance human prosperity, use natural resources responsibly and boost revenue. If your favourite brands have an Amfori membership, rest assured that they’re on track to doing their best sustainably!


BCI logo, green text on white background.
A non-profit group with a mission to protect and restore the environment, the BCI (or Better Cotton Initiative) assists in safeguarding the growing and production of cotton for over 2300 textile brands in the Better Cotton network. 

BSCI logo, black text on white background featuring an open palm holding a globe.

To get a BSCI - or Business Social Compliance Initiative - recognition, a business (like Gen Woo!) must meet specific working condition criteria within their whole global supply chain. This non-profit organisation implements principal labour standards and conventions to ensure that workers are treated ethically and legally. 

Carbon Neutral
Green 'carbon neutral' signage on white background, featuring two green leaves either side.

In a business/fashion sense, this usually means balancing or offsetting carbon dioxide emissions. For example: utilising solar panels, planting trees, forest conservation, etc. 

Capsule Collection

Like some of Gen Woo’s past releases, a ‘capsule collection’ refers to a limited or condensed release of pieces emphasising timeless wardrobe staples. This reduces potential ‘deadstock’ (see below) waste whilst promoting more careful and considered shopping habits. 

Black text stating 'not tested on animals' underneath the black outline of a rabbit.

To manufacture products without the involvement of cruelty to animals, throughout the supply chain. 


Clothes or fabric (usually brand-new!) left unsold by a company. ‘Vintage deadstock’ is also a term used by resellers to suggest that the product is no longer in production. 

Fun Fact: Gen Woo actually started out by using deadstock fabric in all of our designs! We still utilise deadstock fabric in some of our collections, like the ‘City Girl’ capsule.


With social media influencing and ‘It’ girls at an all-time high, a new trend (or anti-trend?) has recently arisen: De-influencing. De-influencing shows content creators telling people precisely what they don’t need to buy, in a bid to reduce the hyper-consumerist habits usually promoted online. 


Green and white 'eco friendly badge' featuring a leaf symbol.

A phrase often used to mean that something has no direct harm on the environment. For example, ‘eco-friendly’ products generally contribute very little/not at all to land, water and air pollution whilst conserving natural resources. 

Ethical Fashion
Ethical fashion symbols including 'organic linen', 'renewable crops', 'biodegradable', 'slow fashion', 'natural dyes' and more.

An umbrella term usually meaning that products have been in a people and planet-friendly, eco-conscious environment with an emphasis on processes such as carbon neutrality, equality, human and animal welfare, and supply chain transparency.

ETI logo stating 'For workers rights. For better business.'

ETI (or Ethical Trading Initiative) promote premium practices of ethical trade, with all corporate members agreeing to uphold a strict labour code including: non-excessive working hours, liveable wages, strict child labour laws, non-discriminatory practices and more

Fair Trade
The black, blue and green orb symbol known as the 'Fairtrade' logo.

The fair trade movement provides companies in developing countries with fair pay to producers and exporters. A ‘Fair Trade’ badge on any product means that it is certified as meeting all fair pay standards, alongside basic social and environmental criteria.

Fast Fashion

A business model utitlised by (usually) inexpensive high-street brands involving rapidly manufactured, mass-market pieces in response to the latest trends. Approximately 92 million tonnes of fast fashion textile waste end in landfill every year!

GOTS Certified 
A white shirt on circular green background, encompassed by the GOTS title.

GOTS (or Global Organic Textile Standard) certification is the worldwide leading standard for safe working conditions, equality, and child labour. (Gen Woo is GOTS certified, of course!)

A thick green stripe with the phrase 'GREENWASHING' inside, with a paintbrush to the left-hand side.

Usually used as a form of marketing or PR, companies may convey misleading information about environmentalism or ‘greenwashing’ to falsely advertise their product/business as more eco-friendly than they truly are.

The OEKO-TEX 100 logo featuring the phrase 'Confidence in textiles'.

OEKO-TEX Standard 100 is a top global label for textiles tested against harmful substances. If a garment carried the ‘Standard 100’ label, you can guarantee that every component has been proven non-harmful for human health. 

Organic Cotton
The Organic Soil Association, GOTS and Organic Cotton logos.

Organic cotton is grown without the use of artificial chemicals, fertilisers, pesticides, or genetic modification. This means significantly less air and water pollution levels than non-organic cotton and far less negative impact on ecosystems.  

Recycled Fabrics & Textiles
The Claim Standard 'Recycled 100' and 'Recycled Blend' logos featuring the blue, three-arrow recycling emblem.A badge stating '100% Recycled Polyester' with a spool of yarn at the centre.

A growing movement within the sustainable fashion industry, recycled fabrics and textiles both reduce energy outputs and ensure less waste in landfills. You’re most likely to see ‘Recycled cotton’ or ‘Recycled polyester’ labels in your day-to-day, but what do they mean?

Recycled cotton usually uses discarded cotton fabric and is converted back into cotton fibre, to be reused into new fabric. 

Recycled polyester, or RPET, is a little more complicated. RPET is made from recycled plastic bottles, using a sorting, chopping and washing system that uses half as much energy to make as regular polyester. 

Slow Fashion
A minimalist green 'Slow Fashion' badge with a sketched leaf and clothes hanger at the centre.

Essentially the opposite of fast fashion: Slow fashion favours eco-friendly material, people and planet-friendly supply chains, and reduced consumption. Slow fashion is, essentially, the star of the sustainable fashion movement. 

Sustainable Fashion
Green mirrored text stating 'Sustainable Fashion' with an outlined Tailormaid adorned with leaves at the centre.

Another term for ‘ethical fashion’, ‘sustainable fashion’ covers the whole spectrum of environmentally friendly habits and practices within the industry. 


A visual representation of a 'supply chain', from 'order' to 'loading' to 'transportation', then onto 'unloading' and 'delivery'.

A widely-used term often referred to when discussing ethical and sustainable fashion, ‘transparency’ implies openness, communication and accountability in the ethics of a company. This means total honesty throughout the supply chain, manufacturing processes and materials. Read more about why we advocate for supply chain transparency here!


Growing evermore popular across social media, ‘upcycling’ is the modification of ‘old’ or preowned clothing/material to give it a second life. This is usually preferred within the sustainable fashion world in favour of always buying new. 


For more information on all things slow fashion, eco-transparency and more, check out our ‘Sustainability in Fashion’ focused blogs here on the Gen Woo website. 

Still don’t want to miss a thing? We don’t blame you! Subscribe to our newsletter for all the latest on sustainable fashion happenings, exclusive deals, and updates. 

Above all: remember that doing your best is always better than doing nothing at all when it comes to sustainability. Slow and steady wins the race!



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