There’s no doubt Hollywood stars carry clout when it comes to politics, social campaigns, fashion and the like. Alongside the perhaps questionable influences, celebrities also work as a driving force for protecting the environment

More and more celebrities are making headlines for creating their own product lines that are labeled as environmentally friendly or sustainable. The question then becomes whether they’re sincere in their efforts to care for the planet or if they’re tapping into the sustainability zeitgeist to increase sales. While some definitely seem to be focused on making meaningful change, others have been rightfully called out for greenwashing. 

Related: 17 green beauty brands that you may not know

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is promoting an unsubstantiated idea in order to increase product interest or sales. In the clothing industry, for example, fast-fashion brand H&M has continuously made headlines for promoting green tactics that turn out to fall short.

A few years ago, clothing recycling bins popped up at the stores, where customers could receive a coupon in exchange for donations. However, the clothing mostly ends up being shipped to other countries or downgraded to lower quality merchandise, while increasing transport emissions and failing to reduce the end waste fast fashion creates.

Just last month, the company was sued for greenwashing in response to a more expensive clothing line the company claims is more environmentally friendly. An independent study found that was not the case. At one point, the company was also called out for using the fame of Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams to clean up its image after hiring her as the company’s “sustainability ambassador.”

A hand holding dollar bills in front of a blurred image of a Christmas tree

Are celebrities greenwashing too?

Yes, no and partially. Many celebrities are dedicated to low-impact lifestyles and launch businesses with the same philosophy in mind. Others perhaps lean into certain Earth-friendly aspects of the business model while ignoring the footprint in other areas of the business. Does it mean they are greenwashing? Not necessarily, as long as they aren’t lying about the sustainability aspects. However, without looking at the full product cycle, it’s pretty hard to claim a product is sustainable.

No company is perfect, but some rise above the rest in transparency. On the other hand, some green product lines aren’t that green at all. Here’s our take on some notable celebrity brands. 

Pharrell Williams Bionic Yarn and Humanrace

Pharrell Williams has been in the sustainability realm for a long time. Starting with his interest in Bionic Yarn in 2009, he’s taken an increasing role in the company. They convert post-consumer plastic waste into textiles that are then used in bags, jeans and other clothing. Many companies have begun similar campaigns and Williams’ contributions seem legit. While recycling plastic that’s already in existence is good for the planet, microplastics in the clothing continue to be a problem. 

More recently, Williams launched Humanrace, a company dedicated to wellbeing. The product line includes skincare, body care, suncare, Adidas clothing and shoes and some ceramic pieces. While the ingredient list is transparent on the personal care items and many of them come in a partially-refillable container, it feels like a stretch to call this a sustainable brand, especially when the shoes are marketed as a partnership between Williams and Adidas with no effort to incorporate recycled or natural materials

Yes, it’s better than some. Also, yes, it’s more about profit than environment

An assortment of makeup products

Drew Barrymore Flower Beauty

Run a quick search of celebrities and green companies and Drew Barrymore often makes the list. Looking closer, however, the many sides of Barrymore don’t all face towards sustainable business. Take, for example, her beauty line Flower Beauty. The website proudly mentions they are a cruelty-free brand. Yay for the animals! However, there’s no attempt to limit waste in packaging and although the (long) ingredient lists are included for each product, natural materials don’t seem to be a priority either. Inasmuch, with an emphasis on cruelty-free only, this doesn’t rate as a green product.

Honest Beauty by Jessica Alba 

On the other end of the sustainability beauty spectrum is Honest Beauty. They are a subset of the Honest Company. They rank high for quality ingredients, responsible packaging, limited waste and a devotion to sustainable practices. 

Jaden Smith Just Water

Jaden Smith comes from a recognizable family as the son of Will and Jada Smith. At 10 years old, the sight of plastic floating in the ocean inspired him to find a better solution. A few years later, he launched his first business.

Just Water skips the single-use plastic in favor of paper cartons. The newest carbonated options are housed in endlessly reusable aluminum containers. The company is a certified B Corp, upholding the highest social and environmental standards.

Expanding on the idea of healthy water without waste, Smith invested in a water filtration system called a Water Box. The system filters up to 10 gallons of water per minute, which Smith saw as a solution to aid the citizens of Flint, Michigan following the water crisis there. Placing the Water Box in a neighborhood church provided free water to anyone who needed it and launched his philanthropy mission to help the community. 

Código 1530

While many distilled spirits, beers and wines are produced with minimal environmental impact, some producers go out of their way to make it a priority. Such is the case with Código 1530, a tequila company backed by country star George Strait.

It begins with the plant use and waste reduction. Agave fibers are recycled as fertilizer and used as mulch to improve soil and reduce water evaporation. Plant production is closely monitored and select plants are allowed to bloom to serve as a food source for the local bats, who are an essential part of the tequila equation. The mixture then goes into oak barrels, which are converted into furniture and other useful items at the end of the tequila-making life. Even the bottles the spirit goes into are produced from recycled glass and are later packed into recycled paper and cardboard for transport. 

Código 1530 is an example of a full-circle sustainable product that Strait can be proud to promote as such. 

Images via Pexels