What eco friendly means?

Lately, terms like “eco-friendly”, “sustainable”, “green”, “environmental friendly” are used more and more by retails and manufacturers , you see them on labels for everything from toiletries to reusable items. Therefore, is important to understand what these terms truly mean, to reduce being mislead by companies which are claiming to be conscious of the environment.

By understanding the true meaning of terms such as eco-friendly, sustainable can lead to implementing practices that will improve your lifestyle, protect the planet and your community. So, let’s start with the beginning.

What eco friendly means?

By definition, eco-friendly means not harmful to the environment. Mostly, the term refers to products that  contribute to a greener, more sustainable living or practice that helps protecting (conserving) resources like energy, water, raw materials. Eco-friendly products also minimize the contribution to air, water and soil pollution. 

In practice, a eco-friendly product is considered a product which needs to be safer for environment from production to packaging. However, in some legislation systems, the label of eco-friendly can be assigned with a minimum demand of packaging explaining why it is environmentally responsible and not necessarily being environmental safe based on how the consumer actually uses the product. These misleading marketing claims are often called “greenwashing”.

Cheat sheet for "eco-friendly" terms

Environmentally friendly“, “eco-friendly” and “earth-friendly” are all meaning the same thing, “not environmental harmful”. On other hand, we see more an more people, manufacturers and retails using the terms “greener product”.

Green” is a “casual term that people use in exchange for any word relating to eco-consciousness”. “It’s a multi-faceted term, but it generally implies better practices for both the environment and the people involved”. (Source: GH Institute’s Health, Beauty and Envoironmental Sciences Lab). Also, a recent survey found that 65% of people think the word “green” is synonym to environmentally friendly and eco-conscious.

Sustainable” and “sustainability” are referring to “the practice of making sure we don’t deplete our natural resources for future generations while maintaining our lifestyle”. In a business case, being a sustainable business means that minimizing or even reversing its environmental impacts should be as important as turning a profit.

So, looking at green vs eco-friendly vs sustainable comparison, sustainability sets the focus on the future and has higher standards. Sustainability includes eco-friendly activitives and green products, but green doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable. Is really difficult that a product to be truly sustainable, but some products are consider more sustainable compared to the their closest/similar alternatives. 

What greenwashing means?

Greenwashing is a term used when manufacturers deceptively claiming to be sustainable, greener or eco-friendly by using broad claims without support to back them up. For example, a company which displays an environmentally friendly symbol that doesn’t actually exists; in most cases the logo was designed by themsleves to capture a broad claim.

When it comes to choosing products or services, there are educated decisions which can be made by recognizing the real eco friendly labels used on packaging or showed on your provider website. So, in the next couple of rows, we are going to explain some of the main labels you need to look after when you are shopping.

Logos to look after

The following labels are extracted from Ecolabel Index which is the largest global directory of ecolabels tracking more than 456 ecolabels in 199 countries and 25 industry sectors. Keep in mind, improve your knowledge to get better decisions, buy sustainable and be the change.

Leaping Bunny
logo for leaping bunny certification

Companies certified through the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics’ (CCIC) Leaping Bunny Program make a voluntary pledge to eliminate animal testing from all stages of product development. The companies’ ingredient suppliers make the same pledge and the result is a product guaranteed to be 100 percent free of new animal testing. All Leaping Bunny companies must recommit to the program

Rainforest Alliance Certified
rainforest alliance certification

The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal ensures that a product comes from a farm or forest operation that meets comprehensive standards that protect the environment and promote the rights and well-being of workers, their families and communities. Products that carry the green frog seal include coffee, tea, chocolate, fruit, ready to drink beverages and juices, flowers, paper and tissue products, furniture and more.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain of Custody Certification
forest stewardship council fsc-chain of custody certification

The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) promotes environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests. FSC® chain of custody (CoC) tracks FSC certified material through the production process – from the forest to the consumer, including all successive stages of processing, transformation, manufacturing and distribution

Fairtrade

Fairtrade is an ethical trade system that puts people first. Fairtrade offers farmers and workers in developing countries a better deal, and the opportunity to improve their lives and invest in their future. Fairtrade gives consumers the opportunity to help reduce poverty and instigate change through everyday shopping.

Compostability Mark of European Bioplastics
compostability mark of european bioplastic logo certification

Enables compostable products to be identified by a unique mark and channeled for recovery of their constituent materials in specially developed processes. The Compostability Mark thus conveys product information to waste-disposal plant operators and product image to consumers.

On-Pack Recycling Label

The On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) scheme (http://www.onpackrecyclinglabel.org.uk//) operates in the UK to provide a standard consumer recycling label, which is simple, consistent, evidence led and provides sufficient information to make it easy for consumers to recycle more packaging, more often.

EU Ecolabel

A voluntary scheme designed to encourage businesses to market products and services that are kinder to the environment and for European consumers – including public and private purchasers – to easily identify them.

A guide for shopping smart and sustainably

1. Be mindful about the quantities you are buying – We need to reduce waste and to achieve this we should buy what we need when we need it. We need to shift from being mass consumers to thoughtful ones. A product requires a lot of energy and resources before it even gets into your basket; buying when you actually need it will lower the demand for its production process. So, if you find that you are stocking up on barely used products it’s time to re-evaluate your actually needs and behaviour. Is a good time to ask yourself, what eco friendly means for me?

2. Buy second-hand textiles if possible and definitely avoid fast fashion purchases –  For clothing products, one of the best way to live sustainable is by reusing products. Also, be conscious about your clothes purchases if buying second-hand isn’t possible for you.

Here are some statements:

  • “Clothing production is the 3rd biggest manufacturing industry after automotive and technology industries. Textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined. ” (House of Common Environmental Audit Committee, 2019)
  • “More than $500 billion of value is lost every year due to clothing underutilization and the lack of recycling” (Ellen MacARthur Foundation, 2017)
  • “3 out of 5 fast fashion items end up in a landfill” (Clean Clothes Campaign, 2019)
  • “Fashion accounts for 20 to 35 percent of micro-plastic flows into the ocean.” (The State of Fashion, McKinsey, 2020)

3. Opt for reusable items – On our everyday life, we are using items on which we didn’t actually thought are having an impact on the environment. For example, in UK, each year are used more than 2.5 billion coffee cups from which less than 0.25% are recycled. (source: UK Parliament, 2018). However, with a small change in our daily behavior, we can reduce these numbers. 

Switching to a reusable coffee cup or to reusable sandwich bags, remembering to bring a reusable bag for produce and pantry items when you go shopping to definitely cup down on plastic waste. You can even look for replacing your home espresso capsules to a more environmental friendly alternative option, such as reusable coffee capsules or by even using a simple filter coffee machine.

Search for an eco-friendly product

4. Use plant-based cleaners and/or refillable cleaning products – We need to look for products which are safer to use for ourselves and for the environment. You can easily find natural alternatives for your high-street detergent brand. For example, independent brands such as Tru Earth or Ocean Saver are offering cleaner, eco-friendly alternatives. 

5. Look for minimal packaging – Lately, we’ve been hearing about cutting the single-use plastic and often we wonder how can we do that when we see that 80% of products in supermarket are using a plastic film or having secondary packaging. The answer is easy, next time when you go shopping, opt for an alternative with a minimal packaging or made from recycled materials (cardboard or aluminium instead of plastic). 

For example, bar soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dishwasher detergents, loofahs, shampoo bars, scrubbing brushes are great options to start your journey to a free-plastic packaging. Remember, start small and be the change. Together we can make a difference.

If you found our What eco friendly means? article useful, please share it with your friends and family and who knows, a small change can happen. Thank you and hope to see you soon. 

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