Climate change and environmental pollution are people’s major concerns, and time is of the essence to change our lifestyles and consumption habits. As people begin to pay attention to the term “eco-friendly”, other related terms such as “green,” “sustainable,” and “environmentally friendly” are also becoming increasingly popular. What is the difference between these terms and “eco-friendly”? What eco-friendly products in our lives can minimize the burden on the environment? This article will elaborate in detail.
What does eco-friendly mean?
According to Webster’s Dictionary, eco-friendly is defined as not environmentally harmful, a relatively broad and vague concept. To many people’s knowledge, eco-friendly represents a kind of behavior, product, business, or organization that is relatively less harmful to the environment. Examples include saving water, glasses frames made of recycled plastic, and environmental protection advocacy groups.
What is the difference between eco-friendly and green?
Green evokes positive images such as nature, plants, vivacity, spring, freshness, and health. It is one of the most frequently used marketing terms in the eco-conscious society of today. To prevent enterprises from making claims about their products or services that may mislead consumers, the EU has established Green Claims to resolve the issue of corporate “greenwashing” and ensure that consumers can obtain reliable, comparable, and verifiable information on products and the environment.
When using green as an adjective, it indicates that the product, transitional measures, and ecological design are supported by an eco-friendly philosophy. However, this does not necessarily mean that the measures or products are more eco-friendly. For instance, broadly speaking, although cardboard boxes made of recycled paper as their raw material are a type of green product, if the cost of fuel, water resources, and chemical agents used for recycling and reproducing the paper are taken into consideration, it may not always be an eco-friendly product.
What is the difference between eco-friendly and sustainable?
The concept of sustainability rose to prominence in the late 20th century, when people realized the severe damage consumerism has caused to the environment and resources within only several decades. The concept of sustainability hopes to cater to people’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Compared to eco-friendliness, sustainability involves a broader dimension. Eco-friendliness focuses on maintaining the environment, whereas sustainability encompasses the three pillars of the environment, economy, and society. Eco-friendliness is a part of sustainability, yet many eco-friendly behaviors cannot be described as sustainable. For instance, asking farmers to abandon farming for the sake of afforestation is an eco-friendly measure, but if the farmers’ livelihood and local culture are not taken into account, it is not considered a sustainable behavior.
What is the difference between eco-friendly and environmentally friendly?
Eco-friendly and environmentally friendly are similar terms. However, compared to the definition of eco-friendly as being not environmentally harmful, which is often used to describe the use of products, environmentally friendly usually refers to ways to protect the environment and make the world more sustainable by minimizing harm to the environment.
The definition of eco-friendly products
Eco-friendly products take into consideration the products’ overall life cycle from raw material acquisition, manufacturing, distribution, and use to disposal to determine the combination that causes the least environmental harm. Common eco-friendly products include products made of natural materials, energy-saving products, durable products, reusable products, local products, recyclable products, and compostable products that can contribute to reducing the environmental impact of a certain part of their life cycle.
Easy guide for living more eco-friendly: Thirty eco-friendly products
Eat more eco-friendly:
- FSC-certified, unbleached paper bread bags: The paper’s raw material is derived from wood. FSC certification ensures that the forests used as raw materials are managed sustainably. The chemical bleach-free paper bags can be composted with residual bread crumbs and returned to the environment.
- Unsold food: Whether it is cooked food, beverages, biscuits, or noodles, supermarkets will offer discounts for foods that are near the expiration date. Choosing unsold food can save it from being wasted and improve the efficiency of the use of raw materials.
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables: Every season offers rich agricultural products such as blueberries, basil, fresh chickpeas, corn, and peaches in summer and apples, cranberries, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, kale, and cauliflower in autumn. People can purchase seasonal vegetables and fruits to taste these agricultural products’ freshest flavors and avoid consuming a lot of energy due to freezing during storage.
- Local food: Choose food that is grown and reared in nearby farms to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions and the wear and tear of products.
- Sugarcane tableware: Processed and remanufactured from the fibers of sugar cane after it is squeezed for juice, this low-carbon raw material is also renewable and compostable at room temperature after use.
- Sugarcane straws: Made of recycled bagasse, sugarcane straws can replace plastic straws that are difficult to recycle, offering a more convenient, hygienic, and safe drinking experience. After use, they can be disposed of via composting without ending up in incinerators or landfills, making them an eco-friendly alternative.
- Compostable tea bags: Compostable tea bags do not use plastic-based adhesive, so they can be composted with the tea leave residue after brewing tea. No additional processing is needed, and there is no problem with microplastics.
- Sugarcane food trays: Paper food trays and lunchboxes need plastic coating to become water and oil resistant. The composite material increases the difficulty of recycling considerably. Sugarcane lunch boxes are made of natural sugarcane as their raw material, which can break down completely and return to the environment after use to lower the environmental impact of product disposal.
Live more eco-friendly:
- Plastic-free refill packaging for cleaning products: After buying cleaning products such as body wash, shampoo, hand soap, and dish soap with plastic bottle containers, the most eco-friendly approach is to buy refill packs and reuse the plastic bottles. Refill packs in the form of metal bottles are used in conjunction with the recycling programs of manufacturers and are also reusable products.
- Solar garden lights: Garden lights are equipped with solar panels and batteries to store energy during the day and illuminate the garden at night, thereby reducing energy consumption.
- Sensor lights: Due to the inconvenience of using the switch by the entrance or in the garage (either your hands are busy or you are in the car), the lights remain lit 24 hours a day. Sensor lights can reduce energy waste and increase the lifespan of lights.
- Inverter air conditioners: If the air conditioner or heater must be turned on for a long time, inverter air conditioners offer more stable temperature regulation and higher compressor efficiency, thereby increasing product lifespan and lowering energy consumption by 40-50%.
- Low flow faucets: Low flow faucets feature a built-in aerator to create a bubble spray and reduce the water flow without affecting their cleansing ability, saving water by at least 50%.
- FSC-certified toilet paper: FSC provides sustainable management certification for wood, the raw material used to produce paper, to ensure that no natural forests are harmed throughout the process of using toilet paper, in turn preserving biodiversity and important carbon sinks.
- Second-hand furniture: Furniture is a reusable, durable product; well-made furniture will last several decades. Using second-hand furniture not only saves money but also extends the lifespan of furniture significantly.
- Compost bins: Composting is the best way to process organic waste. Compost bins help us to compost at home without relying on the municipal waste disposal system, thereby reducing transportation-related energy consumption and the possibility of organic waste ending up in landfills by mistake.
- Water-saving irrigation systems: The automatic control and sprayers of water-saving irrigation systems help to limit irrigation to only the areas needed. Compared to manual irrigation using a hose, these systems not only save more time and labor but also decrease water consumption by 70%.
- Organic cotton shopping bags: Organic cotton avoids the problems of traditional cotton plantations such as high water consumption and chemical agents to provide a raw material with a relatively lower environmental impact. Shopping bags can replace disposable plastic bags, making them a reusable, eco-friendly product.
- Linen clothing: Compared with cotton, linen requires less water to grow, and is also more resistant to diseases and pests. Linen clothes are naturally breathable and eco-friendly. If no chemicals are added in the weaving process, the clothes can also be naturally decomposed and returned to the environment.
- Compostable food waste bags: Plastic bags containing organic waste are unlikely to be reused, but compostable food waste bags can be placed in the compost bin together with the food waste to decrease the amount of undegradable and unrecyclable plastic waste.
- Compostable phone cases: Phone cases are consumable items as they are replaced when they become unusable or when phones are replaced. Compostable phone cases are made of plant fibers, making them compostable, eco-friendly products.
Work more eco-friendly:
- Recycled photocopy paper: Recycled photocopy paper replaces virgin pulp with recycled bleached and deinked pulp, allowing paper fibers to be reused while retaining the same document quality.
- Water coolers: Installing a water cooler in the workplace provides employees with high-quality drinking water, reduces the consumption of bottled water, and minimizes plastic production.
- Recycled plastic pens: The barrels of recycled plastic pens are made of recycled plastics, which decreases the environmental damage caused by raw materials without compromising the writing experience.
- Soy ink: Soy ink replaces traditional petroleum materials with soy-based materials. Renewable raw materials are more conducive to waste paper recycling. Choosing soy ink as the photocopier ink not only facilitates the recycling of paper, but the paper can also be composted and returned to the environment directly.
- Cork bulletin boards: Cork bulletin boards are made of cork, which is obtained from the bark of cork oak trees, so there is no need to cut down cork oak trees and the trees are not harmed during the harvesting process. It is a sustainable material that can be decomposed naturally at the end of its service life, making it a natural and eco-friendly product.
- Recycled envelopes: Made from recycled Kraft paper, recycled envelopes are recyclable and compostable to help protect virgin forests from deforestation.
- Ocean plastic mice: The cases of ocean plastic mice are made of recycled ocean plastics, which minimizes the use of virgin plastics and decreases marine debris, making them an excellent eco-friendly product.
- Office furniture with a 10-year-plus warranty: Some furniture manufacturers will provide a warranty of more than a decade to ensure the ongoing supply of parts for repairs, and the furniture will remain usable even with some missing screws or minor broken parts, making them durable, eco-friendly products.
- LED lights: As LED light technology becomes more mature, the luminous efficiency and durability of LED lights exceeds that of traditional incandescent lights and energy-saving lights, making them eco-friendly, energy-saving, and durable products.
Frequently asked questions about eco-friendliness
Is eco-friendliness a bogus agenda created for marketing purposes?
As the public places greater emphasis on environmental protection, more manufacturers are beginning to launch eco-friendly products to win over customers. In particular, misleading marketing methods employed are referred to as greenwashing; for example, labeling a product as “recyclable” when only its packaging is truly recyclable. Although greenwashing manufacturers exist, many manufacturers offer genuine eco-friendly products to help address the imminent environmental issues. Most importantly, consumers must be able to identify eco-friendly products, and government oversight is also needed to make sure environmental protection does not become a bogus agenda used by businesses to make profits.
Is vegetarianism eco-friendly?
Meat production consumes far more energy than crop production, and the animals also emit greenhouse gases through breathing, hence vegetarianism is a more eco-friendly choice. However, select seasonal fruits and vegetables grown locally, and avoid processed products to ensure eco-friendliness.
Are natural products necessarily eco-friendly?
Natural products create an impression of “coming from nature and returning to nature”. Nonetheless, although many products use natural raw materials, they may be grown or harvested in an unsustainable manner, such as cutting down tropical rainforests to make paper and using water and pesticides for farming cotton. Therefore, it is imperative to understand how the raw materials are obtained to ensure the eco-friendliness of natural products.
Why is eco-friendly important for us?
With the current state of destruction of the natural environment, we must focus on environmental protection, which is an essential component of sustainable development. This relatively simple and practicable gesture not only allows us to fulfill our duties as corporate citizens but also brings us a plethora of benefits such as lower costs, a healthier lifestyle, and a better quality of life.