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What do they mean when they say: Eco-friendly?

Green may be the new gold, but not everything that glitters is valuable. “Green” versions of almost everything can be easily found, how do we identify what is really truly eco-friendly and what is creative word-play on your fears/guilt around the climate emergency that is gripping the world right now.  Conscious consumerism is all about making a thoughtful considerate choice, but what is the information you should be looking out for?

What does it look like?

Imagine trees, flowers, and green leaves. They are just tiny elements of this subtly earth-toned broad brand image. Such vague imagery is often used by manufacturers to make their products seem like they were created in harmony with nature, to create an illusion of these items being eco-friendly, but it is what’s really on the inside that matters. 

What’s on the inside?

Check to see if you are actually getting a list of raw materials/eco-friendly processes or if you spent 5 minutes reading unproven and vague claims about how this is an “all-natural” product. For instance, consider the difference between saying this item is chemical-free vs this item was colored using azo-free dyes. The claim of something being “chemical-free” is often meaningless if the producer cannot provide specific details of what is actually being used to create something. 

What’s on the outside?

Packaging can be deceiving, both literally and figuratively. Gorgeous handmade paper to wrap up a chemically made product that claims to be “eco-friendly” and cultivated brand image through strategic PR are both designed to make you think/believe that something is sustainable. Even when it might not be. Carefully read about the producers: the information they provide about themselves, their mission, and their work will have instances that substantiate their commitment to the environment. 

What went into making it?

An eco-friendly product does not just mean an eco-friendly outcome or a vaguely reusable/recyclable product that leaves a smaller footprint on the environment. An eco-friendly product means an entire product lifecycle that is considerate towards the environment. Everything from what the raw materials are, where they come from, what kind of energy is used in the process, what is done to ensure the process is kind towards the environment, is any waste generated in production, what happens to the waste, how will the waste be managed, how is the product packaged and how is it delivered to you. Not all producers will have simple answers to many of these questions because maintaining an eco-friendly supply chain is extremely complex, but how much consideration they give to each will always be visible. Sustainability is not just about an outcome, it’s a way of life. 

Other things you can look out for and read more about:

Eco-labels and Certifications

Sustainable Energy
Green Product language

Other questions you can ask yourself to be a more environmentally conscious shopper:

  1. Do I really need it?
  2. Can I make it myself?
  3. Can I reuse it?
  4. Does it have to be new?
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