What does ‘ECO-FRIENDLY’ mean?
Sioux Lookout Municipal Environment Committee - Special to The Bulletin
A cheat sheet of ‘eco-friendly’ terms
‘Eco-friendly’, ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘earth-friendly’ are other words for not ‘environmentally harmful’
Green: generally implies better practices for both the environment and people. Often used in exchange for any word relating to consciousness of the environment
Sustainable(-ilty): practices that prevent the depletion of natural resources, while maintaining a prospering economy for the future. For companies, this means that ensuring the welfare of employees (and people related to that business) and minimizing or even reversing its environmental impacts being as important as making a profit.
“Eco-friendly” is used widely –on labels for everything from sandwich bags to body care products to stationery to sheet sets. If you aren’t sure what it means, you can be misled by companies who claim that their products are indeed eco-friendly.
Greenwashing is a term used when companies put eco-friendly claims on its product packaging. In many cases, they are broad claims without support to back them up. Here are a couple:
Laundry detergent labelled ‘free of phosphates’: In 2010, regulations were passed in Canada to severely limit the amount of phosphates in laundry detergents and household cleaning products. This is greenwashing because phosphate-free laundry detergent is the norm.
A comforter or sheet set is labelled ‘all natural’: Although the product could have been made with plant-based materials such as bamboo, the raw materials go through a series of manufacturing processes that synthetically alters them, often using toxic chemicals that are dangerous to workers, wildlife, and the environment. This claim can be deceptive because it suggests the bedding came straight from nature.
A company displays an environmentally-friendly symbol that does not exist: some products contain logos that convey the message of being green or environmentally friendly. These mean nothing if the company created it themselves, which is a misleading environmental claim
Don’t get ‘greenwashed’ by products with false logos. Here are some common logos or certifications in Canada you can trust that signify a certain aspect of the product is environmentally friendly:
EcoLogo: Products and services that meet strict environmental standards for their entire life cycle — from manufacturing to disposal
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): Indicate that forest products, such as wood and paper, come from sustainably managed forests.
Fair Trade Canada: Standards that ensure products are produced in a socially and economically fair, and environmentally responsible manner. These programs promote sustainable development and work to improve the livelihood of farmers and other workers in the developing world.
Energy Star: Energy efficient products
Here are a few eco-friendly considerations when purchasing products:
Only buy what you need. Products require a lot of resources before it gets into your home. Buying fewer products will lessen the demand for its production process and impact on the environment.
Opt for reusable items: bring reusable bags for produce and pantry items when shopping to reduce plastic waste. Switching to reusable sandwich bags and beeswax food wraps will help replace hundreds of single-use plastic bags that would eventually end up in landfills and oceans.
Seek minimal packaging: avoid products with secondary packaging and films. Look for items with minimal packaging made of recycled materials (like cardboard and aluminum instead of plastic).