One of the most common things we hear from our customers and friends is how confusing and overwhelming the green marketplace and lifestyle can be. It seems there are lots of terms and concepts to know and we agree! We thought it might be helpful to clarify and actually define some of what we believe to be the core concepts forming the basis of a sustainable lifestyle. A great resource if you are just getting started!
A product, service or lifestyle that positively or neutrally impacts the Earth or its inhabitants, does not deplete natural resources to produce or maintain, and can be continued indefinitely.
Marketing that is misleading the consumers on the promise of being green, or that is highlighting one green aspect of a product or practice to deliberately divert attention from the non-sustainable elements. (think natural or all-natural)
Although standards vary worldwide, labeling a product as organic must legally be certified. Organic usually refers to food, livestock feed or fibres crop that are grown without the use of pesticides, genetic modifications (GMO) or chemical fertilizers, on growing sites that maintain biodiversity and are not processed using irradiation, synthetic additives or industrial solvents.
A crop that adheres to the above definition and in addition has not been been cultivated or maintained conventionally.
Adheres to the above definition of organic and in addition refers to products that are combined or blended, cooked or otherwise processed from their natural state and packaged (peanut butter, bread, coconut oil etc.)
Livestock raised using natural feeding habits (pasture feeding) and organic feed supplements, without the use of growth hormones, antibiotics or synthetic colouring.
Natural is not a legal certification for labeling and is subject to the discretion of the manufacturer. Natural refers to substances naturally present in nature, or in their “natural state”, not altered or synthesized in any way. Ethically speaking Natural or All-Natural should encompass the entire content of a product. A manufacturer is legally allowed to label a product as natural provided a single ingredient in a product is natural (water is common) and it is only required to be present, even in a nominal percentage. Natural and All-natural are term often used in “Greenwashing” due to overly flexible labelling standards. Some producers can not afford or due to complications can not qualify to be certified as organic and must rely on the natural designation which makes this term very difficult to verify—third-party certifications help to clarify if a product is truly natural or not.
A consulting company separate and impartial to the manufacturer of a product which assess ingredients, raw materials and processing used, as well as providing certification that support or negate the claims of the manufacturer. Helps a consumer trust a brand in knowing that there has been full-disclosure and assessment of the products. NOTE: Can be problematic as certifications are often expensive to acquire and maintain, so small producers who produce wonderful products may not have access to certification.
Fair trade organizations create trading partnerships that are based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. Fair trade practices prohibit child or forced labor.
Often referring to cosmetics or personal care products, meaning no animals were harmed in the production or testing process.
Products do not contain ingredients that are toxic or poisonous, and are not harmful to humans, pets or the environment.
A total elimination of single/limited-use and low grade plastic items such as bags, takeout cutlery/containers, straws, water bottles, etc.; replacement of plastic, high rotation items in the home such as toothbrushes, dish brushes and kitchen tools, etc.
A lifestyle that focuses on producing no landfill waste. Strategies to meet this goal include reducing, reusing, repurposing, recycling, composting.
A product that is made using post-consumer recycled content such as paper or plastic. A recyclable product signifies that a recycling facility can divert the material from landfill for reuse in manufacturing.
A solid waste product (often food scraps) that is “compostable” is one that can be placed into a mixture of decaying organic materials and eventually turns into a nutrient-rich material. Fully composted (decayed) material is usually used to fertilize soil. Composting is slightly different than biodegradable in that it requires the right elements to break down—for example, water alone is not sufficient. NOTE: Composting is an aerobic process (requires oxygen); landfills are generally anaerobic, meaning that there is very little oxygen available once waste is buried. This means that a regular banana peel takes years to decompose versus weeks in a proper compost heap.
A “biodegradable” product has the ability to break down, safely and relatively quickly, by biological means, into the raw materials of nature and disappear into the environment. These products can be solids biodegrading into the soil (which we also refer to as compostable), or liquids biodegrading into water. In order to properly biodegrade, it follows that the materials used have remained in their natural state and are recognizable by microorganisms once they return to the natural environment. Plastics, even though they are made from crude oil which comes from the Earth, has been processed into an unrecognizable state—it is incredible resilient and will never truly break down.
A manufacturer, producer, or service provider that is fully forthcoming and openly reveals all aspects of their product or service, positive or negative, including such elements as procurement, ingredients, processes, working conditions, income channels, policies, waste management etc.
A progressive and ethical business model where organizations positively contribute a greater amount to the environment, social programs and the local economy than it takes out. Often associated with the triple bottom line (TBL) ie:“People, Planet, Profit”
The amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere by an individual, organization, event or product, either directly or indirectly, measured in its equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)
**Carbon neutral/net zero
Sequestering carbon equal to the amount produced in order to offset a carbon footprint to neutral, commonly in the form of planting trees, using renewable energy or purchasing credits.
Seeks to create manufacturing techniques that are not just efficient but are essentially waste-free. This most commonly means that all materials used to manufacture a product are post-consumer recycled, and there is an accessible waste-diversion strategy in place for disposing of the product, such as sending it for recycling or returning it to the manufacturer for direct recycling.