What are eco-friendly products?
Eco-friendly products are products that have little or no negative impact on the environment. The “eco” prefix means ecological.
Ecology is both:
- the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.
- the political movement that seeks to protect the environment, especially from pollution.
The majority of products we see on a daily basis have many negative impacts on our natural environment in one or all three of their life-cycle phases (Production, Use, Post Use).
The life-cycle phases of products
Definition: The production phase of a product embodies all activities and energy that are put into its creation. Unsustainable products require the use of natural resources at a rate or in a way that undermines the long term health of our natural environment.
Example: The most basic example is deforestation for wood-based products. Harvesting timber at a rate faster than it can grow is not sustainable because we are using resources faster than they can replenish. Furthermore, certain types of timber harvest like clearcutting have other negative impacts to the natural habitat where they are practiced. Eco-friendly wood products are harvested in closely managed forests that selectively cut timber at a sustainable rate and preserve habitat.
Definition: The use phase of a product’s life refers to the period in between its creation and disposal. Unsustainable products have a negative impact on our environment when they are used.
Example: The use phase of an automobile starts when it leaves the factory and ends when it is sent to scrap yard. The use of a car has many negative impacts on the environment, most notably its consumption of fossil fuels and release of greenhouse gasses.
Definition: Post use refers to the disposal of a product. The majority of our products go to a landfill where they decompose at various rates, emits global warming gasses, and render the land unsuitable for most other uses. In their post use products also end up in our waterways, streets, oceans, etc.
Example: Plastic is one of the most infamous offenders of the post-use phase because it doesn’t decompose naturally, lingering for years in our waterways and oceans.
What eco-friendly products mean for conscious consumers
Conscious Consumers opt for products that are the most eco-friendly when they can (and to the best of their knowledge). By continually selecting products that are eco-friendly, consumers can considerably decrease their negative impact on the environment. The biggest challenge for buying eco-friendly products right now is knowing which products are truly eco-friendly and where you can find them.
Eco-friendly products + socially conscious products
Eco-friendly products are often also socially responsible. The companies that are concerned for the wellbeing of our environment are usually also socially conscious. Sustainability encompasses environmental, social, and economic matters, all of which are usually addressed by brands that produce eco-friendly products.
Eco-friendly products like fair trade coffee are grown on farms that practice sustainable farming techniques as well as fair labor, social equality, and community development – all of which give their final product positive social impact.
Eco-friendly products and economically conscious brands
Eco-friendly products generally also have a positive economic impact because they support the long-term sustainability of the economy. Unsustainable products usually follow a boom and bust model rather than sustained growth.
Boom: Clear cutting forests will yield high profits from timber sales and produce new jobs.
Bust: After all the trees are cut down the jobs are gone and the value of the land is diminished. the value of the land is considerably lower and will take a long time to recover.
Sustainable Production: Harvesting timber selectively, rather than clear cutting is an alternative that can preserve forests and jobs. While this method provides a much lower initial profit, it can be sustained for a much longer period of time, resulting in more secure economic growth.
Issues with eco-friendly products you should be aware of
Greenwashing – Brands understand they can be more competitive by producing eco-friendly products, but many don’t have the means to do so. In lieu of producing eco-friendly products many brands have relied on marketing tactics to make their products seem more eco-friendly than they really are. This guide to navigating greenwashing will help you recognize and avoid false marketing.
Conscious consumers are aware of deceptive marketing tactics. They do their best to identify greenwashing and support brands that are making real progress toward sustainability.