Eco-friendly means “not harmful to the environment”, according to a quick google search. But what does that entail, really?
What is eco-friendly and what does it really mean to have an eco-friendly lifestyle and to make eco-friendly choices? In this article, we explore the subject of eco-friendliness and try to answer the question that is on everybody's lips nowadays: What is eco-friendly?
First. What's the definition of eco-friendly?
The basic definition of what eco-friendly means: “not harmful to the environment” is a start but doesn’t really help us much. In fact, it’s an answer that raises even more questions as it doesn’t go into very much detail about what it means to be harmful, or even what it is that we refer to as “the environment.”
Clearly, a better definition than that is needed for us to have a meaningful discussion on the subject: What is eco-friendly?
Most common questions online
The most common questions about eco-friendliness online are about specific materials:
- Is glass eco-friendly?
- Is rubber eco-friendly?
- Is bamboo eco-friendly?
While these are interesting questions, they are difficult to answer. Everything affects the environment in some way. To know if something is eco-friendly we really must compare it to the alternatives.
Is plastic eco friendly?
Mostly, no. Traditional plastic is made from hydrocarbons, a non-renewable material that has to be extracted from the ground in a messy process that uses a lot of energy and releases greenhouse gases. Also, as you're probably well aware, plastic takes a long time to degrade and hangs around in the environment for way past its welcome, finding its way to all corners of globe and polluting ecosystems that us and animals rely on. Some studies have shown this pollution can even be harmful to us, messing with our hormones. So no, traditional forms of plastic are definitely not eco-friendly.
However, some alternatives have been are being developed that use renewable materials and clean production techniques and can be safely composted after use. We use these new forms to make our plastic-free mobile cases.
Is silicone eco friendly?
Silicone is a synthetic polymer that has become increasingly popular for use in kitchen equipment in recent years. It is very flexible but still durable and it will withstand unbelievable levels of abuse.
It can be put in the freezer, tossed in the oven, bent and twisted in all ways conceivable and still snap back into shape afterwards, without a scratch. Silicone products are the preferred choice before traditional plastic alternatives in almost every case. Is it eco-friendly, though?
We would say yes, but only in comparison to plastic. The manufacturing and recycling situation is far from perfect, but silicon still wins because of its longevity.
Is Bamboo eco friendly?
Yes. Bamboo is a natural material that can be grown without the need for lots of pesticides and other chemicals.
Bamboo is 100 per cent renewable and can be used to make everything from scaffolding to underwear.
Bamboo is perfect for making utensils and other kitchen equipment, as it is waterproof, stain proof, durable and has excellent antibacterial properties.
Is glass eco friendly?
What is eco-friendly about glass? Most prominently that it can be infinitely recycled. Glass is made from sand. Manufacturing new glass requires a lot of heat and some chemicals, so it’s not an obviously eco-friendly choice, but it can be, under the right circumstances.
Durability and recyclability are the two areas where glass really shines. A glass container will last practically forever if you don’t break it and it can be washed and reused as many times as you like.
Compared to plastic and many other materials glass is very eco-friendly, if you just reuse it.
Is nylon eco friendly?
Nylon is a synthetic polyamide, replacing natural fibres, such as wool and silk. Nylon is made from petrochemicals and the production releases a lot of greenhouse gases in the form of nitrous oxide.
Nylon is not biodegradable and is a big contributor to microplastics pollution. What is eco-friendly about nylon? Almost nothing, however, it can be an eco-friendly alternative. High-quality nylon is very durable, will outlast many other materials and it can be recycled, although this rarely happens.
Is rubber eco friendly?
Natural rubber is manufactured using latex extracted from the Para rubber tree. It cannot really be recycled, but it can be ground up and reused. What is eco-friendly about rubber?
It is a natural material and the Para rubber tree can be grown in a sustainable way. However, rubber products can be reused the rubber cannot be completely recycled and made as new, and it must be properly handled and disposed of to not harm the environment.
Is concrete eco friendly?
What is eco-friendly about concrete? Nothing, really. It consumes large amounts of crushed rock, that is not renewable and the manufacturing uses copious amounts of clean water. Concrete cannot really be recycled. It can be crushed and used as filler material, but the properties of the raw materials are essentially lost in the process.
Eco-friendly vs Green vs Sustainable
Green and eco-friendly are quite interchangeable—both designate a light environmental impact. Sustainability, our North Star, is a bit more complex, but the United Nations Brundtland Commission defines it the best as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” There are three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic and social and, back in 2015, the UN outlined 17 sustainable development goals, or SDGs, as a strategy to create a more sustainable humanity.
So what is eco-friendly? The question is easy to raise but almost impossible to answer outside of a specific context.
Almost everything we do will affect or “harm” the environment in some way. That’s why it is important to always compare the alternatives when trying to determine if something is eco-friendly or not.
When choosing between products, the most eco-friendly choice is usually no product at all, but that is assuming there will be no gain for the environment.
Take gardening equipment, for example. Manufacturing it will surely affect the environment but if it’s produced according to sustainable principles and wisely used to grow a garden that absorbs C02 and provide food for insects, it may be a win after all.
We recommend that to determine whether something is eco-friendly or not, consider if it's sustainable i.e. will its impact be detrimental to our future survival?