What Does Eco-Friendly Mean?
HOW DO YOU DEFINE ‘ECO-FRIENDLY’?
Eco-friendly is technically defined as ‘not harmful to the environment’, but this is an impossible standard for a product to meet. Here’s why: let’s break the term down by first defining “eco”, and then “friendly.” “Eco” stands for ecology, which is the study of ecosystems, or the often delicate and intricate interrelationship of organisms and their environments. “Friendly” means something shows kindly interest and goodwill, serves a beneficial or helpful purpose, and does not cause harm.
When we put these together, for a product to be eco-friendly, it would need to not only cause no harm to ecosystems, but also be beneficial to these delicate and intricate systems -- which encompass almost everything when it comes to the planet, from biodiversity, to deforestation, to water use, to wildlife health.
Is it regulated? Nope, and oftentimes when words aren’t regulated, they’re not credible.
Does Finch use it? Absolutely not!
Want a memory trick?
Most of the time, the use of ‘eco-friendly’ is friendly to companies… not to ecosystems.
CAN A PRODUCT BE ECO-FRIENDLY?
In short, no, because all products rely on the extraction of natural resources and there is no way to guarantee that no harm has been done to those ecosystems as a result. When something claims a broad win, like “eco-friendly”, it essentially refuses to consider the details of impact and further confuses the relationship between products and the planet. As we’ve mentioned in our definitions of non-toxic and sustainability, products can be more or less harmful to the environment, but never completely without impact.
DOES FINCH USE THE TERMS ‘ECO-FRIENDLY’?
Never! Blanket terms like eco-friendly remove the nuances of environmental impact, which is so not us. Instead, we will name how a product is beneficial and/or harmful to specific environment systems, and acknowledge the inherent trade-offs. Let’s take a look at an example:
OPTION A: This t-shirt is eco-friendly!
OPTION B: This t-shirt is made of 100% recycled PET, which means that the material is repurposing previously used plastic, keeping it in use, and diverting material away from landfills. That said, recycled PET sheds microplastics when laundered, which means that tiny pieces of plastic are still potentially getting into local waterways. Moreover, the t-shirt was made in a facility powered by renewable energy, but we can’t guarantee the workers that made it are being paid a living wage.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF A PRODUCT SAYS IT’S ‘ECO-FRIENDLY’?
First check to see if the product is innocently using the wrong words to talk about its impact. Is it saying eco-friendly because of innovations in water or energy use? Or, is it saying that it’s eco-friendly because it simply wants good people like yourself that are trying to do right by the planet to buy the product!?
In an ideal world, there would be a way to synthesize all of the benefits and detriments a product has on the environment in one, simple word. But, this, unfortunately, is not our reality. Try to avoid brands and products that claim to be eco-friendly without supporting their claims or explaining what they mean by it.