In the past few decades, these terms have become more popular than ever, appearing on items as far-ranging as soccer balls and plastic sidewalks to laundry detergent and cleaning products. In fact, “green words” have quickly morphed into buzzwords—terms that hold scientific meaning but have been diluted or even changed in meaning by overuse. However, it’s important to remember that behind all the buzz lies a mountain of evidence (and discarded plastic) that our planet is in the midst of a serious environmental, plastic, and climate crisis—one that demands our continued attention before it reaches the point of no return.
While it’s true that the majority of global environmental harm and climate change comes at the hands of governments and large corporations, we must all play our part in reversing the damage greenhouse gases, plastic, and other waste has had on the environment. You are not too small to make a difference—in fact, there are significant advantages to creating an eco-friendly household free of plastic and other harmful materials. From swapping out laundry detergent packaged in plastic for green household cleaners to trading perfumes or toxic chemicals for essential oil, there are gradual changes everyone can make to work toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
Chances are, there are already multiple eco-friendly products in your home. Use up any paper towel and laundry detergent items on hand, recycle your plastic, then gather the baking soda, washing soda, and castile soap. We’re here to help you apply them to your everyday household needs—and choose additional eco friendly, plastic-free products as needed.
What Eco Friendly Means
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the rise of green buzzwords has led to increased green marketing—corporate promotion of products based on environmental benefits. Unfortunately, these so-called environmentally friendly products quickly became so numerous, consumers lost track of the true meaning behind the words. Let’s take a look at what eco-friendly means.
Generally speaking, eco-friendly means simply “not harmful to the environment.” As a result, people choosing to live an eco friendly lifestyle, or the eco-friendly way, make conscious decisions in their daily lives aimed at reducing their negative impact on the environment around us. Similarly, eco-friendly products of all types, from personal use items and cleaning products to lifestyle items and building materials, are constructed from eco friendly materials—materials that are safe for the environment during production, use, and eventual disposal.
What Is the Difference Between Eco Friendly and Environmentally Friendly?
“Environmentally friendly product” is a common catchphrase used in green product packaging that generally holds the same meaning as “eco friendly” and “green” when it comes to consumer products, processes, and materials—products meant to prevent a negative environmental impact on the planet. In addition, many consumers want to know “what is sustainability,” or “what is a sustainable product?” Sustainability is a narrower term than any of the others above and refers specifically to efforts to ensure the product or its production not only refrains from harming the environment but avoids both physical and ethical harm to people and refrains from depleting our natural resources as well.
However, there are some basic requirements for labeling a product, outlined (and updated) in the FTC’s Green Guides since 1992. For a product to earn an eco friendly label, the packaging must thoroughly explain why it is environmentally responsible—and then live up to its claims. For example, suppose an eco friendly cleaning product claims to have a reduced carbon footprint or help lessen climate change. In that case, the company must prove low carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions via data readily available to government agencies and consumers. This data helps consumers make informed choices and is just one example of how technology is good for the environment.
Why Eco Friendly Is Important
How does eco friendly help protect our environment, and aid you, the consumer, in the process? To start, let’s take a look at our current environmental situation.
As you may know, global warming can have severe implications for our polar ice caps, cause ocean levels to rise, and make vast swaths of both ocean and land uninhabitable for the fragile ecosystems that once thrived there. This, in turn, is due to the astounding rate of greenhouse gases—primarily methane, carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrous oxide, and water vapor—released into the atmosphere from human activity. Over 90% of emissions are caused by product use and manufacturing, and we’re releasing them at a rate 10 times faster than any other point in the last 66 million years.
Add to that the rapidly overflowing landfills, chemical runoff into our lakes, rivers, and oceans, and diminished air quality experienced by much of the world, and it’s easy to see that change is necessary regarding the way we produce, use, and dispose of goods. While a single person may not register much of a change on the overall upward trend of global warming, we can have a more significant impact together if we choose to utilize eco friendly brands in our everyday lives. Incentivizing the production of green products using sustainable methods is a significant step forward toward slowing climate change.
How Eco Friendly Living Benefits You
Of course, an eco-friendly lifestyle doesn’t only benefit the global environment at large—although attention to our planet’s ecosystems and resources affects us all more significantly than you may think. Still, making an effort to utilize eco friendly products has several direct benefits for you and your family, including:
- Energy savings. From energy-efficient appliances to energy-saving practices like choosing a blanket instead of turning up the heat or hanging clothes to dry instead of using an electric dryer, many eco friendly choices reduce the energy you use. On a larger scale, reducing your consumption of products with excessive packaging or swapping a product with plastics for one with sustainable packaging material helps reduce the enormous amount of energy required to produce plastic items.
- Cost savings. Where there are energy savings, cost savings are sure to follow—limiting your reliance on non-renewable energy sources lowers your energy bills as well. In addition, adhering to eco friendly practices like reducing resource and product consumption, reusing resources when you can, and recycling things that have outlived their useful lifespan helps save you money overall.
- Cleaner surroundings. On a small scale, avoiding products with excessive plastics or switching to items that utilize green packaging helps you avoid filling your trash cans with bathroom, kitchen, and household waste. Of course, on a larger scale, if more consumers choose to reduce their reliance on plastics, disposable paper items, and non-biodegradable products, the earth’s landfill issues and the stream of chemicals contaminating our water supply will be diminished as well.
- Healthier bodies. Eco friendly cleaning products, green personal care products, and natural foods alike look to reduce the number of harmful chemicals we are exposed to daily. Natural cleaning and beauty products are better for sensitive skin and reduce harmful, toxic effects on other bodily systems. In contrast, organic foods free from pesticides, preservatives, dyes, and other additives promote a healthier diet and a cleaner planet.
- Green technology rewards. What is green technology and its benefits? Green technology is any use of technology to create a product that is more environmentally friendly. Choosing green technology like green energy production or eco friendly alternatives such as green building products instead of traditional building materials can impact the planet—and your life—in each of the ways listed above.
How Can You Find Eco Friendly Brands?
So, what brands are environmentally friendly? If you’re just getting started on your eco friendly journey, learning to search for truly eco friendly brands is your first step. Here’s a brief overview of what to look for:
- Eco friendly claims. According to GreenGuides, any product claiming to be eco friendly must list its claims on the packaging. Search for products that clearly state the nature of their reduced impact on the environment.
- Ecolabels. If you see an ecolabel—a voluntary mark placed on eco friendly packaging or product literature that identifies it has met certain ecological performance standards—you can be sure it is eco friendly in some respect. Look for Energy Star certification, Fair Trade certification, USDA Organic, Watersense, and more.
- Company research. Depending on the product’s nature, you may need to perform your own research on the brand’s website or a third-party page to investigate eco friendly claims. Searching questions like, “Is Body Shop environmentally friendly?” will lead you to the true answers. While The Body Shop is a B-corporation and highly touted for ethical practices, it still uses plastic packaging in a large portion of its products. (The company pledges to work toward zero-waste and incorporate 100% recyclable packaging by 2025.)
Once you’ve found an eco friendly brand and some eco friendly products that intrigue you, it’s time to begin incorporating them into your lifestyle. You’ll find that most eco friendly product lines address the four major areas of household products: dining, laundry, bath, and lifestyle. Moving forward, we’ll address each of these areas and how you can transition to an eco-friendlier lifestyle within each.
Eco Friendly Dining
True eco friendly dining requires attention to numerous aspects of environmental health, from choosing sustainable foods to ensuring the appliances, utensils, and dining room furniture you use have a minimal impact on the environment. While the process can seem a bit overwhelming, don’t stress—there is much you can learn from the many eco friendly restaurant locations currently popping up around the country.
(If you’re wondering, “What is an ecologically friendly restaurant?” the answer is simple—a certified green restaurant business must meet all the Green Restaurant Association certification standards to reduce the business’s negative impact on the environment.)
How Can Restaurants Be Eco Friendly?
Certified green restaurant businesses approach operating a sustainable restaurant in many different ways, including offering green food, reducing food waste, using more sustainable dining room furniture, utensils, and dishes, conserving water, reducing energy use, choosing sustainable food containers, and selecting green cleaners. So, how can you translate these environmentally friendly restaurant strategies to your own eco friendly household and dining furniture? We’ve compiled some eco friendly practices below:
- Choose energy-efficient appliances. If your kitchen appliances are nearing the end of their serviceable lives, be sure to choose Energy Star kitchen appliances to replace them. You’ll reduce your energy and water use by as much as 30% and save money in the process.
- Choose sustainable foods and reduce food waste. Multiple factors affect the sustainability of your food items, including the energy and land area to produce, package, and ship them as well as purchasing local and organic. In general, meats and seafood are less sustainable than produce, but you’ll still need to perform some research to determine the impact your favorites have on the environment. Then, endeavor to reduce your food waste as the restaurants do—by creatively using all you purchase.
- Utilize sustainable food packaging. What is sustainable food packaging? In general, sustainable packaging utilizes renewable energy in production and shipping, is made from eco friendly material healthy for the environment, and can be reused or recycled after use. If you can, buy in bulk when possible, and purchase loose items like grains, cereals, snacks, and more in bulk from your grocer and package in sustainable containers.
- Choose eco friendly kitchen cleaners. From cleaning and furniture sprays to dish soaps, most traditional restaurant kitchen cleaners utilize plastic packaging and harsh chemicals. You have an advantage over restaurants in this respect—there are many plastic-free dish soap bars and vegetable-based cleaners on the market that address both issues.
- Stock your kitchen with eco friendly dishes. If your dishes are reaching the end of their lifespan, consider replacing them with an eco friendly option. Choose bamboo cutlery, certified green dinnerware, and even bamboo straws to reduce your impact on the environment.
- Shop restaurant-quality furniture. When asked, “What are your favorite pieces in an eco friendly dining room?” restaurant owners agreed that attention to sustainably produced furniture and eco friendly furniture like a dining table and chairs are most important. Look for sustainable furniture woods like bamboo or furniture crafted from certified sustainable furniture wood forests, which are replanted frequently.
Eco Friendly Laundry
According to the EPA, the average American household uses 400 gallons of water per day—and a full 21% of that usage can be attributed to laundry. Also, your washer and dryer are one of the biggest energy hogs in your home. When you consider that any laundry detergents (and the associated chemicals) you add to your laundry water stand a very real chance of making their way into rivers and oceans, it’s easy to see why eco friendly laundry solutions are so important.
Eco-friendliness is important for your family, too. Clothing is as much a part of our daily lives as our very skin—and, due to its proximity to our skin, can have a significant effect on the health of the human body’s largest organ. Laundry detergent chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulfate, phosphates, formaldehyde, ammonium sulfate, and more can be found in both liquid detergent and powdered detergent; it’s important to clean clothes in a way that reduces your exposure to these harsh chemicals.
How Can You Make Your Laundry Routine More Eco Friendly?
We’ve rounded up a list of tips to make your laundry routine and laundry detergent choices more eco friendly—incorporate some or all in your progress toward an eco-friendlier household:
- Purchase an efficient washing machine. What is the most eco friendly laundry machine? According to the Energy Star project, which rates appliances according to efficiency, the most energy-efficient washing machine is the ElectroluxEFLW427****, which uses a mere 60 kWh per year. In general, the majority of the most efficient models listed are front-loading machines, which have the potential to reduce your water use by 30%, or up to 7,000 gallons per year.
- Purchase an efficient dryer. Energy Star’s rating of the most efficient clothes dryers includes a rating called “combined energy factor,” which considers multiple aspects of energy efficiency. Currently, the most efficient model listed is the Miele PDR908HP, with a CEF of 9.75.
- Use dryer balls. Disposable dryer sheets and fabric softener products fill our landfills with plastic and paper waste and coat your clothing with chemicals. For additional long-lasting softening without the chemicals, try a set of wool dryer balls. These 100% New Zealand wool balls help to soften your clothing, can prevent static, and have the potential to decrease drying time by 30% or more.
- Hang clothes to dry. Your dryer uses more energy than most other appliances in your home and reducing its use can help you take a big step in the right direction. Start by hanging clothes to dry on an outdoor clothesline or an indoor drying rack. Or, to lessen fabric stiffness, consider a hybrid approach of hanging to dry, then tumbling on low or no heat to improve softness.
- Use cold water. Hot water use accounts for the majority of the energy needed to operate your washing machine. Switch to a cold water wash and save up to $60 per year—and reduce your impact on the environment in the process. As a bonus, cold water is generally much gentler on your clothing than hot water; your clothing will last longer, saving you money and reducing your need for new items.
- Wash full loads. One of the best ways to achieve maximum efficiency is to ensure you are washing full loads instead of a few pieces at a time. If you’re in the market for a new washer, choose a smart washing machine that balances water used with your load size. Alternatively, see if your machine offers multiple load size selections so you can adjust water usage for smaller loads.
- Choose an eco friendly laundry detergent. What makes laundry detergent eco friendly? For laundry detergent to truly be eco friendly, it must be non-toxic to humans, safe for any incidental exposure in nature to wildlife and plants, avoid plastic use, and reduce energy usage in production, shipping, and packaging.
How to Choose an Eco Friendly Laundry Detergent
Here, we’ll break down numerous ways you can go about switching to an eco-friendlier detergent:
- Use a more concentrated laundry detergent. The concept here is simple—more concentrated detergent allows you to get more loads out of each container. Detergent manufacturers use less water during production, and you’ll utilize less energy for shipping and purchasing, less packaging overall—and save money in the process.
- Choose alternative formulations. Today, numerous laundry detergent options aren’t giant plastic bottles full of water and chemicals—you can choose from detergent bars, biodegradable pods, laundry strips, and more. But are laundry strips eco friendly? According to research, yes—these reduced packaging, biodegradable packaging, and zero-packaging options require much less energy for packing and shipping and provide less plastic and paper waste.
- Avoid detergent additives. Laundry detergent additives such as optical brighteners, fragrances, and more simply translate to more chemicals that coat clothing and harm sensitive skin and the environment. Find a detergent that utilizes plant-based ingredients without unnecessary additives.
- Avoid borax. Many so-called “eco friendly homemade detergent” recipes call for borax—but is borax good for laundry? Unfortunately, borax can irritate the skin and eyes and disrupt hormones and the male reproductive system. Steer clear during your search for eco friendly detergent alternatives.
- Rethink your pretreatments. Once you’ve found an eco friendly laundry detergent, you’re not out of the woods yet. Many people choose to pretreat stubborn stains with sprays or solutions that contain chemicals packed in plastic bottles—and many commonly suggested replacements are not much more eco friendly. Instead, try vegan soap sticks for oily stains and plain white vinegar for acidic stains.
Making Your Bathroom Eco Friendly
As with the other major resource-consuming areas of your home, making your bathroom eco friendly relies largely on reducing the water you use. Your shower and toilet combine to use over 42% of your home’s water. Attention to these two fixtures can drastically reduce your bathroom impact on the environment.
In addition, it’s also important to pay attention to the products you use in the bathroom. Personal care items have the potential to add multiple harmful chemicals to the environment, as well as a great deal of waste. Proper attention to eco friendly bathroom practices reduces both of these impacts.
How Can You Make Your Bathroom Eco Friendly?
To make your bathroom eco-friendlier, you must address your bathroom’s water consumption as well as the waste produced by your bathroom products. We’ve compiled this brief list of tips for a more eco friendly bathroom:
- Install an eco friendly toilet. What is an eco friendly toilet? Energy Star rated, eco friendly toilets aim to use less water and provide water savings of up to 60%—or $2,200 over the toilet’s lifespan. Choose a low-flow toilet to reduce water use with each flush or a dual-flush system that uses less water for liquid waste than solid waste. Alternatively, composting toilets can reduce your water use even more significantly.
- Choose sustainable materials. If you’re ready for a bathroom remodel, ensure you’re doing so sustainably. Choose materials like wood or stone countertops, bamboo flooring, sustainably produced cabinetry, and even a sustainable fabric shower curtain for maximum eco friendly impact.
- Optimize your showers. Are shower baths a good idea? Yes, if you do what you can to save water and energy. Choose a low-flow showerhead and reduce overall shower time to minimize the water you use. Alternatively, consider turning the shower off while you soap up.
- Limit your baths. Do baths clean you? In general, no—to remove dead skin cells and bacteria from your skin, you’d need to shower off before and after your bath and use a ton of additional water in the process. Low-flow showers use about 25 gallons of water compared to as many as 60 gallons in the average bath, and a hot bath can increase your hot water heater’s energy demands significantly.
- Reduce your paper waste. Paper products like toilet paper and makeup remover pads create an enormous amount of waste. Worse, they’re often manufactured with chlorine bleach and other chemicals that can irritate the skin and affect the environment. Consider eco friendly products like bamboo toilet paper and reusable bamboo makeup remover pads instead.
- Limit bathroom plastics. Even multi-use plastic items like toothbrushes, nylon sponges, and hairbrushes will not break down once they’re thrown out. Switching to sustainable items like a bamboo toothbrush, bamboo brushes, and combs, and natural sponges to ensure your most-used items will not continue to impact the environment.
- Reduce bathroom packaging. Personal care item waste alone contributes as much as 142 billion packaging units to our landfills each year. You can find zero waste packaged items for all your bathroom needs with some careful thought, including shampoo and conditioner bars, baking soda or charcoal powder toothpaste, toothpaste tablets, natural toothpaste, and eco friendly floss in reusable glass containers.
Environmentally Friendly Products and Sustainable Living
Now that you’ve learned some ways to reduce your environmental impact with eco friendly products and eco friendly practices in the three most critical areas of your home, it’s time to take a brief look at the rest of your household. You’ve already made efforts to reduce your energy and water consumption with green appliances and limited waste best practices—how can you achieve sustainable living throughout your life? One great way to become more eco friendly is by choosing green products designed for sustainable living instead of plastics and harmful chemicals.
What is the importance of eco friendly products? In short, eco friendly products are healthier for you and your family, often less expensive than other products, are more durable than disposable products, and have a reduced negative impact on the environment during production, use, and disposal. In addition, many plastic-free items have the added benefit of being reusable for other purposes throughout your home.
Eco Friendly Products to Consider
To help you make better eco friendly product choices for the remaining areas in your home, we’ve developed a list of green living tips for an eco friendly lifestyle. Incorporate these along with our bathroom, dining, and laundry tips for maximum eco-impact:
- First, learn about sustainable products. Does sustainable mean eco-friendly? While the two have a similar effect on the eco-friendliness of your household, it’s important to distinguish between the two. Eco friendly products are not harmful to the environment, while sustainable products are produced and shipped in a way that can be done continuously without depleting our natural resources.
- Incorporate sustainable materials. What is a good example of sustainability? Within your household, choosing responsibly produced, reusable storage instead of disposable plastic bins and bags is a key example of sustainable living. Also, choosing sustainable building materials and sustainable furniture can help you reduce your household’s negative impact on our environment.
- Utilize a reusable water bottle. Plastic bottle waste is a huge issue in the US, where as many as 1,500 plastic water bottles alone are tossed every second. Instead of single use plastic bottles—which require significant energy and non-renewable resources to produce and do not biodegrade over time—use a reusable water bottle made of glass or metal.
- Choose reusable bags. Like plastic bottles, plastic bags like shopping bags, sandwich bags, and product bags pose a huge issue for our landfills—most can’t be recycled and will instead pile up in landfills and endanger wildlife and waterways. Eco friendly fabric shopping bags, reusable sandwich containers, and recycled or reusable containers serve to reduce your impact on the environment and limit the amount of waste your household produces.
- Look for green cleaning products. What constitutes an environmentally friendly cleaning product? Eco friendly cleaning products limit the number of harmful chemicals used in your home that may leach into our soil and water and are produced using transparent methods that limit energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Search for vegetable-based cleaners, natural ingredients safe for the skin, and detergents and soaps without single use plastic packaging.
Switch to eco friendly clothing and bedding. Synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon are incorporated into as many as 60% of our fabric pieces. Unfortunately, these fabrics release thousands of fibers during washing, which ultimately end up in our oceans in the form of microplastics; worse, synthetic production can cause harmful emissions and energy waste. Choose eco friendly clothing made from 100% organic cotton, eco friendly bamboo bedding, pillows, and recycle or reuse any synthetic items.
Live Your Best Sustainable Life
Learning about sustainability and eco friendly products is only the first step in transitioning your home to a more sustainable lifestyle—but it is an important one. With your new knowledge, you can begin incorporating key strategies into your household. Making these small changes over time will help you approach green living—and reduce harmful behaviors—in a viable way, you can stick with long-term.
If you have questions about how to transition to an eco-friendlier lifestyle, we have answers! Our lifestyle blog has a wealth of information on the subject, and our broad selection of eco friendly and zero-waste products will help ensure you begin your new sustainable lifestyle on the right foot. Contact Seek Bamboo for more information about zero-waste, subscription options, and more.