With more people becoming aware of their choices' impact on the environment, the terms “sustainability” and “eco-friendly” have become increasingly popular. Yes, the two are related – but they're not exactly the same thing. In this article, we'll break down the difference between the two. We will also give you tips to practice sustainability and eco-friendliness.
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is all about ensuring that we care for the planet so that future generations can enjoy it too! It's a way of thinking about how we live, work, and consume that considers the impact of our actions on the environment, society, and economy.
Did you know that every year, 8-10 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean (Fava, 2022)? That's like throwing a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute! This is a huge problem because plastic pollution harms marine life and can even make its way into our food chain.
Here are examples of sustainable practices:
- Energy Conservation: Conserving energy is an important sustainable practice that can be implemented in many ways. Examples include turning off lights when not in use, using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, and using renewable energy sources like solar or wind power.
- Waste Reduction: Reducing waste is another key sustainable practice. This can be achieved by recycling, composting, using reusable containers and bags, and reducing overall consumption.
- Water Conservation: Conserving water is important for sustainable living, especially in areas where water resources are scarce. Examples of water conservation practices include fixing leaks, using low-flow toilets and showerheads, and collecting rainwater for use in gardens and landscaping.
- Sustainable Agriculture: Sustainable agriculture practices focus on producing food in a way that is environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and economically viable. This can include using organic farming methods, reducing pesticide and fertilizer use, and supporting local and small-scale farming.
What is Eco-Friendliness?
Eco-friendliness refers to products, services, or practices that are designed to have minimal impact on the environment. It is the idea of being "friendly" to the environment with the goal of reducing waste, conserving resources, and minimizing pollution.
The Key Principles of Eco-Friendliness
- 3R’s (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) - reducing the amount of waste we generate, reusing products and materials whenever possible, and recycling items that cannot be reused.
- Energy Efficiency - using energy-efficient technologies to reduce energy consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
- Sustainable Materials - using renewable, non-toxic, and sustainably sourced materials in products and services, such as bamboo, cotton, and recycled plastic.
Eco-friendliness is crucial today because we are facing unprecedented environmental challenges – such as climate change, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. Adopting eco-friendly practices help reduce our negative impact on the environment.
Understanding the Differences
Sustainability is a broader concept that takes a long-term view of human impact on the environment, society, and economy. It's about finding ways to minimize harm and avoid damaging the planet directly. Eco-friendliness, on the other hand, is more focused on reducing our impact on the environment by making eco-conscious choices about the products we use, the services we consume, and the practices we adopt (Campbell et al., 2015).
Here are examples to help differentiate between the two:
- Fashion Industry
- Eco-Friendly Practices: Using materials like organic cotton, hemp, or recycled polyester, reducing waste by using zero-waste production techniques, using eco-friendly dyes and inks, and minimizing the use of harmful chemicals in the production process.
- Sustainable Practices: Using renewable energy in the production process, using water and energy-efficient machinery, and implementing fair labor practices.
- Food Industry
- Eco-Friendly Practices: Using compostable packaging, sourcing locally grown produce, reducing food waste by donating unsold food to food banks or composting, and using biodegradable utensils.
- Sustainable Practices: Supporting regenerative agriculture practices that reduce the environmental impact of food production, reducing energy usage in the kitchen, and using sustainable transportation options to transport ingredients and products.
- Construction Industry
- Eco-Friendly Practices: Using sustainable building materials like bamboo or reclaimed wood, installing energy-efficient appliances, using low VOC paints and adhesives, and implementing green roof systems to reduce heat absorption.
- Sustainable Practices: Using renewable energy sources like solar or wind power, designing buildings with energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, and using environmentally conscious landscaping practices.
- Technology Industry
- Eco-Friendly Practices: Using recycled or biodegradable materials in products, implementing energy-saving features on devices, reducing electronic waste through recycling programs, and minimizing packaging materials.
- Sustainable Practices: Using renewable energy sources to power data centers and devices, designing products with energy-efficient features, and implementing sustainable manufacturing practices.
Tips for Making Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Choices in Daily Life
- Reduce energy use: Turn off lights and unplug electronics when not in use, use energy-efficient light bulbs, and install a programmable thermostat.
- Conserve water: Fix leaks, take shorter showers, and use a low-flow showerhead.
- Use sustainable transportation: Walk, bike, or use public transportation instead of driving alone in a car.
- Choose sustainable products: Look for products made from sustainable materials, with minimal packaging, and that are produced in an eco-friendly way. For instance, instead of buying plastic planters, opt for sustainable planters made of stone, wood, and other recycled materials.
- Reduce waste: Use a reusable water bottle and shopping bag, compost food waste, and recycle as much as possible.
- Eat a plant-based diet: Choose plant-based meals, and when eating meat or dairy, choose products that are sustainably produced and from local sources.
- Eco-Friendly Clothing: Choose clothing made from sustainable materials like organic cotton, bamboo, or recycled materials.
- Support local and sustainable businesses: Choose to shop at locally-owned businesses that prioritize sustainability. Support companies that have sustainable and eco-friendly practices.
Making sustainable and eco-friendly choices in our daily lives is crucial for promoting a more environmentally-conscious and socially-responsible world. By making small changes, we can make a significant positive impact on both the environment and our communities.
Campbell, B.et al.. (2015). Consumer Perceptions of Eco-friendly and Sustainable Terms. Agricultural and Resource Economics Review. 44. 21-34. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282923711_Consumer_Perceptions_of_Eco-friendly_and_Sustainable_Terms/citation/download
Fava, M. (2022, May 09). Ocean plastic pollution an overview: data and statistics. UNESCO. https://oceanliteracy.unesco.org/plastic-pollution-ocean/#:~:text=Plastic%20Pollution%3A%20Key%20Facts,in%20the%20ocean%20each%20year.
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Our efforts and commitment to waste reduction and sustainability begin with our production process.
Plastic and agriculture wastes are repurposed and utilized through innovative transformation into a biodegradable composite material.