According to the Cambridge Dictionary, being eco-friendly means being ‘designed to have little or no damaging effect on the environment’.
Basically, it’s all about doing no harm. Products, events, and services that are eco-friendly don’t cost the Earth. When thinking about products in particular, it means looking at everything from how the product is made, to how it’s delivered. Does any part of that process harm the planet? If so, it’s not entirely eco-friendly.
Like ‘eco-friendly’ the term ‘green’ generally means being kind to the Earth, often by trying to have a lighter carbon footprint.
It’s quite an informal, casual term that can be applied in lots of ways, but usually it’s understood to have a similar meaning to ‘eco-friendly’. You might have heard it in relation to the Green Party, who fight for climate action in parliament. The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘green’ as ‘relating to the protection of the environment’.
‘Sustainable’ has a slightly more complex definition. ‘Sustainable development’ as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. According to this definition, there are 3 pillars of sustainability:
Environmental: This pillar focuses on reducing carbon emissions and waste, to minimize impact on the planet.
Economic: This is about making sure people around the world can make a secure living financially, now and in the future.
Social: Finally, this pillar is all about making sure people have their needs met and human rights respected. If you’re a sustainable business, it’s about treating your employees fairly.
These days, ‘sustainable’ is used to refer to everything from food to fashion. Usually, in this context, companies are referring mainly to the first pillar of sustainability: environment. The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘sustainable’ as ‘causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time.
The crucial factor in sustainability is thinking about the future. Whether you’re growing crops, designing clothes, or cleaning your home, it’s about doing so in a way that protects resources for future generations to come.