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Eco-Friendly vs Environment-Friendly [+ More Eco Terms Explained]

We’re used to seeing products labeled with such terms. But is there any difference between the two? Is one more correct than the other? And which wins the eco-friendly vs environment-friendly battle?

Well, there’s no battle to begin with. 

Eco-friendly is a shorter way of saying environment-friendly. Both terms indicate that an item isn’t harmful to the environment.

But let’s dive deeper and learn more about the subtle differences between some of the most common eco phrases. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Is Eco-Friendly the Same as Environmentally Friendly?

Yes, it is. Whether you say eco-friendly, environment-friendly, environmentally friendly, or even earth-friendly, the meaning remains the same — the item in question isn’t harming the environment.

There’s a small linguistic difference between environment-friendly and environmentally friendly though.

Environment-friendly is a phrasal adjective, while environmentally friendly is an adverb. Also, the latter is more widespread in the English language. But eco-friendly trumps both as being the most preferred eco term.

Eco-Friendly — What Does It Mean?

“Eco-friendly” literally means “not harmful to the environment.”

Let’s break down all parts:

  • “Eco” comes from “ecological,” which refers to the relations between living organisms and the natural world.
  • “Friendly” indicates that something isn’t harmful.
  • “Environment” is any place where a human, animal, or plant is.

But there’s more to a word than its literal meaning. For instance, what does it mean for a product to be eco-friendly? Find out in the next section.

What’s an Eco-Friendly Product?

We can divide eco-friendly products into three categories:

  • Eco-friendly materials/ingredients — These are products with natural ingredients that won’t damage the planet once you throw them away. The category can also include products that are made of recycled materials or those that you can easily recycle.
  • Eco-friendly production — The place where the product was made is eco-friendly. For example, this could mean that the factory works with solar power or conserves water during production.
  • Eco-friendly use — These are all products that encourage you to avoid harmful materials, like plastic. Think reusable water bottles, glass food containers, or reusable cotton swabs.

For consumers like me and you, most eco-friendly products fall into the first or last category. Those are the easiest to measure and ensure that you’re buying sustainably. 

What’s the Opposite of Eco-Friendly?

With so many green terms, you must have wondered what’s the opposite at least once.

We have a long list of eco-friendly antonyms, but you won’t hear them often. 

Still, if you’re looking for a good negative term to describe something that’s harmful to the environment, here are the best options:

  • Environmentally unfriendly
  • Eco-destructive
  • Ecologically destructive
  • Environmentally harmful

They all sound a bit clunky to me, but that’s the best I can offer. If you have a more ear-friendly suggestion, let me know in the comments!

eco-friendly wind power during the day

Other Eco Terms and Phrases

While many people use all of the mentioned terms interchangeably, there are a few subtle differences between them. And if you want to be an eco-conscious consumer, you should know them.

Let’s dive deeper and see what this means.

Green 

“Green” usually refers to the way a product is made, how it operates, or what its energy consumption is. For instance, we usually use “green” to talk about renewable energy sources. That also includes all energy-efficient and biodegradable products.

Sustainable

“Sustainable” is our favorite among all the eco terms. Here’s the meaning behind sustainable products, taken from Wikipedia:

“Sustainable products are those products that provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal.”

In other words, sustainability offers a lot more than just eco-friendly products. It brings us products made with the intention of not harming the environment or depleting the planet’s natural resources in any way. Sustainability takes into account how much resources we can afford to extract without making damage. 

You know, the exact opposite of practices like overfishing or deforestation. Sustainability is reducing the produced emissions and waste to zero. It’s the practice of truly making a minimal impact on the environment.

In short, a sustainable product is the holy grail of eco-friendly products. If you’re interested in decreasing your carbon footprint, purchasing sustainable materials and products is among the first steps you can take.

Fair Trade

Fair trade means establishing fair prices when developed countries trade with developing countries. That helps the producers in developing parts of the world to improve their lives and manufacturing process.

By supporting fair trade products and companies, we can all contribute to establishing a sustainable global trade.

Beware of Greenwashing

Regulations on product labels aren’t tight, which helps marketing and harms consumers. It’s also why we have a bunch of eco-friendly phrases to decipher.

So, what is greenwashing? 

Greenwashing is the practice of making false claims that a product is environmentally friendly. 

It’s widespread among big companies that try to hide how much damage their production does by wrapping their products in green marketing for gullible consumers. 

And we’re all gullible. I’ve fallen for their tricks more times than I can count, but once you’re aware of them, you start questioning and finding the truth.

My one advice would be to doubt any eco-friendly statement coming from a big company. Let’s have some examples to help you see what I mean:

  • In 2019, McDonalds introduced paper straws as an eco-friendly move. The problem? They weren’t even recyclable. 
  • In 2018, Nestle threw around some eco-friendly phrases and announced its ambitions to have 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025. The problem? The company made zero actions to support its ambitions and remains among the top worst polluting companies worldwide.
  • H&M is yet another company that constantly tries to hide the hude environmental damage it does. A 2021 year report from Changing Markets established that 96% of H&M’s environmentally-friendly claims were false.

It’s almost impossible to find a big company that harms the planet while claiming to change for the better. Doesn’t that sound a lot like a toxic person we should cut off from our lives?

You can find out how to spot greenwashing, but for now, just question whether a product is truly eco-friendly and what makes it so.

The Rise of Eco-Friendly Products

There’s not much difference in eco-friendly vs environment-friendly products, but it’s crucial to know how they all came to be.

During the 60s and the 70s, researchers started piling evidence on the effects of pollution. That’s also when we started celebrating Earth Day

And as hippies grew older, they pushed and paved the way for green products in the 80s. Thanks to them, more and more people are choosing to live an eco friendly lifestyle today.

That’s when some of our favorite eco-friendly brands emerged, including Burt’s Bees, The Body Shop, and Whole Foods. During that time, brands like Patagonia also started to explore the environmental impact of fashion.

The eco consumer movement took off in 2000s.

Cool, but why should you care about any of this?

Because eco-friendly products are a relatively new concept. Their definitions, regulations, and standards are still shaping. And you and I have a unique opportunity to help them grow and hopefully to replace all other products at the stores. At least that’s my dream — to form a global eco-friendly culture.

The Role of the Eco-Conscious Consumer

Unlike all other terms we discuss in this article, “eco-conscious” refers to people instead of products. And one of our main mission at Home Mindful is to increase the numbers of eco-conscious consumers worldwide.

But why? And what is an eco-conscious consumer?

An eco-conscious consumer is aware of the damage products can cause on the environment. 

Here are a few more important and defining characteristics:

  • An eco-conscious consumer enjoys reading labels and learning how to tell an eco-frendly product from a harmful one.
  • They’re willing to make changes to the products they use if that means a bigger positive impact on the planet. That includes choosing non toxic products and staying away from synthetic chemicals.
  • They actively seek product alternatives that might not change their lives significantly but might change the planet’s.
  • They aim to reduce plastic waste through eco friendly practices.
  • They do their best to buy less and are willing to spend more on sustainable products.

Our team believes in a future where you won’t have to read the label or wonder about the environmentally friendly meaning of every product because they’ll all be as clean and as eco-friendly as possible.

But we have a long way to go before that turns into reality. And one of the first steps would be to turn more and more people into eco-conscious consumers that want to have and make better choices. That would help future generations to be well informed and to achieve more than us.

In time, eco consumers will pressure companies into taking more environmental and social responsibility and producing products that fit our new sustainable standards.

Final Thoughts

What started as a simple post on the meaning of eco-friendly vs environment-friendly turned into a full exploration of green phrases, sustainability, and greenwashing. 

So, what are the main takeaways?

  • Small differences matter. Their effect accumulates over time leading to a greener lifestyle for all of us. That’s why we encourage more people to learn how to be eco-friendly.
  • Know the difference between eco-friendly and sustainable. Hint: The latter takes into account the full life cycle of the product.
  • Don’t trust the label blindly. Always question what makes a product eco-friendly.
  • Choose sustainability as often as possible.
  • Educate those around you and help us build an army of eco-conscious consumers that would dismantle the damaging practices of big companies. 

Let’s bring forth a silent revolution of global significance and environmental benefit.

2 thoughts on “Eco-Friendly vs Environment-Friendly [+ More Eco Terms Explained]”

  1. Styrofoam should be banned-it isn’t normally accepted by recycle, doesn’t biodegrade for hundreds of years and if the styrofoam isn’t eaten by an animal will degrade into poisons which will make its way to our water and eventually will poison our kids. There is nothing beneficial to styrofoam besides convenient food take away containers. Businesses need to consider the cost of convenience.

    1. You’re absolutely right! It also creates toxic air pollutants when being exposed to the sun. Keep an eye for our upcoming article on the topic.

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