What’s the Difference between Green, Organic, Eco-Friendly and Sustainable?
Consumers are seeing terminology such as green, organic, eco-friendly, sustainable, biodegradable, etc. more and more in the marketplace. Each of these terms have different meanings and are used for specific industries and applications. However, it can be difficult to differentiate between green, eco-friendly, organic, sustainable and biodegradable product claims.
Consumers may be more inclined to purchase a slightly higher-priced product if any of these buzzwords appear in product claims or on product packaging. It’s important to understand what each term means, why it’s being used, and if there’s an underlying benefit to purchasing a product that uses a specific term.
Green Terminology: Definitions and Explanations
Green: Being Green and Going Green
Green isn’t just a color anymore – it’s also a way to describe a product, lifestyle, business practice or services benefitting the environment. Being green and/or going green is a way to minimize harm to the environment, including reducing pollutants. Green products have low environmental impact, and are typically:
- Made of recycled materials, and/or
- Minimally packaged
Eco-Friendly Product Labeling
Eco-friendly literally means Earth-friendly. Most commonly, eco-friendly product claims refer to products or services that help conserve Earth’s resources and do not harm the environment. The Global Ecolabelling Network has standards listed here for various categories worldwide on how products earn an eco-friendly seal. The FTC also has guidelines for eco-friendly labels to help consumers, located in the FTC’s Green Guides.
Organic Product Claims
The term organic generally means the item is free from synthetic chemicals that are harmful to the environment and humans. Organic product claims can appear on a wide range of products, from food to consumer products, including cosmetics. Cosmetic products can obtain organic product certification through the COSMOS-Standard, a single, international standard for natural and organic cosmetic products which became effective in January 2010.
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The USDA breaks down the term organic into a few different categories depending on type of product. For foods, they are grown and processed according to specific federal guidelines and was grown in soil with no prohibited substances. Organic meat refers to the type of living conditions in which the animals were raised. The USDA also notes, “With all organic foods, none of it is grown or handled using genetically modified organisms.”
According to the Oxford Dictionary, sustainable means “Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.” This basically means using just enough resources now to allow future generations to also have what they’ll need. Sustainable products provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and the environment throughout the entire product lifecycle, from the extraction of raw materials until disposal.
Biodegradable vs. Compostable Product Claims
Many people confuse biodegradable with compostable. Biodegradable products are not compostable. However, if a product is biodegradable, given the right conditions with the help of naturally occurring microorganisms, fungi, bacteria, etc., the product will eventually break down and become one with the Earth.
Compostable products, in addition to being biodegradable, must be able to break down at a rate comparable to food scraps or yard waste in a compost pile. Additionally, the product must break down without leaving any toxic residue.
Avomeen’s Green & Sustainable Product Development Services
Avomeen’s team has a proven track record of reformulating, or modifying existing products to meet green and eco-friendly requirements, as well as developing novel and innovative sustainable products. Do you have a specific project in mind? Let’s talk.
On the path of developing a new product? For tips, check out our blog, The Key to Successful New Product Development & Innovation.
Unsure of what is in your formulation? Learn how to Regain Control of Your Formulation with Deformulation.
If you’re developing or looking to develop or reformulate a cosmetic product, check out our blog, What You Need to Know About the COSMOS-Standard for Natural & Organic Cosmetic Products.
Choosing the right organization to partner with is hard. With us, it’s easy. Read up on partnerships in Choosing the Right Partner to Develop a Product.
Our expert blogger is Evan Boyst, Avomeen’s Senior Technical Director of Innovation and Product Development. He has facilitated the product launch from R&D to production of several products and has experience in developing personal care, industrial, and food and beverage formulations.
Learn more about Evan’s expertise and experience.