What does 'eco-friendly' actually mean?

Confused about all the claims about product being green, environmentally friendly, eco-friendly and sustainable? We don't blame you. 

The term ‘eco-friendly’ is thrown about a lot and often it’s only used as a buzzword; something that makes you feel good about buying this hair product, that face scrub or [insert any item here]. If the definition is taken at face value, ‘eco’ would stand for ‘ecologically’ and ‘friendly,' well… I think we all know what friendly means. Which means that any product can claim to be eco-friendly in one way or another – you could have eco-friendly plastic bags (deemed so because they are more biodegradable than other plastic bags, even though it uses the same harmful chemicals and processes to produce); or sustainable clothing, because while making the garment it wastes much less fabric than other clothing manufacturing processes, even though it uses as much or more energy and resources to produce than other garments.  You can see how there’s a huge grey area that allow eco-friendly claims to reside in, and for those claims to be abused for gain.

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Ask why

Chances are, the products that proudly boast of their friendly natures and being friendly to nature aren’t as friendly as we would like to think. In fact, there’s a distinct possibility that the little stamp with the frog or the panda or the koala or whatever cute and cuddly creature the company thinks to add to give their buzzword some credence, is nothing more than a symbol.  That’s why it’s important to ask what is it about the product that makes it ‘eco-friendly’ or environmentally sound?  No matter how thin you slice it, there’s always two sides – it’s up to us as the consumers to decide whether the product is indeed eco-friendly, green or sustainable, or not. 

Q: So what can you do?

A: Always question claims that companies make about their products. 

What does boyandgirlco mean in its claim of making sustainable furniture?

You need to decide for yourself whether green is actually green.  For us at boyandgirlco, it’s about ensuring that every part of the process is as environmentally sound as possible. 

  • Materials: The raw material we use (pallets) would end up in landfill if we didn’t give them a new life – tick. 
  • Use what you need: We make to order meaning we only use what we need when we need it – tick.
  • Reduce travel: We focus on servicing local clients, meaning we limit the amount of kms the pieces have to travel – tick.
  • Waste management: Our manufacturing waste products have an afterlife – the sawdust goes to a local farm for use in their stables, the wood off cuts go to a recycling centre to be chipped and re-used, and even the nails that come from the pallets get either used in a piece or sent to a metal recycling plant.
  • Evergreen design: Our pieces are made in such a way that they can be reclaimed and repurposed into a new piece of furniture in years to come – tick tick.

…so Pallet People, here’s the rub:

Many people mean different things when it comes to claiming their products to be green, eco-friendly or sustainable.  It’s up to us to understand and decide for ourselves whether it is actually the case.