What does eco-friendly mean?

Eco-friendly Definition and Meaning

The term “Eco-friendly” seems to be appearing everywhere these days along with other synonyms “Environmentally Friendly”, “Nature Friendly” and “Green” but there is some misunderstanding about what, if anything, such terms actually mean.

So what does eco friendly mean? The most simple definition of eco-friendly is that it describes something that is ecologically beneficial or at the least not harmful. But the question remains as to just what is an eco friendly product, process, person or lifestyle?

Many people today are acutely aware of the damage inflicted on our planet by mankind and are making a conscious effort to minimise their own part in this by adopting a lifestyle which reduces their individual impact. Probably the top priority of most eco-friendly individuals is to minimise their contribution to the increase in greenhouse gases and, to this end, all buying choices will have regard to the product’s green credentials. Advertisers have been quick to recognise this potentially huge market opportunity with various forms of “eco-labels” appearing sometimes on the most unlikely products. Many of these labels offer genuine information such as the energy efficiency ratings applied to electrical appliances or information regarding recycling whilst others may have no official endorsements and merely show some kind of logo usually incorporating a globe and possibly a leaf almost always in green. The practice of “greening” products in this way without providing genuine official proof is sometimes referred to as “greenwashing”. However, there are many other aspects of eco-friendly living to be considered e.g. reducing your carbon footprint.

How do we become eco friendly?

So, what is eco-friendly, what does ecofriendly mean and how do we do it? Use less, minimise your energy use, don’t waste anything, reuse, recycle and make posative contributions to the enviroment by planting trees collecting litter. 

(1) Waste:- Living in a throwaway society means that there is a great deal of waste and waste damages the planet. By reducing waste, reusing and recycling items, a reduction in items ending up in landfill is achieved along with a reduced need for replacement products.

(2) Energy Conservation:- Everyone benefits by reducing energy usage and the simplest way to do this is by insulating homes to a high standard and use high efficiency heating appliances. Some people go further and opt for the use of heat pumps, solar panels, wind turbines or wood fired heating systems although the latter is rather controversial being a high emitter of carbon dioxide whilst remaining carbon neutral and 100% renewable.

(3) Tree Planting:- Deforestation is a major cause of greenhouse gas increase and the world needs more trees. Tree felling should only be carried out in ethically managed woodlands and timber products should have suitable certification such as that provided by the FSC.

(4) Pollution Prevention:- In addition to avoiding atmospheric pollution, water pollution should also be prevented and any potentially damaging products avoided.

(5) Impact of Travelling:- Travelling is a major contributor to harmful emissions and low emission vehicles should be used although even electric cars have some impact as their energy originates from power stations. Walking or cycling is best or using public transport or car sharing schemes. Air flights are huge polluters and should be avoided at all costs.

(6) Energy Efficient Products:- Using energy efficient products is better for the environment and also makes sound financial sense.

(7) Buy Local Produce:- Locally produced food reduces the need for packaging and transport. Growing your own is even better.

(8) Litter:- Litter is bad for wildlife both on land and sea so litter avoidance and removal is good practice.

(9) Buy Recycled Products:- Recycling is a great idea but depends on consumers buying recycled products.

(10) Recycle:- Before throwing an item away, consider recycling it. There are some great recycling sites online, the best known being “Freecycle”, where old items may find new homes and upcycling old items can also be great fun.

These are just a few of the ways to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle and others could include avoiding fast food, turning vegetarian and getting an allotment so it is clear to see that being eco friendly is much more than making a few informed purchase decisions. It is a complete way of life … and it doesn’t end there! Many people are now opting for eco-friendly funerals shunning the idea of mahogany coffins in favour of cardboard or wicker. Even banana leaves or bamboo are available and knitted wool coffins are proving extremely popular. So when the grim (or should that be green!) reaper calls there is no need to abandon those eco-friendly ideals and mourners can all look forward cycling to the event and enjoying a meat-free buffet.

Which country is the most eco friendly?

This is a very difficult thing to measure. Should we consider carbon emissions, recycling rates, renewable energy investment, carbon footprint and should we measure these things per person per unit of land or GDP? People a lot smarter than me have tried to measure this and their conclusions are summarised below.

The Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy produces the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) which measures the extent to which countries set, meet and enforce environmental policies. In 2018 the top ranking countries (best first) were; Switzerland, France, Denmark, Malta, Sweden and the UK.

The International Energy Efficiency Scorecard ranks the world’s largest energy-consuming economies on their energy efficiency policies and programs.  In 2018 Germany tied with Italy for first place followed by France the United Kingdom and Japan.

In terms of recycling the best country is Germany followed by Austria, South Korea, Wales and Switzerland.

In terms of carbon emissions, countries that reduced theirs in 2018 were Germany, Japan, Mexico, France and the United Kingdom.

So, there are lots of ways to asses eco-friendliness but Germany, Switzerland France and the UK all seem to do very well on most of these measures.


3 responses to “What does eco-friendly mean?”

  1. I have read a few articles recently that have really made me challenge my eating habits. Meat produces a huge amount of carbon compared to vegetables. It’s also worth noting that beef uses 28 times more land and 11 times more water than chicken or pork. If you give up meat you will be doing more good for the environment than giving up your car. Of course, most of us won’t want to go that far but we have a huge impact by reducing the amount of meat we eat and saving beef for special occasions.

  2. Artice Upchurch Avatar
    Artice Upchurch

    This has been a great read. You also offered tips on reversing the harm, which is something I was not immediately expecting. You’ve done a fantastic job on this. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  3. You fail to mention that log burners produce massive amounts of pollution in the form of highly carcinogenic gasses and particles… way worse than vehicles!