What is "eco-friendly"?

Published On: 22-Feb-2016

Eco is an abbreviation for ecology, the system of relationships between living things, and with their environment. Friendly implies beneficial, or at least not harmful. It should follow that the term eco-friendly, when added to services or products, indicates positive, or at least not harmful, effects on living things.

Unfortunately there is no regulation on the use of the term, which restricts its credibility.
It is only when the word is accompanied by evidence of environmental performance that it has any empirical meaning, and can be used as a genuine guide for consumers, especially when weighing up the environmental preferability of products or services.

Measuring environmental performance requires tests by an officially sanctioned or qualified body, against factual benchmarks defined and published by an independent party. When these are passed or attained, the organisation may issue an ecolabel. Even then, the label can have varying degrees of robustness.

The ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) has defined three types of ecolabel. They include:

  • self-claimed compliance with certain indicators of general environmental performance (which are not necessarily stringent)
  • certified datasheets for some environmental indicators, measured against standards based on generic values
  • and the highest level (Type 1) which uses third-party verification against published standards across a variety of environmental parameters and tests, and which looks at the whole life cycle of components of a product or service.

Organisations that can issue the strongest ecolabels may become members of GEN, the Global Ecolabelling Network, and they are regularly peer reviewed to ensure that they comply with the ISO requirements. GEN membership is over-riding proof of the processes, tests and science needed to back up “eco-friendly” labels.

Consumers can check online whether an ecolabel on a product comes from a GEN member, and see the symbols that these legitimate certifying agencies use. So, if the eco-friendly product has proven that it really is environmentally preferable, and is a friend to the environment, it can be readily checked out on a smart phone, tablet or computer.

An eco-friendly person has similar attributes to an eco-friendly product. They re-use, recycle and reduce waste disposal in their lives. They conserve energy and natural resources, and they are conscious of the impact their actions have on others, and the planet’s ecosystems. It is only natural that such people should seek compatible products.

As Facebook recognised, right from its inception, the term “friend” has a “warm fuzzies” factor, an almost built-in trustworthiness. A real friend can be relied on and contributes a positive effect in our lives. In the advertising and promotionally-driven consumer world, however, friends may not always be what they seem to be!