The kind of lifestyle we lead has a significant impact not only on our overall quality of life but also on our planet. As we head closer to celebrating Earth Day, we wanted to share a few tips and tricks to incorporate eco-friendly living into our corporations and personal lives. Everyday, we’re making choices in our lives that actually impact the environment, including our natural resources, the climate, and other species. Simple things like choosing what to eat, the products we use, the clothes we buy, and myriad other decisions we make can help us reduce our total environmental footprint.
But how exactly does one get started on an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle?
Here, we’ll not only provide information on what being green, eco-friendly, and sustainable is all about but also provide concrete, actionable and manageable steps you can take to get started on the green path.
Green, eco-friendly, sustainable – is there a difference?
Most of the time, people use the terms “green,” “eco-friendly,” and “sustainable” interchangeably. However, there are subtle but important differences between the three.
“Green” is a broad term that’s widely used to refer to almost everything that benefits the environment, including various green initiatives and movements such as green living, architecture, energy, and fashion. Therefore, anything that’s eco-friendly and sustainable is considered green.
Eco-friendly refers to a broad range of practices that don’t harm the planet – which is why eco-friendly products are important. Simple eco-friendly habits include practicing water and energy conservation at home and at the workplace.
Organizations that implement eco-friendly practices include the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which focuses on sustainable agricultural practices and fabric production, and Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company that uses primarily recycled or organically grown raw materials to reduce their environmental footprint.
With the growing number of businesses claiming to be environmentally beneficial or eco-friendly, the Federal Trade Commission Green Guides require companies to explain such claims.
So, in order for a product to be labeled “eco-friendly,” the product package must state exactly why it is environmentally responsible. This is meant to discourage the use of vague greenwashing labels like “all-natural,” “100% pure,” “Earth-smart,” “Earth-friendly,” or “nature-approved” that are used without any scientific evidence.
We must remember that everything we do or use has some sort of impact on the planet. An effective way of looking at what is eco-friendly is by searching for and sourcing products that are less likely to be thrown away or replaced and help cut down on waste.
Sustainability is a more specific term. According to the United Nations, sustainability refers to issues and human activities that do not undermine the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability considers three pillars.
Environmental Pillar (Planet): includes “green” elements like energy efficiency and low pollution and emission levels being implemented by companies
Social Pillar (People): encompasses the social performance of a product, including its impact on the quality of life of the producers and consumers
Economic Pillar (Profit): involves each business’s economic health in light of its commitment to environmental and social sustainability. It takes into consideration factors like compliance, risk management, and corporate governance.
Sustainability sets its sights on the effects of what people are doing today for future generations. It has higher, more precise, and stringent standards compared to the two other terms.
For example, a product may be considered green because it is made from renewable resources or recycled materials. However, if it is subjected to a lifecycle analysis and the result shows that it took a lot of energy to make and ship to consumers, and it’s not biodegradable, then it won’t be considered sustainable. So, while all things classified as sustainable are green, not everything labeled “green” is sustainable.
Eco-Friendly, Sustainable Tips for Consumers
There are plenty of things consumers can do that can be beneficial to the planet now and in the long term. Aside from making a conscious choice to switch to eco-friendly products, take note of the following easy-to-adopt, environmentally conscious practices:
Make mindful shopping choices. Scrutinize labels, especially products claiming to be eco-friendly.
Always consider the environmental benefits of your major purchases.
Go plastic-free; opt for eco-friendly products to replace plastic.
Do not buy or support products that endanger wildlife and exploit human labor.
Practice energy and water conservation methods.
Choose to walk and use the stairs whenever possible.
Go for sustainable options – but always check every product’s sustainability claims.
Turn your home into a greener place by improving insulation, using eco-friendly light fixtures, and composting.
Eat sustainably by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. If you can, go meat-free.
Consider the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) in everything you do.
Eco-Friendly, Sustainable Tips for Businesses
Companies can also make eco-friendly, sustainable choices, such as the following, in their manner of operations, use of technology, and other aspects of their business.
Change old lighting fixtures to eco-friendly LED alternatives.
Install water-saving features in your bathrooms and pantries.
Go paperless and plastic-free.
Reward employees who actively support your company’s green initiatives.
Use compost bins and eco-friendly cleaning products.
Incorporate living, fresh greenery into your workplace.
Implement green procurement methods and be selective of your suppliers, vendors, and contractors.
Encourage flexible work arrangements, such as work-from-home (WFH) or telecommuting.
A Guide to Smart and Sustainable Branding
Eco-friendly business practices are not only confined to everyday work settings but can also include branding events or opportunities. Participating in events like trade shows, conferences, and exhibits gives you the opportunity to promote your business as an eco-friendly company with a strong commitment to sustainability initiatives. Consider the following practices:
Be mindful about what promotional items you are buying. If you tend to buy promotional products that end up sitting in closets and are wasted, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your custom swag purchases. When buying for trade shows, at InTandem, we suggest purchasing just for 30 to 40 percent of your expected attendees. Not all will come to the event or will be able to visit your booth. Instead, prioritize buying the right promotional items that are able to create an impact and leave an impression. More is not always more. This entails knowing where to buy eco-friendly products designed for trade shows and similar events. You also need to ensure the eco-friendly items you choose resonate with or reflect your brand. This is a much more targeted approach when buying promotional products and ensures that quality over quantity in your buying decisions is achieved.
Opt for reusable items. Many of us now bring our own bags to the grocery store to cut down on the number of plastic bags that we use. But there are some other ways we can eliminate single-use items and packaging, and these can be applied to your branding as well.
At one trade show, we had a client that was looking to create customized coffee sleeves. We shared with them the reusable version, which helped to generate a higher ROI and create more than triple the brand impressions based on its usability.
At another event, we provided participants with fruit-infused water bottles during a water break. This was an opportunity to increase brand awareness and provide sustainable products. We went beyond simply distributing standard branded disposable water cups that would have been wasted and that would have said nothing about our client's commitment to environmental protection. This created a further buzz as people began posting about this innovative idea on social media.
As a parent, we love these reusable silicone bags. Knowing how my daughter takes food bags every day to school (and probably your own kids too) – these eco-friendly food and snack bags can provide your brand with hundreds of impressions - including the other kids, parents, and teachers that'll see your brand just by the daily use. This is a great opportunity for corporate branding impressions as well as a parental win and a planet win!
Consider buying recycled items. When buying promotional products, be on the lookout for materials that have been recycled. There are a number of recycled products that are good for the environment and can be imprinted. We love this comfy hoodie that is made out of discarded water bottles (usually 12 per hoodie). It is made from 45% recycled polyester – something you can proudly announce in your branding materials.
Sustainable products and materials can make an impressive, positive impact. Bamboo is a popular example of these sustainable materials. Producing bamboo takes less energy and resources compared to growing trees for timber or lumber or manufacturing steel. Bamboo grows insanely fast, sometimes at a rate of 3 feet per day, depending on the variety, and it only takes one to five years to mature, depending on the variety. This rate of growth and maturation is considerably faster than that of the fastest-growing trees. Check out these desk accessories and bamboo products that can be branded, and make a favorable impact on your market and impress green investors, too.
But the most important thing here is for you to start now, partner with a branding company that is able to source and deliver eco-friendly impactful results, and commit to living a life of or growing a business with a clear purpose to benefit society and the environment.