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What Are the Different Types of Environmentally-Friendly Products?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Typically, environmentally-friendly products fit into one or more of several categories. Some eco-friendly products are considered green because their ingredients are safe and biodegradable. Others are wrapped in recycled or recyclable packaging, or they are themselves recyclable or reusable products. Most sustainable products are also green, but their eco-friendliness can vary depending on the materials and availability. For many customers, finding truly environmentally-friendly products takes a little research, comparison shopping, and balancing the environmental pros and cons.

Some environmentally-friendly products are considered environmentally friendly because their ingredients are safe for the environment, as well as humans and animals. Examples of these kinds of green products include cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and hygiene products. Generally, any kind of item that contains chemicals or other ingredients to which living beings and the environment will be directly exposed falls in this category.

Reading labels is a good way to find these kinds of eco-friendly products, but not all labels or advertising make entirely accurate claims. This is known as “green washing,” and it means the company makes false claims about its products’ eco-friendly properties. Fortunately, customers can look to certain nonprofit and “watch dog” organizations to find how some products rate on the eco-friendly scale.

Often, a product’s packaging will help people measure its eco-friendliness. Many environmentally-friendly products come in packaging made from recycled material, or at least material consumers can recycle. Some companies try to make their eco-friendly products as green as possible by keeping the packaging to a minimum. Recyclable products take it one step further because consumers can recycle or reuse them once they are finished using them for their original purposes. Such products might include glass jars reused as storage containers and fabrics repurposed as cleaning rags or quilt and other craft materials.

Sustainable products are examples of environmentally-friendly products made from materials that are quickly renewable and can be used again and again. Examples of such reusable products include aluminum water bottles good for avoiding plastic and clothing made from hemp or bamboo instead of cotton. Still, sustainable products are not always so sustainable in every part of the world. For example, bamboo is a sustainable material, but shipping it to parts of the world where it can not grow can add to air pollution as well as the use of nonrenewable resources like gas and oil. Consequently, some people have to find a balance between sustainable and eco-friendly, beyond just the product itself.

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Discussion Comments
By Fa5t3r — On Apr 12, 2014

I actually think the government should be doing more to ensure that industry cleans up its act. In several countries in Europe, companies are considered responsible for disposing of their packaging, and if they don't make it recyclable, they end up with fines.

If that was true everywhere, then there would be a lot less plastic in the ocean right now.

By Mor — On Apr 12, 2014

@KoiwiGal - It's not really that simple. It's OK for people with a lot of money to burn to buy locally at a whim because they can afford it and maybe for those few products it ends up being more environmentally friendly. But it just wouldn't be possible for the majority of humanity. How would you feed New York City with local produce? You would either have to use unsustainable growing techniques (and even then I doubt you could do it), or you'd have to ship in goods from other places.

And cities are by far the most environmentally friendly way of living, contrary to what a lot of people think. They force people to live in close quarters, where they can centralize all their byproducts and deal with them efficiently, not to mention cutting down transport pollution.

People should try to live as greenly as possible, but buying locally isn't the only answer.

By KoiwiGal — On Apr 12, 2014

This can be such a tricky subject, particularly when you take transport into the equation. Because you might have the most sustainable production in the world, but if you then ship your product across the country it shouldn't be considered an Earth friendly product.

That's why buying local is almost always the best option. That way you know how far it had to go before it reached you and often you can find out exactly how it was made as well.

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