Moving Beyond Bamboozled When It Comes To Eco Terminology. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from eco-expert Tiffany Kelly of Beyond Bamboo. Tiffany will be explaining some of the commonly used environmental terminology and green claims. Recently conducted research* found that almost two thirds (64%) of those questioned said they want to take climate action. But feel overwhelmed by the numbers or jargon or are often put off by the lack of information available on the topic. The same study found that four in five (82%) would do more for the environment if they saw less ‘carbon jargon’ and received more specific information about reducing their impact on the planet.
Moving Beyond Bamboozled When It Comes To Eco Terminology
Simplifying the language may help you correctly understand the benefits of a cleaner, greener and more sustainable lifestyle. Here is Beyond Bamboo’s glossary of Green Terms to help you navigate these green claims and eco buzz words. This will help you make the best choices for yourself, the well-being of others and the health of our planet.
Net-zero means achieving an equal balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. This can be done by changing business processes to reduce emissions in the first place, for example, by switching to renewable energy or minimising plastic in products or packaging. While also actively removing the remaining greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, for example, by contributing to projects that conserve natural habitats or plant trees to absorb carbon. You can also subscribe to have carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere and stored safely underground, where it turns to stone. It tends to refer to current emissions, not historical ones.
Offsetting is a way of paying for others to reduce emissions or absorb CO2 to compensate for a company’s emissions. For example, a business may pay towards tree planting or delivering energy-efficient cooking stoves to communities in developing countries. BUT brands should be doing that and cutting emissions directly, not just substituting them. Offsetting doesn’t cancel out or ‘offset’ the emissions to which they are linked. Also, contributing to a project anyway doesn’t help remove EXTRA carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. So offsetting is beset with problems which is why it is falling out of favour.
Carbon neutrality is a state of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. This can be achieved by balancing carbon dioxide emissions with its removal (often through carbon offsetting) or eliminating emissions. Again, this is generally used to describe current carbon dioxide emissions, not historical ones (which also need to be removed).
This is a step beyond carbon neutral. Once net-zero or carbon neutral status is achieved, a business can remove its historical emissions. Additional CO2 can be removed for new companies to create a more comprehensive environmental benefit.
Vegan and Vegan Friendly
If something is vegan, it does not contain animal or animal-derived ingredients. Often brands claim a food item is vegan-friendly if it has no animal ingredients but was made in a factory where other non-vegan items are made. The terminology indicates that they cannot guarantee any cross-contamination (but, on balance, the product can be considered vegan). Vegan should also mean that no animals or animal products were used in any part of the product’s creation.
Animal exploitation for food and products is directly related to biodiversity and wildlife loss, either through habitat loss, slaughtering and starvation of wild animals, overfishing, and pollution of ecosystems. Livestock farming is a significant contributor to greenhouse gases and deforestation.
Cruelty-free is a label for products that do not harm or kill animals anywhere along its supply chain. Products tested on animals are not considered cruelty-free since these tests are often painful and cause the suffering and death of animals. Look for the Leaping Bunny logo to ensure an item is genuinely cruelty-free.
The word ‘plant-based’ has been thrown around A LOT in recent times. This move away from meat is fantastic news for the environment, our health and animals. Big companies are now seeing the marketing value of the word ‘plant-based’, realising that people are more educated than ever about the environmental impact of food and the health benefits of eating ‘plant-based’ foods rather than ‘animal-based’ ones. Though some people, including food bloggers, may use the terms “plant-based” and “vegan” interchangeably, plant-based is an “umbrella term” and does not always equate to being vegan – so do check the labels and ask if the item is vegan. Eating plant-based foods is the single most significant way to reduce our impact on the environment as individuals.
Biodegradable materials or products can break down to their essential components when given the right conditions and presence of microorganisms, fungi or bacteria. This is great as it keeps the item out of the landfill and saves space. Some things are biodegradable/compostable in home composting bins, and others require industrial composting silos where very high temperatures are reached. So, check if it is suitable for home composting as you can do this yourself, without the need for additional transport, and it also indicates that the item will break down relatively quickly. Once degraded/composted, the item leaves nothing harmful behind. (https://www.thebalancesmb.com/what-does-biodegradable-mean-2538213)
Accreditation is an independent, third-party evaluation by an assessment body (such as certification body, inspection body or laboratory) against recognised standards. A brand having gained industry accreditation ensures that due diligence has been done for that particular claim. Be aware that not all accreditation schemes are created equal, so make sure the assessment body is widely recognised or transparent in establishing the validity of claims.
This word is thrown around a lot these days, but its real meaning is seldom well understood. Simply put, sustainable products and practices are those that do not jeopardise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It has become too broad a term with little accountability that it can hardly be taken at face value. Brands operating “more sustainably” should always explain precisely how they are doing so.
Zero waste is a set of principles focused on waste prevention that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles to reuse all products. The goal is to send no trash to landfills, incinerators, or the ocean.
I hope you enjoyed that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tiffany Kelly is the founder of Beyond Bamboo, a global community of sustainable products, services and suppliers working as a collective to restore and rejuvenate the planet. With a marketplace, a B2B supplier portal, a knowledge hub and a team of passionate people dedicated to triple bottom line reporting, Beyond Bamboo aim to help us all do well by doing good.
*Research carried out by Ginger Comms on behalf of E.ON in October 2021 with 1,500 respondents