Consumers are a pretty powerful force. While marketing can influence a purchasing decision, manufacturers ultimately cater to their own product decisions based on consumer trends. Consumers historically are very vocal. If they want something changed, they’re going to make it so. In recent years, consumers have become incredibly concerned about the environmental and ethical effects of what they’re buying.
And companies have listened! More and more businesses are pushing to make their products more environmentally and ethically friendly. They have started to reflect that change with fancy words like “eco-friendly,” “biodegradable,” “compostable,” and more on their products. But it can get confusing if you don’t know what any of that means. So, here’s a little cheat sheet.
When something has been eco-designed, it means that special attention has been paid to every step of its design – from conception, drafting, manufacturing, and how it will impact the environment through its entire life-cycle after its production. Everything is considered: shipping from the manufacturer to the warehouse, then to the store, how a consumer may use it, and how it may be disposed of after the consumer is done with it.
Mirriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines eco-friendly as literally meaning not harmful to the environment.
As we become more aware of the pollution problem we have on our planet, more consumers are pushing companies to disclose their waste disposal processes and update them to be more environmentally friendly.
Did you know that bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth! Within only 3-4 months it can reach its full growth while trees can take years to grow. Bamboo also needs very little water to grow and doesn’t need pesticides, plus it’s great for the soil because it doesn’t need to be uprooted – it can regrow from its own root system. Because of all of these benefits, bamboo is considered to be a sustainable resource, meaning that if a product is produced from bamboo then it means that it was produced with something that can be sustained for a long period of time without the drastic depletion of natural resources like traditional tree logging, mining, and other things.
If something is biodegradable, that means that it can be broken down and decay through living organisms like insects, fungi, mold, and more. Gross! (But in a good way.)
Did you know that there is a difference between biodegradable and compostable? Yeah! While basically the same thing, compostable takes it further by adding nutrients to the soil around it. That’s why most gardeners have a composting pile; they add food scraps, garden clippings, and more to their piles to make their soil more nutrient-dense for their plants. Also, compostable items will break down a lot faster than biodegradable ones.
Recycling & Post-consumer
Who here recycles? Recycling means giving your used disposable items such as paper products, glassware, metals, and certain plastics to processing plants to turn back into usable materials and out of landfills or oceans. Some examples of things made by recycled materials are pens, tote bags, reusable water bottles, and more. Luckily, most things these days can be recycled, you just have to look at the bottom of the container or box. So, if your product says it’s made from recycled materials or post-consumer waste (usually with a percentage) you know your product was made from materials that were formerly something else!
When shoppers are searching for an ethical company, they’re looking for one that does not harm the environment, animals, or the humans that either produced those products or live in the communities affected by them. Consumers have been putting more pressure on apparel companies to become more ethical over the last several decades by providing safe work environments, livable wages, and more. You can learn more about ethics and apparel on our blog here.
Vegan & Cruelty-free
You’ll find that many makeup and personal care products are either labeled cruelty-free, vegan, or sometimes both. If it’s labeled vegan, it means that no animal products were used in the production of the product. If it’s cruelty-free, it means that no animals were tested on during the development of the product.
Did you know you can filter your search results in SAGE Online by eco-friendly, recyclable, or even by where products are produced, assembled, and decorated? You can even search by specific social good categories such as humanitarian or environmental causes to make sure the products you are sourcing for your customers give back. Check out our previous post 5 Promotional Products that Give Back for some product inspiration.