What Does ‘Eco-Friendly’ Mean?

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Having a 13-year-old daughter in the house who loves sport and animals means I hear the term ‘eco-friendly’ pretty much daily.

Whether it’s reducing our food waste, ditching single-use plastic bottles for the soccer team, or metal straws for every cookout and birthday party, she certainly has strong opinions on ‘eco-friendly’ practices.

‘Eco-friendly’ is a term that we are all used to hearing, but do we actually understand what it means?

Cambridge Dictionary states the definition of eco-friendly as “designed to have little or no damaging effect on the environment” and is often used in the context of products, natural resources, and lifestyle choices.

The Difference Between ‘Eco-Friendly’, ‘Environmentally-Friendly’, ‘Nature-Friendly’, And ‘Earth-Friendly’

There is very little, if any, difference between the terms ‘eco-friendly’, ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘nature-friendly’, and ‘earth-friendly’. All three describe products and services that are not environmentally harmful.

Whether you are doing the weekly food shop, commuting to work, or building a condo, it needs doing in a way that conserves resources for future generations.

More ‘Eco-Friendly’ Jargon

Trying to live a more ‘eco-friendly’ lifestyle can throw up several challenges. One of which is trying to understand ‘environmentally friendly’ language.

Here’s a quick jargon buster to help get you up-to-speed:

  • ‘Green’: A more casual term for ‘eco-friendly’, ‘environmentally friendly’, and ‘earth-friendly’.
  • ‘Sustainable’: Tricky to nail this one down to a single definition. So tricky that the UN has come up with 17 goals. The Sustainable Development Goals are “the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice”.
  • Biodegradable: A biodegradable item will eventually fully break down by natural processes.
  • Compostable: A compostable item will eventually fully break down by natural processes and leave no toxins behind.
  • Recyclable: Items labelled as recyclable have the potential to be reprocessed into a new item rather than going to landfill.
  • Recycled: Recycled items are entirely made from or contain a percentage of recycled materials that are wholly or partly derived from waste products.
  • Renewable: A broad term to mean resources we can use without them running out in our lifetime. Solar and wind energy, for example.
  • Carbon footprint: A measure of the carbon emissions generated by our actions.
  • Energy Consumption: A measure of how much energy is needed to perform a task.

You can find our comprehensive glossary of ‘eco-friendly’ terms here.


The term ‘greenwashing’, coined by environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986, refers to brands or corporations using ‘green’, ‘eco-friendly’, and ‘sustainable’ credentials to boost sales.

Being seen as ‘green’ can be very profitable to corporations, so it’s important to look beyond the marketing hype and investigate whether they really have legitimate ‘eco-friendly’ credentials.

You can learn more about greenwashing here. But for now, here are a few examples I’ve come across in the past.

Fake Logos

Some corporations design fake logos on their product packaging, to try and trick consumers into thinking their product is more eco-friendly than it actually is.

Look out for products that carry ‘eco-friendly’ logos from legitimate organizations like USDA Organic, Energy Star, and Fair Trade Certified

‘All Natural’ Bedding

The material used (bamboo or organic cotton, for example) might be ‘green’. However, the raw material has likely gone through several processes to make it usable. The ‘all natural’ claim makes it sound like your sheets have come directly from nature. This is not the case.

‘Phosphate Free’ Laundry Detergent

It has not been common practice to have phosphates in detergent for many decades. Any brand claiming this as a selling point is most likely ‘greenwashing’, seeing as all other brands are likely to be free of phosphates.

Misleading Advertising

In the UK, Ryanair was accused of greenwashing when they produced ads claiming that they had the “lowest carbon emissions of any major airline”.

After a full investigation, the Advertising Standards Authority banned the ads because the airline failed to provide enough evidence to back up their claims.

This is just one example of a company overstating their eco friendliness. You can read more about ‘greenwashing’ here and learn how to spot the tactics used.

Beginner’s Guide On How To Be More ‘Eco-Friendly’

There are many simple ways to incorporate green practices into your everyday life without too much effort. I cover all these topics in more detail in this guide on how to be more eco friendly, but I would like to run through some of my personal favorites to get you started.

Meat-Free Monday

Cutting back on animal products is one of the best ways to ease the pressure on the planet. A University of Oxford study found that switching to a vegan diet can reduce an individual’s food carbon footprint by up to 73%. I could never go full vegan (I love a ribeye too much), but meat-free Monday is a firm favorite in our house. The kids go mad for my veggie tacos.

Squeeze Into Some Lycra And Get Out On Your Bike

I’m a proud MAMIL. There is nothing better on a Sunday morning than getting out on the bike and causing gridlock. If we are to combat air pollution, we need to drive less. Cycling more and driving less is an excellent place to start.

You could also consider an electric bike if you're not quite up to providing your own pedal power.

Make Your Home Energy Efficient

Residential energy use accounts for approximately 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Making our homes more efficient will reduce these emissions and save us a few bucks in the process.

You can also take this a step further and install solar panels to go "off grid" and generate your own power.

Shop Smart, Mindful, And Sustainable

This is a big topic, but here are a couple of headline takeaways for you.

  • Take public transportation where possible
  • Only buy what you need
  • Buy second hand
  • Buy reusable, not single-use
  • Buy recycled products (and recyclable)
  • Buy energy-efficient products
  • Use plant-based, concentrated, cleaning products
  • Buy loose or minimal packaging
  • Do one big grocery shop per week and have it delivered
  • When you do go shopping, take reusable bags with you
  • Grow your own fruits and vegetables

Conserve Natural Resources

According to MasterClass there are “8 Ways to Conserve Natural Resources at Home”.

  1. Use less water
  2. Turn off the lights
  3. Use renewable energy
  4. Recycle
  5. Compost
  6. Choose reusable goods
  7. Manage your thermostat
  8. Thrift shop

‘Eco-Friendly’ Products

The more ‘eco-friendly’ products we can use daily, the better it will be for the planet long-term.

Here at The Roundup, we’re on a mission to test and review as many products as possible so you can make better-informed decisions to develop ‘eco-friendly’ habits, consume fewer resources and reduce your carbon footprint.

The list of products now available to the environmentally-conscious is vast. Check out our ‘eco-friendly’ products article for more details.

Use Plastic Mindfully

From aerospace and construction to packaging and clothing, plastic has found its way into almost every aspect of modern life.

Developing better ‘eco-friendly’ habits around plastic is essential if we want to conserve resources for future generations.


Q: Why is being eco friendly so important?

A: The planet only has a finite amount of natural resources. If we all do our small part to be eco friendly those resources will hopefully last for many generations to come.

Q: What products are not eco friendly?

A: The 10 worst products for the environment are paper coffee cups, boxes of tea bags, plastic water bottles, disposable cutlery, plastic bags, produce bags, disposable single-use razors, menstrual products, disposable cleaning cloths, and food packaging.

Q: Which is eco-friendly energy?

A: It is now easier than ever to choose an environmentally responsible energy source. There are four main options to choose from:

  1. Solar (energy from the sun)
  2. Wind
  3. Hydro (energy from water)
  4. Geothermal (energy from the earths internal heat)

Q: Is cardboard eco friendly?

A: Yes, due to it being recyclable and biodegradable, amongst other benefits, cardboard is generally considered to be eco friendly.


I like to think of being ‘eco-friendly’ as the act of living with mindful intent. That intent is not to harm the environment or allow any harm on your behalf.

It goes beyond turning off the lights in an empty room, using recycled materials, and knocking the thermostat down a couple of degrees.

It can feel like a daunting task at first, and you might not have any idea where to start. However, chipping away at your environmental impact every day will soon add up and begin to make a real difference for now and future generations.

Looking for practical tips on how to be more ‘eco-friendly’? Check out our simple, practical guide to find out some simple changes you can make that could make a huge difference to the future of the planet.

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James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.
James Miller
James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of TheRoundup.org.

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