GREEN, eco-friendly, organic and sustainability are buzzwords featured in sales pitches and ads.
It is also equally apparent that many people selling GREEN or eco-friendly products have no clue as to what constitutes GREEN, eco-friendly, organic and sustainability.
(I actually had a "discussion" with a vendor who was advertising their product as "natural fibers" yet they were selling leather.
While leather is "natural"-it's an animal hide- not a fiber-think cotton).
So, in my effort to educate and inform, and to avoid future confrontations (!), here are definitions of some of the big "buzz" words of the GREEN movement: VEGAN: a product that is not derived from an animal and/or animal by-product.
A VEGAN person is someone who eats/wears nothing derived from animals-this includes any dairy, meat, seafood, leather, silk, honey...
Examples of VEGAN product include faux leather, cotton, soy and palm wax candles.
ORGANIC: of or relating to foodstuff grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides or hormones; "organic eggs"; "organic vegetables"; "organic chicken," simple and healthful and close to nature; "an organic lifestyle" CRUELTY-FREE: a product that doesn't contain any part of an animal, those which contain material obtained from an animal by means of cruelty, and/or anything made with child labor or in a sweatshop anywhere in the world.
Examples include: veal or any other food obtained from animals raised/kept on "factory farms", or any product made in a third world sweatshop.
(Remember the Kathy Lee Gifford controversy about her clothing line made in Central America?).
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE: products made in facilities that practice Fair Trade and are environmentally responsible.
Products can also include products made from a labor force that is "disadvantaged" (i.
women, mentally challenged, war torn areas).
SUSTAINABLE: a product capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.
This is key in all aspects of the life cycle of any product.
Examples include anything made from bamboo, soy or organic cotton.
LIFE CYCLE: this refers to the notion that a fair, holistic assessment requires the assessment of raw material productions, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal including all intervening transportation steps necessary or caused by the product's existence.
The sum of all those steps, or phases, is the life cycle of the product.
Example of this is the planting of soy beans, the subsequent care and harvesting of the soy, the transportation to the factory for processing, and then the final processing procedure to make the soy beans into whatever the chosen product is and then, how the product is/can be disposed of (or recycled/reused).
CRADLE-TO-GRAVE: this is the FULL life cycle Assessment from manufacture (the cradle) to use phase and disposal phase (grave).
This philosophy and focus of manufacturing on the environment has been focused on by designer/author William McDonough-look for his books! Example of this is a tree helps to produce paper, which is then recycled into low-energy production cellulose (fiberised paper) insulation, then used as an energy-saving device in the ceiling of a home for 40 years, saving 2000x the fossil-fuel energy used in its production.
After the 40 years, the cellulose fibers are replaced and the old fibers are disposed of, possibly incinerated.
CRADLE-TO-GATE: this is an assessment of a "partial" product life cycle from manufacture (cradle) to the factory gate (BEFORE it's transported to the consumer.
The use and disposal phase of the product is omitted.
CTG assessments are usually the basis for environmental product declarations.
FAIR TRADE: certified company/product the incorporates policies and standards that include a fair, living wage for all factory employees, ample breaks, not obligated to work overtime without compensation and a safe work environment with emergency protocols in place.
Examples of this include factories in many Third World countries.
CRADLE-TO-CRADLE: this is a specific assessment where the end-of-life disposal step for the product is a recycling process.
From the recycling process originates a new, identical product or different product.
Examples include glass bottles recycled to make more glass bottles OR old blue jeans recycled into insulation OR plastic milk jugs recycled into carpeting.
GREEN WASHING: this is the dissemination of misleading information by an organization to conceal its abuse of the environment in order to present a positive public image.
***Green washing is running rampant now as everyone is trying to jump on the GREEN bandwagon.
Think of my above example of a vendor trying to pass leather off as a "natural fiber.