What Does ‘Sustainable’ Really Mean?

What Does ‘Sustainable’ Really Mean?

A lot of products and services out on the market claim that they’re “green” or “sustainable,” but have you ever asked yourself what, exactly, that means? These are popular buzz words that get thrown around a lot, but, when it comes right down to it, there isn’t really a legal definition of those terms.

Okay, technically there are some organizations that will certify products as meeting certain standards, but the oversight is limited, to say the least.

In other words, “green” or “sustainable” can mean different things to different companies in different industries – and sometimes it may be used in a way that is less than accurate and less than helpful.

In the worst cases, it’s referred to as “greenwashing,” or a deliberate attempt to label their products or services as sustainable when they’re really not. Many companies are willing to attempt this because many studies have shown that a lot of consumers are willing to pay more for things that they believe have a more socially responsible impact on the world.

So, without any standardized definition of an sustainable or green product, what can you do? What should you look at to determine if the products and service you’re choosing are really good for the environment, or if they’re just putting forth a minimal effort to be “technically” green?

With a little knowledge and a bit of research, you can be more confident about your purchases – whether you’re buying bedding, groceries, or anything else out there.

How Would You Define “Sustainable”?

Without any kind of standardized definition, how would you define a product that is actually sustainable?

Is it all in the way that the product is made? If so, is it safe to call something sustainable if the manufacturing plant is powered by solar panels (despite the fact that their product is made from non-renewable resources)?

Does the product have to be made from strictly recycled materials, or are there certain things that you know can be harvested safely and responsibly?

When it comes right down to it, there are three things that you could safely say contribute to a product’s or service’s environmental friendliness:

• How the product is made
• The materials used to make it
• The manner in which it can be used

Important Green Characteristics

Green products and services could have passive characteristics, which is to say that they aren’t actively benefiting the environment, but they aren’t hurting it either, and they are certainly less harmful than their traditional alternatives.

Active characteristics, on the other hand, help to conserve resources like water and energy and even pull unwanted pollutants from the land, water, or air.

If you wanted to get a little more specific, though, you could consider the following characteristics necessary to be a green.

• The product or services should be non-toxic to people and the planet
• The source should be grown sustainably
• It should be harvested without depleting the ecosystem
• It should be grown without toxic pesticides or herbicides
• The final product should be biodegradable and break down through natural decomposition

How Does Bamboo Stack Up?

We’ve talked before about how bamboo is safely harvested and processed, as well as its sustainability. But, let’s look at some of its active characteristics, too. Bamboo grows incredibly fast and creates a very high yield. In fact, a single bamboo stalk can yield over 200 poles in 5 years.

Bamboo is even good for air quality because it produces more oxygen and absorbs more carbon dioxide than most trees. On top of that, the bamboo plant’s natural antimicrobial characteristics means that it does not require those toxic pesticides.

Simply put, this is a material that stacks up pretty well in the green category.

Choosing to go green can have a great impact on the environment and your own health. Just be sure you take a little time to make sure you are choosing a product that actually meets your green criteria.