What does it mean to be eco-friendly?
We’ve all heard the term "eco-friendly" and use it more and more often as we all become more conscious of the effect we are each having on this beautiful world we live in.
Yet I often wonder how many of us really understand what it means especially when it comes to businesses purchasing promotional gifts.
Many companies selling eco-friendly promotional products are not even aware of how or where they are made…! Just because they are made from a timber, paper or stone material doesn’t mean that it saved anything in the environment.
In fact, a lot of these so-called eco friendly items create more pollution and damage to our environment than high quality plastic or polycotton products create.
As companies all over Australia and indeed the world, move towards more eco-conscious ways of doing business, it’s becoming more important to know exactly what you mean when you tell your clients you are making an environmental impact for the better.
You certainly can make an impact by making small and meaningful changes to the way you operate, but with so much noise out there, we wanted to help paint a clear picture for you.
So, what does it all mean?
It may seem an obvious one, but it’s worth discussing the word we use and hear all the time. Recycling is the process of converting waste into something new or the same product again. Paper, plastic, glass and metal, among other things can all be recycled but some materials are more difficult to recycle than others and some can be recycled more often than others.
A downside to recycling plastic into new plastic products is it can only be recycled a limited number of times before its quality is too low to use again and then it ends up in a landfill. Glass or steel, on the other hand, can be recycled over and over without a serious loss of quality.
A great company who have mastered the concept of recycle is “recover brands” – they use plastic bottles to create clothes! Watch the video below. 👇
This one is a very grey area...! Lots of items are reusable but aren't made ethically or from natural sources. However it is better for the environment for you to use a great reusable water bottle compared to the plastic bottles you get in bulk from supermarkets. This would mean bottles made from glass or metal that can still be recycled at the end of its life.
According to the ETI (Ethical Trading Initiative), ethical trade means that retailers, brands and their suppliers take responsibility for improving the working conditions of the people who make the products they sell. Many of the workers employed by promotional and apparel manufacturing plants in China and other developing countries are based in poor areas where laws designed to protect workers’ rights are non-existent.
Here at Quantum we will recommend and present product options that are sourced from factories that are approved and have passed all the ethics requirements that we uphold – View our ESP here
Fairtrade connects producers, businesses, and consumers in a global system of sustainable, ethical trade. With over 30,000 unique Fairtrade products on sale worldwide, the decisions you make while shopping can improve the lives of farmers and workers in developing countries. Fairtrade uses its standards and certification to change trade for the better, in a way that is fair for producers and fair for consumers.
In terms of branded clothing, organic refers to cotton that is made from materials that are grown without the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals. As it is grown without chemicals this also protects the soil, air and water from harmful contamination.
We are even supplying organic printed socks that are made with 75% organically grown cotton.
When done correctly – organic clothing can produce around 46% less carbon dioxide and use less water when compared to conventional cotton.
Biodegradable products are made from materials that break down naturally without causing harm to the environment. Fruits and vegetables are biodegradable as well as some paper and other items.
Be careful about claims of biodegradable tote bags though… A lot of companies put the claim out there, although a lot of the time they can take 20 years to biodegrade!
We have seen an increase in the number of products available to companies with a biodegradable rating, for example notebooks made from discarded apple waste.
Not to be confused with ‘biodegradable’, compostable is a definition given to items that can break down into small pieces within 90 days and don’t release toxic residue. Things like newspaper, eggshells, coffee grounds, fruits, veggies, etc can all be composted.
They break down into nutrient-rich soil and can be used to help plants grow. Composting can happen on individual, communal, and industrial levels. Composting helps reduce the amount of food waste that gets sent to the landfill which in turn reduces greenhouse gases.
When there is no net release of carbon something is defined as carbon neutral. For example, if a company releases a certain amount of carbon into the environment and then takes actions to take that same amount of carbon out of the environment, they are carbon neutral.
This is often done by planting trees or donating money to organisations that work to reduce carbon emissions.
There it is... hopefully that helps you to understand a bit more the different terms and words used. We are committed to providing you with genuine eco-friendly promotional products that we can back up with independent assessments and quality checks. Please reach out to us if you have any questions - firstname.lastname@example.org Or learn more about our promotional products here