Eco Insights: The ABCs of Green Vocabulary Part I

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In the green world, we bandy about so many terms, it’s hard to know what each of them mean. Examples like sustainable, organic, fair trade, green, eco-friendly- sometimes it sounds like they all mean the same thing. What do they all mean exactly? Some terms have technical meanings. Some are backed up by regulatory and certification requirements. Others are just industry patois. Below is handy guide to know your way around a green conversation.


Environmentally Friendly

This is an oldie as far as green vocab goes. It’s been used the longest and it is pretty self-explanatory. Generally it means good for the environment and we can thank the likes of Greenpeace for making it a globally understood concept. More specifically, it can mean that the materials/ingredients used did not deplete the earth’s existing resources, or that the packaging of the product and/or the product itself can be recycled, or that the methods used to manufacture the product were compatible with accepted standards of sustainability. The term is not legally recognized so its uses can be varied and stretched. Marketing teams tend to use it as an indication of a company/product’s green philosophy.



Short for ecologically friendly, for the most part eco-friendly means the same thing as environmentally friendly. It is a more casual term, its use is associated with products and goods and it is very popular with marketers, advertisers and branding team as it far less of a mouthful and much more playful sounding than environmentally friendly. Definition-wise, it echoes the latter. Eco-friendly means environmentally sound. It can also mean low on toxins and/or ethically produced. Consumers should beware though- it has no regulations or certifications to back it up and the word eco-friendly on packaging is not a guarantee of anything.



Of all the terms being discussed, this one is the most general and generic; it means both everything and nothing. The word green refers to all products, businesses, ideas, brands, policies and technologies that are good for the planet and good for people. It is the term that has gained the most traction as an all-encompassing word for everything that has a positive impact and/or effect on the future of the world and humankind; For example, green business, green policy, green collar (jobs in the green industry) are all accepted terms in the corporate and political world.

Join us for Part 2 in this series where we dissect more green terms!

photo credit: Stéfan via photopin cc


  • Sonalie Figueiras

    2021 Women of Power, 2019 GEN T Honoree, V Label Global Hero, 2 x TEDx Speaker: Serial social entrepreneur & trends forecaster Sonalie Figueiras is a sustainability expert, food futurist and eco-powerhouse who has been inspiring global audiences for over a decade with practical steps on how to fight climate change. Known as the Green Queen of Asia, she is the founder and Editor in Chief of the award-winning Green Queen - the region’s first impact media platform that educates millions of readers on the connection between health, sustainability and the environment and showcases future solutions. She is also the co-founder and CEO of organic sourcing platform Ekowarehouse and climate tech SaaS Source Green, which helps consumer brands quit plastic packaging thanks to proprietary plastic reduction software. In addition, Sonalie is a global keynote speaker and an advisor to multiple mission-driven startups and NGOs, and a venture partner to several VC funds.

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