The Difference Between Green and Sustainable

In A No Nonsense Guide to Food Labels, I explored common buzzwords associated with food. Unfortunately, buzzwords are not exclusive to food labels, and have even tainted the words green and sustainable. The words green and sustainable are thrown around carelessly and have lost much of their meaning. They are also two very different words.

Green: In most cases, means ‘less bad’. For example, 100% recycled paper towels…seems eco-friendly? Not exactly. Although the paper towels are made from recycled paper, they are still a product designed to be thrown in the trash. Waste is not eco-friendly.

Sustainable: My favorite definition of sustainability is to leave the earth better than we found it. In more simple terms, if an activity is said to be sustainable, it should be able to last forever. Recycled fiber reusable towels would be the best solution.

Both green and sustainable are a common ploy in many greenwashing schemes. Some businesses are genuinely committed to producing high-quality, environmentally friendly products. But too many use environmentalism as a convenient marketing tool to increase the perceived value of their products. These companies are shortsighted and choose immediate monetary gain without any regard for the long-term effects of their products.

Beyond environmental benefits, a sustainable lifestyle promotes personal wellbeing and harmony. By removing excess, we give way to more freedom. We also cultivate appreciation for what we already have.

Here are my top 5 tips for sustainability:

1. Reduce

Too much emphasis has been placed on recycling. If we reduce our purchases, then we can also reduce the need for recycling. I also like the idea of an Eco-Sabbath; for one day, afternoon or hour a week, don’t buy anything, don’t use machines, don’t switch on anything electric, don’t cook, don’t answer your phone and, in general, don’t use any resources. Every hour per week that you live no impact cuts your carbon emissions by 0.6 percent annually (Yes Magazine).

2. Buy Used

Buy used products whenever possible. Visit Craigslist, Ebay, thrift stores, garage sales etc. And borrow/share with friends!

3. Food

I am not anti-carnivores, I love meat, but animals are now raised to be eaten which is entirely unnatural. Worldwide, beef production contributes more to climate change than the entire transportation sector. Cutting beef out of your diet will reduce your CO2 emissions by 2,400 pounds annually (Yes Magazine). If you are to indulge in beef, make sure it is free-range and grass-fed (although these labels can be misleading).

4. Laundry

If a piece of clothing has a stain, see if you can hand wash it first. Wash clothes only when you have a full load and wash in cold water. About 90% of the energy used for washing clothes is due to heating the water. Hang your clothes to dry. There are around 88 million dryers in the U.S., each emitting more than a ton of carbon dioxide per year. Dryers use an enormous amount of energy, so skipping the dryer can make a real difference (Treehugger).

5. Walk or bike whenever possible!

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