5 Sustainability Buzzwords and What They Mean

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Wanting to live a sustainable lifestyle isn’t just a fad. In fact, in 2019, 77% of people wanted to include more sustainable practices in their lives. That’s definitely encouraging, considering what people do regularly has a direct impact on the health of our planet. 

Sustainable living includes everything from getting rid of single-use plastics to growing your own food. There are plenty of ways to do your part. 

But, because sustainability efforts have become so popular, many companies have decided to jump on it. In their marketing efforts, they’ve put out a lot of “buzzwords” that might sound great. But, do you really know what they mean? 

Whether you’re new to sustainable living or you’re just trying to stay informed, let’s go over a few sustainability buzzwords that might spark some confusion unless you know their true definitions. 

1. Zero-Waste

You’ve probably heard of some people and even some businesses opting to live a “zero-waste” lifestyle. But, what does that mean? This one is pretty straightforward, even though it sounds a little extreme. 

When someone wants to live with zero waste, it means they don’t want to contribute anything to landfills. They will find ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle almost everything. That goes from everyday situations like composting vegetable scraps to big events like hosting a birthday party. A zero-waste person might do things like: 

  • Send digital invitations
  • Use real plates and silverware instead of disposable
  • Put up reusable decorations
  • Serve organic food and drinks

It’s not always easy to go from living a life built around convenience to one of zero waste, but if you’re up for the challenge, it’s one of the best things you can do for the environment. Start small by reducing the amount of waste you produce each day, such as limiting the food waste you produce while meal prepping.

2. Toxicity

The word “toxicity” gets thrown around a lot, but when it comes to its connection with sustainability, it refers to items you might be using that could harm you and/or the planet. For example, certain cleaning supplies can be incredibly toxic

Even bleach can be damaging to the environment, releasing toxins into the air that could eventually lead to ozone depletion. Make sure you understand the ingredients in your supplies and how they work. If you’re trying to live more sustainably, consider making your own cleaning products using natural ingredients. 

3. Greenwashing

Greenwashing is an important term to know if you’re just starting your sustainability efforts. Again, many industries have jumped on board the sustainability wagon thanks to its popularity. But, that doesn’t mean all companies have been ethical in their efforts. 

Some businesses are quick to put words on their packaging like: 

  • Natural
  • Eco-friendly
  • Organic
  • Cruelty-free
  • Nontoxic

The best thing you can do is to be aware of vague statements like these and do your research on a product before you make a purchase decision. Real sustainable companies won’t rely on catchy phrases. They’ll promote their dedication to the environment by focusing on things like supply chain sustainability, recyclable packaging, and reducing their carbon footprints.

4. Compostable

Composting has become an increasingly popular practice thanks to the sustainability movement. Getting started with composting takes a little bit of time and research. It’s also important to know the difference between compostable and another sustainable buzzword: biodegradable. The two aren’t interchangeable and each process is completely different. 

If something is compostable, it means it will break down under certain, specific conditions. Some examples of compostable materials include: 

  • Old wine
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Bread
  • Coffee grounds
  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings

Biodegradable materials, on the other hand, will break down naturally over time, thanks to their own natural components. Wood, paper, and eggshells are all examples of biodegradable materials. 

5. Climate Diet

Climate diets are also often referred to as plant-based diets. As of 2019, it was estimated that nearly 10 million Americans were living a vegetarian lifestyle, while 1 million were living a completely vegan lifestyle

For many, the goal of eating a plant-based or “climate” diet is to reduce their carbon footprint and help in the fight against global warming. Eating a diet that focuses on the planet can help to reduce food-based greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30%, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Going vegan isn’t for everyone. But, when you realize the correlation between what you eat and how it impacts the environment, you might consider making smaller, smarter swaps to make a difference. Even choosing to not eat meat one day a week can make a difference.

From changing the products you use around your house to educating yourself on how to get more involved in environmental protection, sustainability efforts are here to stay. However, as it continues to gain more footing, more buzzwords will start to pop up. It’s always a good idea to know what these words mean, so you can stay informed of changing trends and best practices without getting caught up in the “marketing” side of things.