Environmentally Friendly

Environmentally-friendly products are generally defined as products which cause minimal or no harm to the environment. Environmental concerns, such as air and water quality, soil contamination, hazardous chemicals, waste management, energy saving and climate change etc., are directly related to our living environment, food supply chain, climate condition and human health. Therefore, the environmental impact caused by a product should be considered during product purchasing. Product life cycle thinking is a common method used for reviewing the environmental impact caused by a particular product. The environmental impact of a product is not only caused from its usage and disposal, but also includes its whole life cycle from material extraction, product manufacturing and transportation to product in-use and disposal. For example, paper products have no pollution caused during product in-use stage but it causes forest resource depletion and chemical discharge waste during the manufacturing stage.

Life Cycle Impact Assessment

Phase of life cycle assessment aims at understanding and evaluating the magnitude and significance of the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout the life cycle of the product.

Source: ISO 14040

 

Sustainable Features of Environmentally Friendly Products

Energy Efficient

Electricity is generated from the burning of coal, petroleum and natural gas that are regarded as non-renewable resources. These resources cannot be replenished in meaningful human timeframes once being consumed. As a result, energy crisis may arise if electricity is not consumed sustainably. Efficient energy use is a concept to conserve energy by reducing the amount of energy required for provision of products and services. Energy efficiency can be generally improved by adoption of a more efficient production process or technology such as the installation of LED lightings. Besides, increasing energy efficiency can also reduce the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the combustion of fossil fuels. This may help mitigating the problem of climate change.

Water Efficient

Water efficiency can be achieved by using the minimal amount of water to fulfil a particular action with an understanding of the actual amount of water that need to be delivered. This concept is somewhat different from water conservation as it reduces water wastage instead of limiting the amount of water that can be used. Water efficient products should be able to save water use without compromising the quality of the service to be provided.

Restriction on Use of Hazardous Chemicals

To reduce air, soil and water pollution, the restriction on the use of hazardous materials during production can be effective. The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) is a typical standard aiming to limit the use of toxic substances in electronic products, for example, lead, mercury, cadmium etc. Upon adoption of RoHS or other chemical restriction standards, manufacturers may develop their own marks to demonstrate compliance. Different chemical substances that are posing environmental threats for various product types, for instance, consumers are encouraged to select chlorine-free paper products as chlorine bleaching of the paper pulp releases large amounts of dioxin, which is a persistent environmental pollutant that is proven hazardous to human and ecological health.

Recyclable

Recyclable is defined as a post-consumer product that could be entirely or partially recycled into useful materials such as paper, plastic, glass and wood. It helps society to save natural resources and reduce waste quantity generated from our daily life. However, there are some products which are not easily recycled or can not be recycled, such as paper with plastic coating, gift items, as they are made from different types of materials and cannot be disassembled.

Made of Recycled Materials

Recycled content items are produced with recovered materials from manufacturing processes or post-consumer products. Products with higher recycled content are more environmentally preferable since they are able to achieve a greater conservation of natural resources. Example of products with recycled content include printing paper, napkins and garbage bags.

Biodegradable

A biodegradable product will completely break down and return to nature, by decomposing into elements found in nature within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal. For examples, food scraps, cotton, wool, and paper are bio-degradable; while plastics and polyester generally are not.

Compostable

A compostable product refers to biodegradation into soil conditioning material (i.e., compost) under certain conditions. Compostable products undergo degradation by biological processes during composting to yield carbon dioxide (CO2), water, inorganic compounds, and biomass at a rate consistent with other known compostable materials and that leaves no visible, distinguishable, or toxic residue. ASTM Standards D6400 and D6868 outline the specifications that must be met in order to label a plastic as commercially “compostable”.

Carbon Emission Awareness

Carbon emission is known as a main cause of global warming, greatly contributed by the production and consumption of products and services. A product’s carbon footprint is the total sum of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2e) produced throughout a product’s lifecycle, including emissions produced during production, distribution and use of the product. The total carbon footprint of a product can be quantified for understanding its impact on climate change. “Carbon Neutral” means that the carbon footprint of a product is off-set by purchasing carbon credit from verified carbon mitigation projects.

Low VOC-emission

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) include both man-made and naturally-occurring chemical compounds. Coatings, especially protective coatings and paints found on wall, are a major source of man-made VOC emission. These man-made chemicals usually carry strong scents and odor due to their volatile nature. VOCs are responsible for the formation of smog and thus leading to adverse impact on human health and hazardous to the environment. Some of the organic compounds are known to cause various health risks identified in animals and human. For example, exposure to formaldehyde from paints may pose adverse health effects in people. Consumers should procure products that contain low VOC or no VOC in order to reduce exposure to these chemicals compounds.

Eco-packaging

The aim of sustainable packaging design is to reduce the use of natural resources, pollution and waste generation to landfills. This includes the use of biodegradable and compostable materials, renewable resources and recycled materials in packaging, as well as applying physical design to reduce material useage in packaging. Reusable packaging can well enhance eco-friendliness as less waste is being produced.