Popular Sustainability Terms You Need to Know

Everybody talks about the benefits of having a sustainable lifestyle.

But when you finally decide to give it a try, you find yourself reading lots of different terms related to sustainability.

So, it’s not surprising that many people get confused by all those green terms.

And let’s be honest, researching and keeping track of each one of these sustainability terms can be an overwhelming task.

That’s why we’ve decided to put all these sustainable words in one place and clear up the confusion. 

In this article, you will find the definition of popular sustainability terms like “zero waste” and even some confusing ones like “RSPO”. 

So, let’s get started!

What Does “Eco-friendly” Mean? 

Even if you haven’t started a green lifestyle yet, you’ve probably heard the words “eco-friendly”, “environmentally-friendly”, or “earth-friendly” before.

These terms are the most popular ones and they describe an action or item that isn’t harmful to the environment. 

If something is eco-friendly, then it should be kind to the Earth.
That said, some companies use words related to “eco-friendly” to make misleading claims about their practices, this is known as greenwashing.
Beware of unethical companies!

What Does “Sustainability” Mean?

While eco-friendly is an ambiguous term, sustainability has a more comprehensive definition.

Sustainability is the ability to maintain an activity at a certain rate for a long time without affecting the environment, economy, or society. 

Take solar power, for example.

Solar power takes energy from a renewable resource, not a limited and harmful energy source like fossil fuels.

Besides, it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

What’s the Definition of Zero Waste? 

To understand this term it’s important to know how the economy works first.

As you might know, most products are designed to be tossed within minutes, days, or weeks after purchase.

This generates lots of waste that will end up sitting in landfills or polluting the environment for years. 

What’s worse, companies will use more natural resources to create more disposable products. That’s the opposite of sustainability!

Zero waste is a popular term that describes the principles of eco-conscious consumers.

They focus on taking action to reduce waste as much as possible.

The goal of these actions is that no waste ends up in landfills, incinerators, or the natural environment.

Popular Sustainability Terms

“Zero waste”, “sustainability”, and “eco-friendly” are the most common green terms.

But wait, that’s just the beginning!

There are many other popular terms you need to know to choose the right eco-friendly products.

So, check this green lifestyle vocabulary:


Something is biodegradable if living organisms like bacteria can decompose it within a short period of time.

For example, your veggie scraps are biodegradable, but synthetic materials like plastics aren’t.


Many plastic products (especially food containers) contain a chemical called BPA (bisphenol A).

This chemical is linked to several health problems and unfortunately, it has the potential to leach into your food and beverages!

If a product includes the term “BPA-free” in its description, it doesn’t contain this toxic chemical.

biodegradable materials into nutrient-rich compost


A compostable material requires human intervention so that it can biodegrade under specific conditions.

This human-driven process can transform some biodegradable materials into nutrient-rich compost.

Keep in mind that some materials use the term compostable although they’re only suitable for industrial composting.


When a product is described as “cruelty-free” it means that neither the final product nor the ingredients have been tested on animals.

Some cruelty-free products may contain animal-derived ingredients like beeswax though.


As mentioned before, sustainability goes beyond protecting the environment.  

And that’s where the term “ethically-made” comes into play.

Ethically made products are produced in an ethical way, which means workers receive fair wages and have good working conditions.

Fairtrade Certified

Fairtrade certified businesses guarantee fair treatment, safe working conditions, and fair wages for workers in developing countries.

These businesses help poorer communities around the world and forbid child labour in their supply chains.

And all these practices are key to ensure sustainability.


The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is an international non-profit organization that promotes sustainable forest management.

They ensure that for every tree chopped down, another one is planted to replace it. 

If a product has an FSC label, it has been certified as being sourced from a responsible source. 


This sustainability term is used to describe products that were made or produced within a certain area.

Buying locally-made products not only supports local businesses but also reduces carbon emissions and waste by reducing the transport of goods.


Some products contain toxic ingredients that can affect your health and the environment.

That’s why many “non-toxic” products are popular now.

The term non-toxic speaks for itself: it describes products that are free from toxic ingredients.

Oeko-Tex Standard 100

When a product is certified according to Oeko-Tex standard 100, it means that it’s harmless for human health.

That’s because every component of the product has been tested for harmful substances.


“Organic” is another popular sustainability term you will come across.

Organic products come from farms that don’t use chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

So, they’re a healthier choice for you and the environment.


Reclaimed materials are another example of sustainability.

If a product is made from reclaimed materials, it means that those materials have been recovered from waste products.

recyclable products are those that can be recycled


As you’re probably guessing, recyclable products are those that can be recycled.

That said, not all recyclable materials will get recycled. So, make sure to know what materials you can recycle in your area.


Unsustainable palm oil production is causing the devastation of tropical forests and habitat loss for many endangered species.

That’s why it’s important to prefer products made of RSPO certified sustainable palm oil.

The RSPO certification is an assurance that the standard of palm oil production is sustainable.


While many regular products contain animal-derived components like wool wax and beeswax, vegan options don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients.


Hopefully, the previous sustainability terms will help you choose the best options for you and the environment!


  • Zero & Zen

    Dedicated to the cause of sustainability and eco-friendliness, our mission is to raise awareness about the importance of eco-conscious living.

    We firmly believe that individual actions can spark collective change and recognise the need for sustainable living to be tailored to your unique circumstances and pace.

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