Green vs. Sustainable: What Is the Difference? - Quicken Loans Zing BlogI like talking about and sharing how to live a more earth-friendly lifestyle. After all, if I’m going to be stuck on this planet for a while, I want to do my part to keep it clean. I’m always reading and trying to learn more, and one thing I’ve come across is the misconception that what’s green is sustainable. This isn’t necessarily the case, though.

Many people think the terms green and sustainable are interchangeable. While on the surface they seem synonymous, the two ideas really differ in their philosophy and by definition.

Macmillan Dictionary defines green as “to make something environmentally friendly.” Seems straightforward, right? For example, if you purchase an item at the store, you might opt to pick the one with large, bright green letters on the label proclaiming it’s eco-friendly. Your impression is that this product is void of dangerous chemicals and uses natural ingredients.

However, the issue of earth-friendly goods goes much deeper than simply if it’s made with materials that aren’t harmful to you or the Earth. Sustainability takes the notion of green to the next level and challenges us to look deeper.

According to Mother Earth News, the United Nations defines sustainability as products or companies that “meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” This means that what we do today should have minimal, if no, impact on the earth.

Some experts use the idea of zero waste, which challenges people to recycle everything into new products and reduce or even eliminate dependency on non-renewable resources, to further explain sustainability.

A popular example many people like to use to illustrate the clear difference between green and sustainable is bamboo wood flooring. Many consumers flock to bamboo because it grows like a weed in Asia, and it’s a cheap and durable green flooring option. However, if you do a few minutes of research, you’ll uncover information that might change your mind.

First, as I mentioned, most bamboo floor comes from Asia. To get to your local hardware store, it has to travel from the other side of the globe on ships and trucks. These methods of transportation consume huge amounts of fossil fuels and release toxic emissions into the atmosphere. The amount of additional carbon dioxide created transporting bamboo pretty much negates it as a sustainable flooring option.

Second, with the increased demand of bamboo floors, many farmers are clearing forests to make room for more bamboo fields. Furthermore, farmers turn to dangerous chemical fertilizers and pesticides to grow more bamboo faster.

Third, some bamboo floor manufacturers finish it with toxic chemicals that reduce indoor air quality, including formaldehyde. Yes, chemicals used in the embalming process by funeral directors may also be in your bamboo floor.

Don’t be fooled just because something at the store has a label with huge letters proclaiming it’s a green product. Look deeper. Is the facility the item is produced in striving to minimize waste? How far did the item travel to get to the store? Does this company use recycled products to make new ones?

Do your part in the coming year to learn more about the products you buy, and see how earth-friendly they really are. You’d be surprised what you might find once you dig deeper.

Are you going to try to live a more sustainable lifestyle in the coming new year? Share your plans below with other readers!


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