The world of green can be overwhelming. For us, too. Not only are there lots of words used to define this niche (eco-friendly, environmentally conscious, sustainability, ecological, etc.), there are a growing number of words, some technical, some slang, used to define or categorize some part of the eco world. We thought it would be a good to define some everyday words and lesser known terms and share them with you. We're not Oxford or Merriam, just good folx looking to better navigate our way towards a healthier world. Let us know if there's a word you bump into that you believe should be here. Or you have an update you think we should know about. Our thanks to Henry Erbland for taking this project on.
Hello all, thank you so much for taking the time to check out Shop What's Good and all of the incredible products we have! I hope these definitions are helpful and if there's a term you think should be added, let us know.
I'd love a chance to introduce myself. My name's Henry. I'm a graduate of SUNY Geneseo in western New York, where I studied economics. I'm also a recently returned Peace Corps volunteer from Jamaica. If you're ever looking for me, chances are you'll find me out hiking, snowboarding, or traveling, always with my camera. If I'm not out exploring, I'm probably enjoying some of the great restaurants around Rochester.
I'm passionate about social issues, especially climate change, and I believe every small step we take is a positive one towards ensuring a safe planet for future generations. I'd also love for you to check out some of my photos or if you'd like to see more of what I'm doing, feel free to check out my LinkedIn.
A joint venture started in 2002 by the respective founders of Patagonia and Blue Ribbon Flies promising to give 1% of their sales back to the environment, whether or not they were profitable. The intent is to help fund diverse environmental organizations to work collectively to be a more powerful force in solving global issues. We at Shop What's Good have partnered with 1% for the Planet® since our inception to assist in the continued work of giving back and creating a healthier world. We give 1% of our total revenue, not just profits, to charities that participate with 1% to the Planet. This year we opted to earmark our funds to Feed America because Covid has caused many individuals and families to go hungry.
Certified B Corporations® are businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and sustainability. They follow a triple bottom line using profit and growth to positively impact their employees, communities, and the environment. What’s Good is not yet a certified B-Corporation. As with any suitable third-party organization worthy of their certification, it’s not just pay-to-play. The process can be time-intensive and expensive. As we grow, we hope to dedicate a team member and dollars to go through the process. Until then, rest assured, we practice what we preach and strive to do more good every day.
The answer to "is bamboo sustainable" can't be answered with just a yes or no. It's excellent as a raw material with more strength than steel. It grows at a rate and can be harvested every 3-7 years compared to the 30-50 years it takes to grow and harvest timber, it requires zero pesticides or herbicides, and lastly, it takes less energy and other resources to produce, compared to wood or steel. When harvested bamboo regrows from its root system, it doesn't need to be planted again. Not only is this great from a naturally renewable perspective, but this also means that the soil and roots aren't disturbed, which is excellent for soil health.
The production of bamboo products and the shipping of those products is where sustainability becomes murky. Currently, the only large-scale bamboo production occurs in China, where there is a lack of oversight regarding what is used in the growing process. Like many cash crops, monocropping has become an issue. It creates problems for fungi, insects, and other small animals who rely on a diverse ecosystem. The distance to ship bamboo and bamboo products from China makes a large carbon footprint, which the use of bamboo can't offset compared to other materials that may be found locally. Molded bamboo used for products can be sustainable; however, it has been treated with toxic chemicals like melamine in many cases.
Long story short, bamboo as a material is far more eco-friendly and sustainable than its counterparts. But, more emphasis needs to be placed on the procurement and manufacturing of these products. Bamboo products are more complicated than we might think. It's up to us to do our research before we decide on a product.
Something is biodegradable if, given the right conditions and presence of microorganisms, fungi, or bacteria, it will eventually break down into basic components and blend back into the earth. They are hopefully doing so while leaving no toxic remains behind. Most untreated natural materials are biodegradable such as food, wood, paper, and even steel. The time to break down differs, and the conditions that materials are placed in play a large role. Some products that may break down at home or in nature may not break down in a landfill due to a lack of bacteria, light, and water to assist the process.
The main focus needs to be the environment that these products are being placed to give them the best chance to break down safely and eco-friendly. Some confusion can arise when comparing compostable products and biodegradable products. Compostable products are biodegradable, but like all biodegradable products need to be placed in a compostable environment.
If you're searching for biodegradable products, Shop What's Good has a wide array of products. From wrapping paper to hand towels and so much more, we'd love for you to take a look around.
Blackwater is the water created from bathrooms in the form of toilet water and kitchens and dishwaters contaminated with pathogens and grease. Due to its high level of contamination, you can't just put it back into the environment and, for health reasons, should not be drunk in this form. This contamination doesn't mean blackwater is a lost cause. There are ways of treating it through biological or chemical treatment and accredited treatment systems available for outdoor use. You can minimize the amount of blackwater created are by not disposing of household chemicals down your sink, use sink strainers to limit the amount of food that flows through your drain, and watch the number of harsh chemicals you use in washing clothes.
Historically BPA is used in food and drink packaging like the inside of soda cans and food containers. It can then seep into food and drinks while they're in the packaging. Using products free of BPAs are an excellent alternative for your health. However, it's essential to be conscious of what's in these BPA-free products. Products labeled BPA-free are meant to reassure consumers that a product is safe from the health risks of BPA. The problem with BPA-free products is they have other chemicals that are just as dangerous. Studies have shown that the alternative chemicals used in BPA-free products are made of very similar chemical structures that negatively impact human health.
We see this often with water bottles. Using reusable bottles is excellent for cutting down on waste from plastic bottles, and using a BPA-free product is just beneficial. Here at Shop What's Good, we have a wide array of BPA-free products, including water bottles from collapsable to aluminum.
CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It is one of the most essential gases on the earth because plants use it to produce carbohydrates in photosynthesis. CO2 is natural and harmless in small quantities, but as levels rise, it can affect productivity, sleep, and blood pressure. Carbon Dioxide is also the main contributor to climate change. Carbon Dioxide emissions come from humans, cars, powerplants, and any other fossil fuel burning activity.
Somebody's carbon footprint refers to the total amount of greenhouse gases -- including carbon dioxide and methane -- produced by our actions. The average carbon footprint for someone in the US is 16 tons, currently one of the world's highest rates. In comparison, the national average sits at 4 tons. Average global carbon emissions need to drop to 2 tons per year by 2050 to have the best chance at avoiding a two °C rise in global temperatures.
Carbon neutrality, also referred to as net-zero carbon dioxide emissions, is achieved when someone's CO2 removal balances its CO2 emissions. It's essentially balancing the two sides of a scale so that our emissions equal the amount of carbon that the atmosphere can handle. A carbon-neutral company may participate in tree planting and obtain energy through renewable resources to offset its operating expenses. On a smaller scale, we as individuals can drive electric cars, reduce the amount of waste we create, and integrate solar panels into our living spaces to offset the carbon we make, with the goal in mind of reaching carbon neutrality.
Carbon offset refers to any activity that compensates for the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. If carbon offset is equal to someone's carbon footprint, it is considered to be carbon neutral. Carbon offsets can be bought, sold, or traded as part of a carbon market. Carbon trade gives organizations that use less carbon the ability to sell carbons offsets to organizations that employ more carbon to keep national carbon levels at a more moderate level. It isn't to say carbon offsetting or the carbon market is perfect. The quantification of carbon production and the verification that organizations are following through on it is difficult.
Furthermore, the permanence of a carbon offsetting project needs to be taken into account. If a tree is planted to offset carbon in one project, said tree couldn't be cut down later for other uses. Projects can also cause carbon leakage. This takes place when a project increases emissions unintentionally, such as when deforestation is relocated rather than avoided entirely.
Carbon Sequestration is the removal and storage of carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks, such as oceans, forests, or soils, through physical or biological processes, such as photosynthesis.
The processes which take CO2 from the atmosphere and store it are known as carbon sinks. This involves carbon sequestration, which is the removal of carbon from the atmosphere, and once stored, it's known as a carbon reservoir.
Cellulose is a natural polymer found in the walls of plant cells. We as humans cannot digest cellulose. However, the fiber in cellulose significantly aids in our digestive system. The most significant cellulose uses are in paper products, but derivatives taken from cellulose are used in several products. Linnen, cotton, food thickeners, building materials, coffee filters, and even eye drops, to name a few.
Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth's local, regional and global climates. Climate change is primarily driven by human activity, notably fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth's atmosphere. Global warming contributes to climate change, but it's not the only factor. Natural processes also contribute. Internal variability like cyclical ocean patterns and external forces like volcanic activity are also contributors.
We can use climate data records to provide evidence of climate change key indicators, such as increases in global land and ocean temperature, rising sea levels, ice loss at Earth's poles and in mountain glaciers, frequency and severity changes in extreme weather such as hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, floods and precipitation, and lastly crop failure. Climate change is an existential threat facing us, and it's a problem that cannot be understated.
We're continually getting bombarded with information telling us how to be greener. It can feel overwhelming, and that's entirely ok. A great, simple place to start is with CFLs. CFL's --also known as compact fluorescent lightbulbs-- are an energy-efficient alternative to traditional fluorescent lightbulbs. CFL's create 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last roughly ten times longer. Lastly, while incandescent bulbs waste 90% of their energy on heat and only 10% on light, CFL's create almost no heat. CFL's are more expensive at the time of purchase; however, in the long run, they make up for that initial cost in money saved on your energy bill. It's important to remember to be careful with CFL bulbs. They do contain trace amounts of mercury. They should be disposed of properly and, if broken, must be taken care of properly to avoid contaminating yourself or the environment.
A product is compostable when it is capable of breaking down into natural elements in a compost environment. By breaking down into its natural components, it causes no harm to the environment. For something to be considered compostable, biological processes must undergo degradation during composting. This breakdown yields CO2, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass while not leaving a visible, distinguishable, or toxic residue. This is all to say, by placing compostable materials in the right environment, they will break down into the earth, leaving nothing but the natural materials they're made from. In many towns composting services are becoming more widely available. However, if one isn't, composting at home can be another solution and a great way to cut down on how much you throw out.
We've talked about composting in a previous post, but as a quick refresher, composting is the breakdown of natural waste such as food, unbleached paper, and yard trimmings. Food scraps and yard waste currently create 30% of landfill waste that can be composted instead. All composting requires three ingredients, browns (dead leaves, branches, twigs), greens (grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds), and water. Within home compost, browns create carbon while greens make nitrogen; Water then provides moisture to help break down the organic material. When composting at home, you should alternate layers of organic materials of different sized particles. Materials that are composted create humus, a nutrient-rich organic material that creates a healthy soil environment for new plants to grow.
The EPA's website is an excellent source of information for the best at-home tips and tricks for composting. If you're looking for more easily accessible guides to composting at home, some of the books we offer are great for kids and adults alike to learn the ins and outs of composting.
Conservation is the care and protection of our natural resources so that they can persist for future generations. It includes maintaining the diversity of species, genes, ecosystems, and functions of the environment, such as nutrient cycling. It isn't the same as preservation, where we protect nature from human use. Instead, it attempts to foster the sustainable use of nature by humans.
Corporate social responsibility is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable—to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. CSR helps companies be conscious of the kind of impact they have on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental. These guidelines help companies to be more socially, environmentally, and economically responsible.
The cradle-to-grave framework dictates the proper management of hazardous waste disposal from creation, "cradle," to removal, "grave." With this approach, waste generators are responsible for all waste they create from the moment it's generated to that waste's final disposal. As soon as a company creates waste, it is entirely responsible for that waste.
It's a sad truth that in many industries, animals are used to test products' safety. But it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Industries are getting better, and many have started following a cruelty-free model. Cruelty-free is a label given to products or activities, most often cosmetics, that do not test on, harm, or kill animals anywhere in the world. Cruelty-free is a label many companies strive for their products to have; however, certain aspects need to be considered. Because there is no legal definition of the term, cosmetic companies can use the term "cruelty-free" at their own will. Some companies may apply this label to the finished product.
However, they rely on raw material suppliers or outside contract laboratories to perform animal testing to test ingredient safety. Other raw materials used in cosmetics may have been tested on animals long ago. Still, companies will mark their products as "cruelty-free" based on the claim that these materials or products are not currently tested on animals. The cruelty-free mark is a great place to start when purchasing products. Still, it's important to remember that it's not a catch-all, and more research may need to be applied if you intend to purchase truly cruelty-free goods.
To make searching a bit easier, we offer a variety of cruelty-free products. One great product is LVX nail polish. It comes in various eye-catching colors and is vegan, cruelty-free, 10-toxin free, and vegan.
Our ecological footprint refers to the impact of a person or community on the environment. Its expressed as the amount of land required to sustain our use of natural resources. In essence, it's the natural resources we use to produce what we need, such as croplands to grow potatoes, fields cattle graze on, or forests that make timber. This link is an excellent resource for you to calculate your personal ecological footprint. It considers where you get your food from, what your homes like, how much you travel, and how many goods and services you use. Once this has been calculated, it gives an idea of how much energy you use and how sustainable that is. But don't let that information scare you off, and don't feel overwhelmed. It's just a way to get started. None of us are perfect, but if we can all take small steps to do our part, we can make this planet a little bit greener.
Until the late 1990's paper mills that produced virgin pulp used elemental chlorine to create printing and writing paper. Elemental chlorine is a chlorine gas used to bleach the pulp to make the paper look white. To be specific, the problem with chlorine is that when combined with the cellular glue in wood (lignins), it creates hazardous waste that was then released into rivers and lakes. This is why the EPA placed more stringent requirements on paper mills. Elemental chlorine-free is the minimum that the law requires; it's not perfect, there is still some waste is created, but it is much better.
Embodied energy is the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with producing any usable product, from mining and processing natural resources to manufacturing, transport, and product delivery. The best way to cut down on embodied energy is by designing long-lasting, durable, and adaptable products. Choices of materials and construction methods can also significantly change the amount of energy embodied in a product.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals, both natural and artificial, that mimic or interfere with the body's hormones, thus disrupting our endocrine system. They're contained in plastics, shampoos, cosmetics, cushions, pesticides, canned foods, and even A.T.M. receipts. They often aren't on labels and can be challenging to avoid. One of the most notorious endocrine disruptors comes in the form of phthalates, something we've touched on in its definition. Endocrine disruptors can cause have to our reproductive systems.
They can affect child growth during pregnancy, genital development in infants, infertility in men and women, defective sperm in men, and a decreased sperm count in men. A 2017 study done by leading reproductive health scholar Shanna H. Swan found from 1973 to 2011, the sperm count of average men in Western countries had fallen by 59 percent. Other studies suggest that endocrine disruptors' impact is cumulative and can be seen generations down the road.
Before panic sets in, know there are practical solutions to avoid endocrine disruptors. Store food in glass containers instead of plastic, and don't microwave foods in plastic or with plastic wrap. We should also avoid pesticides, tobacco, and marijuana. Using cotton or linen shower curtains as opposed to vinyl can also reduce the risk. The best resource to use is online guides that vet consumer products. The Environmental Working Group's™ consumer guide does a great with this.
Energy efficiency refers to reducing energy consumption by using less energy to attain the same amount of useful output. With the greater emphasis we're placing on climate change; energy efficiency has become more critical. The most prominent energy efficiency aspect is it doesn't take a drastic change in lifestyle choices, unlike energy conservation. Instead of turning down the heat, you can install an energy-efficient furnace to keep your house at a specific temperature while consuming less energy than you would with a conventional one. Energy-efficient products are more expensive at the forefront, but they save both money and resources in the long run. For substantial utility savings, you should consider a holistic approach that strategically targets the most significant sources of energy waste in your home or business. Although getting a new, energy-efficient washing machine is excellent, using a power strip can be just as efficient, if not more efficient. Energy efficiency is by no means the final solution, but it's a positive first step in our pursuit of a greener earth.
Environmentalism seeks to preserve the air and water we all depend upon and conserve and protect entire ecosystems compromising of animals, plants, and humans found in different habitats throughout our planet. Along with preserving natural elements, this movement primarily seeks to protect the Earth's resources that humanity requires for survival and development.
Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. It refers to institutional rules, regulations, and policies that deliberately target specific communities for undesirable land uses and lax enforcement of zoning and environmental laws. This results in communities that are disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous waste based upon race.
Fairtrade™ is a leading market-based certification. It's a model of sustainable production, trade, and consumption. Fairtrade changes the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions, and a fairer deal for farmers and workers in developing countries. It was started in 1998 by Paul Rice after an 11-year stint in Nicaragua, working with 24 coffee farmers who agreed to sell their coffee on Fair Trade terms. After their first harvest in 1983, farmers received a dramatically higher income allowing them to invest more in their homes and communities.
Fairtrade™ has grown into a global organization where farmers and workers have a stronger voice at every level, from how they invest in and run their local organizations to having an equal say in Fairtrade's global decision-making. Shop what's good has a variety of fairtrade products for you to choose from. We'd love for you to take a look around.
Fossil fuels are made from decomposing plants and animals. These fuels are found in the Earth’s crust and contain carbon and hydrogen, which can be burned for energy. Oil, coal, and gas are all fossil fuels. They currently provide 80% of our energy needs in the U.S. Fossil fuels are finite resources, which can irreparably harm the environment. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the burning of fossil fuels was responsible for 76 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. These gases contribute to the greenhouse effect and could lead to potentially catastrophic changes in the Earth’s climate. With fossil fuels come several disadvantages, including land degradation, water pollution, toxic emissions, air pollution, global warming pollution, and ocean acidification. Fossil fuels are found in everything from cosmetics in the form of parabens to plastic bags to Vasoline.
The fragrance-free certification refers to products that don't use fragrances or masking agents. It's a companion of the Safer Choice label, following strict safety criteria set by the EPA. Fragrance-free products are great for consumers who are sensitive to smell or have allergies. It's important to note the difference between unscented and fragrance-free.
Unscented products generally contain chemicals that mask or neutralize odors, whereas fragrance-free items don't use masking agents. We have several fragrance-free and synthetic fragrance-free products. Synthetic fragrance-free means the product is free of artificial smells, but it may still contain essential oils, just like in our EO lavender hand sanitizer.
The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) is a non-profit organization that sets specific high standards to ensure that forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible and socially beneficial manner. The FSC certification is considered the gold standard for harvested wood from forests that are responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally conscious, and economically viable. A significant cause of deforestation is the legal and illegal logging of remaining primary forests to meet the growing need for tropical wood products. Experts recommend that consumers look for and request products with an FSC logo, a tree, and checkmark, which means the wood is traceable to a sustainably managed forest.
There are three types of FSC certifications. FSC 100 percent indicates wood that comes 100% from certified forests. FSC recycled indicates the wood or paper in a product comes from reclaimed material. FSC mixed refers to 70% of wood from FSC certified forests, while the remaining 30% comes from controlled forests. Suppose you'd like to track down sustainable products. In that case, the Global FSC Certificate Database provides a Product Classification tool to research and identify companies and importers/exporters of certified materials and products.
Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth's climate system due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth's atmosphere. Most of the current warming trend is extremely likely the result of human activity since the 1950s and is proceeding at an unprecedented rate over decades to millennia. Global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably, but they aren't. Climate change refers to both natural and human inflicted warming, whereas global warming relates only to the rise in global temperatures.
Genetically modified organisms-GMOs- are plants, animals, microorganisms, or other organisms whose genetic makeup has been adjusted in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and virus genes that do not occur naturally or through traditional crossbreeding methods. GMOs affect various products we ingest, including pre-packaged products. However, there are alternatives to GMOs.
GMO-free products have raw materials that are sourced from suppliers claiming their ingredients are GMO-free. While this product may result from a genetic modification, there will be no detectable GMOs when analyzed by a lab. Products that are labeled as non-GMO have materials not derived from any GMO source. Lastly, USAID labeled organic products don't contain any items that have been grown with synthetic pesticide/fertilizers, sewage sludge or ionizing radiation, and animal products that are free of growth hormones or antibiotics. It's essential to remember organic products are always non-GMO products, but non-GMO products aren't always organic.
Green America® is a national not-for-profit whose focus is creating a socially just, environmentally sustainable society by harnessing economic power. They work in four main pillars: economic and clean energy, sustainable food and agriculture, responsible investing, and fair trade. They believe that the rest of the economy will follow by working in these fields, thus creating a better world for people like you and me. We're proud to say that at Shop What's Good that we're Green America certified. For more information on Green America and or if you want to get involved, check out their website.
Green fatigue is the feeling of being overwhelmed with the constant messaging of corporate green credentials, feelings of helplessness and apathy towards what is happening to our environment, cynicism towards the government's lack of action, and impending feelings of doom due to climate change.
Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. Carbon Dioxide makes up more than 3/4ths of greenhouse gases. Methane, Nitrous Oxide, and fluorinated gases make up the remaining 25%. As these greenhouse gases build up in the earth's atmosphere, they create a blanket trapping heat that causes the earth's temperature to rise, resulting in climate change.
· Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, solid waste, trees and other biological materials, and specific chemical reactions.
· Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, oil, livestock, and agricultural practices.
· Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste, and treatment of wastewater.
· Fluorinated gases, which are a combination of multiple greenhouse gases emitted from a variety of industrial processes.
The greenhouse effect works much like an actual greenhouse. Gases in our atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, trap heat inside, just like the greenhouse's glass roof. During the day, sunlight shines through our atmosphere, heating the earth. At night, the earth's surface cools, releasing some of that heat back into the air. Some of the heat released is trapped by the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, keeping our planet a warm and livable temperature. However, as humans burn more fossil fuels and emit more greenhouse gases into the air, it's creating a blanket over the earth that is trapping more and more heat leading to the rising temperature on our planet and directly contributing to climate change.
Green washing refers to companies that paint a superficial green gloss on conventional business practices. This is commonplace with people experiencing tight budgets, like college students who often buy fast fashion products. H&M launched its line of “green” clothing titled “Conscious.” The company claims to use “organic” cotton and recycled polyester. However, the line is nothing but a marketing tactic used to make themselves appear more environmentally friendly at a glance. There is not a single legal definition for marketing-friendly words such as “sustainable,” “green,” or “environmentally-friendly.” H&M, along with many other companies, can blatantly misrepresent the facts because of legal loopholes.
Greywater is wastewater coming from sinks, washing machines, bathtubs, and showers. It contains much lower levels of contamination, making it easier to treat and process. As long as no harmful chemicals are present, greywater can be used in irrigation and wetland construction. Food particles in greywater can assist in nourishing plants while also being used to clean and as toilet water. By reusing treated greywater in toilets, homes can save approximately 50 liters of potable water per day. Some ways to minimize the amount of greywater creation are by not disposing of household chemicals down your sink, use sink strainers to limit the amount of food that flows through your drain, and watch the number of harsh chemicals you use in washing clothes.
The word "industrial" often has a negative connotation. However, industrial composting, municipal composting, is an excellent practice that more cities and communities are adopting. The terms "municipal" and "industrial" are interchangeable so that we may see them used in place of one another.
Industrial or municipal composting means keeping our organic waste separate from our garbage and recyclables in towns and communities. This waste can then be brought to a composting center, or it will be picked up.
By accruing compostable waste from different sources, these companies can create healthier compost while also drastically cutting down on the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. However, it's important to remember what you're putting into your compost before it's brought to a commercial composting site. Pesticides in compost can cause plants to die, and pet waste has pathogens that are difficult to eradicate.
Lye is an alkaline chemical known for being extremely corrosive. It can damage surfaces it comes in contact with, such as metal, paint, plastic, cloth, and skin. It's a chemical used in products like drain cleaner, paint strippers, silver polish, and most commonly, soap. It may seem counterintuitive to use a corrosive chemical like Lye in something like soap that we use every day, but surprisingly it's completely safe. When Lye mixes with oil, it becomes soap after it saponifies. At the beginning of the soap-making process, water, oil, and Lye are mixed. When soap is cured, the chemicals harden, the liquid becomes a soap bar, and if you cure the soap for three to four weeks, there is no oil, water, or Lye left in the soap. An important takeaway is that Lye has to be used to create hard soap, but science has proven that after the curing process Lye is entirely absent from hard soap and is altogether safe.
Net-zero refers to achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere. This is what the Paris climate accords promise; everyone that has signed onto the climate accords has promised to achieve net-zero global emissions within the second half of this century.
The term "non-toxic" is not as straightforward as it may sound. The only written regulation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission lists a toxic product as one that "can produce personal injury or illness to humans when it is inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin." The CPSC details that a product is considered toxic if it kills half or more lab rats during testing. Meaning a product that kills 49% of its test subjects can be regarded as non-toxic by the CPSC. This doesn't make things any easier on us as consumers when it comes to choosing products. Unfortunately, it's on us to research products and determine brands that are making responsible decisions.
Another option to look for is products labeled Toxic-Free. No governing body regulates the term. However, the Toxic-Free Foundation defines it as "a product that 'has been created without the use of any potentially toxic, carcinogenic, or poisonous ingredients that could be questionable in safety." To receive a certificate from the Toxic Free Foundation, products must be completely free of harmful chemicals, contain 100% natural ingredients, are manufactured sustainably, and are safe for the environment.
To make your search easier, we've compiled a great list of products that are non-toxic and great for the environment—everything from candles to nail polish for your dog. Avoiding toxins is vital for our health, and even small changes can make a significant impact.
One Tree Planted® is a non-profit 501C3 started in 2014 to assist businesses with giving back to the environment by creating a healthier climate, protecting biodiversity, and reforestation efforts worldwide. This is all done through planting trees. One Tree Planted partners with classrooms, individuals, and businesses to pool money and give back to the environment to create a sustainable, economically friendly business model to give back to the planet. Here at Shop What's Good, we partner with one Tree planted. For every gently used box a customer chooses, we fund the planting of one Tree in North America. And to celebrate Good November, we also planted one Tree for every order we received.
If you're like us, eating healthy can be challenging. With so many options on the shelves, it's tough to know where to begin. Eating organic is a great place to start, but what does organic mean? Technically speaking, the USDA describes organic as "food grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives." Plainly speaking, organic food is food that is grown or raised through strictly natural methods without the use of synthetic components or additives. While there are many marketing claims that add value to foods, consumers can be assured that USDA organic products are verified organic at all steps between the farm and the store. While we don't sell food at Shop What's Good, we have various other organic products, including a great selection of essential oils.
If you're asking yourself, "what in the world is palm oil and why is it in so many products I use and consume?" You are not alone. Palm oil is used in everything, from pizza, doughnuts, and chocolate to shampoo, toothpaste, and lipstick. However, palm oil has a litany of environmental issues and is also associated with cardiovascular health.
Palm fruits are derived from trees that can live up to 30 years, but once the trees grow too high, they are cut down to make new trees. This contributes to the deforestation of the rainforest. To keep up with the incredibly high demand for cheaply produced oil, acres of rainforest are cut down. This has also lead to the loss of habitat for endangered species like elephants, rhinos, orangutans, tigers. The conversion of rainforest into plantations also contributes to climate change. Looking for products that contain only sustainable products is a good start. The WWF has a rating tool for brands that shows if they are using sustainable palm oil.
Shampoos, makeup, soap, and other skincare products all need a preservative to give them a longer shelf life. For many decades, however, that preservative has come in the form of parabens. Parabens can affect men's and women's hormone balance while being a significant cause for concern regarding women's reproductive activities like pregnancy and menstruation. It's also been shown that parabens can be easily absorbed through the skin, and daily use has been linked to the growth of breast cancer cells in women. Lastly, parabens are seen to cause environmental damage and cause allergic reactions in some people.
Part of the problem lies with the FDA. There are currently no regulations involving parabens, nor do cosmetics need to be tested or approved before being placed on the market.
Before you panic and decide never to bathe again, there are safe, healthy alternatives free of parabens. Look for labels that state "free from parabens" or "0% parabens. If you're unsure if a product has parabens look for ingredients such as methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. Sopropylparaben and isobutylparaben also indicate parabens, and parahydroxybenzoate is a synonym for parabens. Paraben-free products are widely available and easy to find both in-store and online.
Finding information on what we put in our bodies is often like finding a needle in a haystack. There are pages of data, many with contradicting messages. Paraffin is one of those products. It has a long history of being used to treat different physical conditions. It's utilized in cosmetics, candles, and even electrical insulators. It has been used to help with eczema and other skin irritations. It does this by creating a film over your skin that locks in moisture and protects against outside irritants. However, it does not moisturize skin in any way, and there is evidence that it clogs pores creating skin problems.
According to a South Carolina State University study, paraffin contains chemicals that have been linked to asthma and lung cancer when burned in candles, along with skin irritation. There have been contradictory studies on the health effects; however, many positive reviews are industry-funded. While there's contention about the health risks, there isn't much contention about the environmental damage it creates.
Paraffin is derived from petroleum; it's a byproduct of the oil purification process. As we know, crude oil is a non-renewable resource whose use overwhelming impacts climate change, the degradation of the environment, and our health in general. In short, it is not eco-friendly at all. A study conducted in 2004 found higher levels of carcinogens in churches than on high traffic roads. This is presumably due to the burning of low-quality paraffin wax candles over long periods.
Now, before you blow out that candle on your desk and start to worry, this isn't as dire as it sounds. Although not healthy, it would take extended use of these products for you to develop significant health issues. There are also great alternatives like soy wax and beeswax-based products that are natural, safer, much more sustainable. A quick search online will find high quality, paraffin-free products on the market that can help make a positive impact in your life and those around you.
Petroleum products are widely used; one you might recognize is vaseline. But petroleum products are starting to come under scrutiny. Because they are derived from crude oil, they contain cancer-causing carcinogens. Although the food and drug administration says these products are ok, they admit that more studies need to be done. It also has a detrimental environmental impact. The process of obtaining crude oil impacts climate change and damages the environment. Petroleum-free products are becoming more widely available containing but are more expensive. That's one reason petroleum is so widely used. It's cheap. Frustratingly, this means it's up to us as consumers to research products that are petroleum-free. We've tried our best to bring together some commonly used products that are petroleum-free, like lip balm from All Good™.
Phosphate is an inorganic derivative of phosphorus that's often added to processed foods. They're commonly used in processed cheese as emulsifiers to keep oil and water mixed. In sodas, iced teas, and French fries, phosphates add color; they're also found in powdered milk, powdered coffee, pudding, and most commonly in meat. While our bodies absorb about 50-60 percent naturally occurring phosphates. However, as an additive in food, that rate jumps to 90 percent and can lead to health problems. It's linked to increased risk of death for people with kidney disease, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. In some instances, these risks may be associated with other lifestyle choices, people who eat more phosphates tend to eat more processed food in general, but studies have still shown enough causation to raise concern. Phosphates in food aren't labeled as an ingredient. However, a good rule of thumb is to avoid ingredients that include the letters "phos". It's harder to identify phosphates in meats, so if you have any questions, it's a good idea to talk with a butcher to get a clearer picture. However, the best way to avoid phosphates is simply by eating less processed food and meat.
Created by Bayer in the 1980s, picaridin (pronounced pih-CARE-a-den) is a synthetic compound developed from a plant extract from the genus Piper, the same plant genus that produces table pepper. Picaridin has been available since 1998 in Europe and Australia—where it is the best-selling insect repellent—but was approved for sale in the United States only in 2005. (You may see it listed as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, or icaridin.) As with DEET, the EPA has concluded that the normal use of picaridin does not present a health concern.
Studies have shown picaridin to be as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes. Unlike DEET, however, picaridin is odorless, non-greasy, and does not dissolve plastics or other synthetics. Thank you Appalachian Mountain Club for this info.
PLA or Polylactic acid is a polymer made up of lactic acid. The acid that causes soreness in your body after we work out. Anything with glucose can be made into lactic acids, such as corn. This makes Polylactic acid a bioplastic, which is critical because it makes it biodegradable and nature friendly. It's used in everything from plastic bottles to medical devices, and most commonly, it's a choice plastic for 3D printing machines. In the right conditions, a PLA bottle can take significantly less time to return to its natural state and break down into the environment. This isn't perfect, but compared to traditional petroleum plastic, which would take hundreds of years to break down in the same environment, it's a significant improvement. As a finished plastic, PLA is nontoxic. However, during manufacturing, like most plastics, it does have the ability to be toxic if inhaled.
Plastic may be one of the most widely used products we use in today's society. Consequentially it's also one of the largest contributors to waste and global warming. Plastics can break down into two categories, natural, made from plants and animals, and synthetics, made through complex chemical processes. Most plastic items we use are meant to be low-cost and disposable creating immense amounts of waste. Our creation of unnatural plastics, coupled with our rapid use and disposal, is causing tremendous damage to our environment. Plastics kill animals, contaminate potable water, and take hundreds of years to break down only to release chemicals into the earth. We have an actual island of garbage called The great pacific garbage patch. It's a giant island of floating plastic in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean made up of water bottles and other plastics.
As a society, we need to cut down on our use of plastics, but it's understandably hard to do so. They're in so many products we use, even in our cars. Using as little plastic as possible, having better recycling campaigns, and investing in greener bioplastics and other more environmentally sustainable alternatives is vital for us to reverse the course we're own and fix the damage we've done to the environment.
Phthalates are in everything, and I mean everything. Personal care products, medical devices, building materials, plastic food covering, clothing, oil, adhesives, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), even our food, and that's just the start of the list. It's considered an "everywhere chemical," and they aren't listed on product labels, to add to the frustration. Researchers have linked phthalate exposure to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development, and male fertility issues.
It's safe to say they're a dangerous chemical, and since they are in so many products, it's hard to know how to avoid them. Local and federal regulators have started to eliminate the chemical from some products. But as consumers, we still need to be cautious with the products we purchase. Avoiding products packaged in "recycling-code-3" plastic, products that include the vague ingredient "fragrance" on their label, and buying organic products packaged in glass are great jumping-off points.
Alternatively, stainless steel food storage containers are a useful resource for keeping leftovers. They're long-lasting, free of phthalates, Bisphenol A (BPAs), and lead, and more durable than glass.
Products made from post-consumer content are made from waste that's been used by a consumer, disposed of, and diverted from landfills — stuff like the aluminum cans and newspapers that you place in your recycling bin for pick-up. Products made from post-consumer content are made from waste that's been used by a consumer, disposed of, and diverted from landfills — stuff like the aluminum cans and newspapers that you place in your recycling bin for pick-up. Post-consumer waste is preferable because it's less likely to end up in a landfill than pre-consumer waste, given that manufacturers have long been keen on reusing and repurposing scrap materials in various ways. One of the most commonly used products we dispose of is toilet paper. Luckily it's possible to buy post-consumer processed toilet paper right here on our site. It's comfortable, American-made, and free from harmful chemicals.
Pre-consumer recycled content is made from manufacturer waste that never actually made it to the consumer for one reason or another. Scraps, rejects, trimmings — the stuff that ends up on the factory floor is repurposed into something new rather than trashed.
Proposition 65 requires businesses to warn Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, congenital disabilities, or other reproductive harm. These chemicals can be in the products that Californians purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or released into the environment. Proposition 65 enables Californians to make informed decisions about their exposures to these chemicals by requiring this information. If you'd like more information on Proposition 65, California's state website is a great resource. You can follow the link here.
You've probably heard about reclaimed materials, especially reclaimed woods, and it's not just some buzzword. Reclaimed building materials originate from buildings that are deconstructed rather than demolished. There are two classifications for reclaimed materials, construction materials, and appliances, and as you might expect, there are several positives to reclaimed material. They're often much cheaper than their new counterparts. They cut down on millions of tons of waste being diverted to landfills. It saves energy and resources, and materials are sometimes more valuable due to their aged look, detail, and some instances, higher quality.
Now, no product is perfect. Reclaimed materials such as windows or toilets aren't as energy-efficient as newer products. They may need to be altered in some capacity to meet today's standards. Most importantly, there are potential health risks when using these materials. Some salvaged wood can be coated in lead-based paint. The strength and integrity of these products need rigorous testing to ensure safety. Asbestos can be contained in many reclaimed materials, and older electronics often have faulty wiring or don't meet efficiency standards.
With all that said, reclaiming materials can be a cost-saving, eco-friendly way to revitalize your home or business. It's just important to be wary of the products you're using and any necessary steps that must be taken to ensure safety.
Recycling is the practice of transforming waste products into new supplies and products. You can find a small number inside the three arrow triangle recycling symbol at the bottom of most plastic containers. This number references what type of plastic the container is made of. Plastics with 1 or 2 are the most widely accepted plastics you can recycle. We can recycle several everyday products, positively impacting our environments, such as cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard. But that's not the end of the list. Computers, TVs, and other electronics can also be given to special electronics centers to be recycled along with so much more.
Waste Management's website has an excellent tool for determining what is and isn't recyclable. You can look up any products you may have questions about, and it will tell you if you can recycle them and what steps you may have to take to do so. Alternatively, we have some great options on the Shop What's Good site, one of our favorites being a beautiful recycled glass candle holder.
Regenerative Agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil's organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. These processes result in carbon drawdown and the improvement of our water cycle. Some of the ways farmers are practicing regenerative agriculture are through limited tilling and not using synthetic fertilizers. Cover crops, crop rotations, compost, and animal manures are also being implemented on larger scales.
These practices, along with well-maintained grazing lands, significantly increasing soil fertility, insect and plant biodiversity, and soil carbon sequestration. These practices improve ecological health and the health of the animal and human consumer through improved micro-nutrient availability and better dietary omega balances.
Renewable energy is an energy that has been derived from earth's natural resources that are not finite like traditional fossil fuels and are much less harmful to the environment. We use seven types of renewable energy—Solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, ocean, hydrogen, and biomass. To improve ourselves and our planet's health and safety, the adoption of renewable energies is vital. Renewable energies won't run out, maintenance requirements are lower, they save money, lower our reliance on foreign energy, and most importantly, they have numerous health and environmental benefits.
This isn't to say they're perfect, and there are pros and cons to each individual source. Just Energies website has a great blog breaking each down. Some of the universal difficulties are the higher upfront costs; however, they save money in the long term. Some renewables are limited in certain parts of the country, think lack of sunlight during the winter in upstate new york. We need to do more research in terms of storage capabilities, and there are certain geographic limitations for each source.
With this all said, the positives dramatically outweigh the negatives when it comes to renewable energies, and hopefully, someday soon, our reliance on fossil fuels will be nonexistent.
Reusing products means finding another purpose for an item that would have otherwise been thrown away. Many of us do this already without thinking about it. Washing out and reusing plastic bags, using old clothes for rags, using old glass jars as vases or cups are just some steps we take every day to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Taking reusable products a step further, skip out on the plastic grocery bags and get some reusable grocery bags. We have large bags for shopping, smaller produce bags, and even reusable sandwich bags.
All of the water that we use is disposed of somewhere. In cities and many suburbs, water is disposed of in sewage systems. In more remote places where sewer systems may not be as accessible, homes have their own septic systems. On the surface, both of these methods are great ways to reuse water and help the environment but mitigating waste. However, the products that we wash down our drains can still negatively impact our ecosystem.
Toxins carried by our water waste can be absorbed back into groundwater and the earth. This can pose a significant risk to our health and the environment, which is why it's so essential to use septic and sewage-safe products. It would be best to look for products labeled 100% natural, biodegradable, and third-party certified by groups like Ecocert or The Environmental Working Group. This can give us peace of mind that the cleaning products we buy are indeed environmentally safe. We have a few sewer and septic safe cleaners here that are also safer for your health. They work just as well as regular cleaning products and don't have a harsh smell.
SFI, better known as the sustainable forestry initiative®, is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to our forests' future and promoting sustainable forest management. Their philosophy is to promote conservation, research, and community initiatives that enhance our quality of life and demonstrate the life-sustaining value of forests.
SFI helps people, organizations, and companies worldwide make informed choices when it comes to sustainably sourced forest products and the management of forest resources to ensure a healthy tomorrow. They also focus on providing environmental and sustainability education with opportunities for teachers and students.
Sulfates are detergents commonly found in products like shampoo, body wash, face cleanser, and toothpaste. They're what give many cleaning products the lathering, sudsy effect. The biggest issue with sulfates is that they can cause varying levels of skin and eye irritation. Sulfates in toothpaste can cause or irritate existing allergies, canker sores, and bad breath. When used in shampoos, sulfates are so efficient they can pull almost all the natural oil from hair and skin. They're so good at cleaning that they can strip your hair of its natural oils and make it feel rough, dry, and brittle. Sulfate-free products won't give you the traditional lather you get from sulfate cleansers. However, they will provide you with just as good a clean without causing skin irritation or negatively impacting your hair. You can use tools like the EWG's Skin Deep Database, which rates personal products on known and suspected hazards of ingredients and available scientific studies about those ingredients, to find and learn about alternatives.
Sustainability focuses on meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It's comprised of 3 pillars: economic, environmental, and social- also known as profits, planet, and people.
Totally Chlorine-free bleaching is carried out without any chemicals containing chlorine, thereby avoiding the creation of organically-bound chlorine in the pulp and wastewater stream. In TCF bleaching, hydrogen peroxide, together with ozone or peracetic acid, are the most commonly used chemicals. It is possible to demonstrate the discharge from TCF is of no environmental concern. This allows for our paper products to be safer and more sustainable for the environment and ourselves. TCF paper products come in varying forms, from tea and coffee filters to sandwich bags. Finding totally chlorine-free products allow us to be sustainable and eco-friendly every day.
In the past, companies' sole purpose was to generate profit. But as time has progressed, sustainability has become more imperative, leading to many companies adopting a triple bottom line. They now focus on the three P's: people, profit, and planet. Recent environmental and financial disasters, along with public pressure, have pushed more companies to adopt the triple bottom line. Although more expensive in the short term, an MIT study found that companies that treated sustainability seriously were the ones that profited from sustainable activities.
The BioPreferred Program is a USDA-led initiative that aims to develop and expand markets for biobased products. Biobased products are derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials providing an eco-friendly alternative to traditional petroleum-based products. They can be used across a wide array of industries, from construction to groundskeeping products. Bio-based products help increase our use of renewable resources while still contributing positively to our economy. If we are looking to find bioproducts on shelves, we just have to look for the USDA certified biobased product label.
Often when we see a product labeled as "unscented," we assume it's because it's all-natural. But this isn't necessarily true. All products have a scent, and sometimes that scent is unpleasant, leading companies to include chemicals that mask those smells. One of those chemicals is one we discussed explicitly in another post, Phthalates. On the minor side, unscented products can cause numerous skin irritations, but on the more extreme side, they can cause issues like hormone disruption, neurodevelopmental problems, and asthma, and allergies. If you're looking for safe products that don't smell, fragrance free products are a much better alternative.
Upcycling represents various processes by which "old" products get modified and get a second life as they're turned into a "new" product. It's different from recycling in that these products aren't broken down and repurposed. Instead, they're already finished products that get repurposed. We see upcycling often used in the fashion industry, home decor, and manufacturing. If we look at upcycling from a large scale perspective, we can say that it contributes to reducing CO2 emissions in theory. Not only because the lifetimes of the materials used are extended, but also because upcycling contributes to reducing carbon emissions by extending lifetimes of used materials, components and products, and spending less energy in extracting, transforming, or recycling.
More and more people are switching to an all-natural vegan diet. Going vegan involves a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, be it from food, clothing, or any other purpose. In terms of our diet, many health benefits reflect why this is becoming more and more popular. A vegan diet can promote weight loss, reduce severe illness, and veganism is more environmentally friendly. It's not perfect. Initially, your stomach may feel off as it gets used to a new diet and vegan diets lack essential nutrients, although there are alternative sources to the vitamins you may lack. Going vegan takes time, and everyone goes about the process differently. But the benefits of a vegan lifestyle are immense and can assist us in leading healthier, more inclusive lifestyles.
Volatile organic compounds are gases that are emitted into the air from products or processes. These compounds are hazardous to our health. They can react with other gases to form air pollutants and cause everything from skin irritation to cancer. VOCs are contained in several products, including paint, gasoline, adhesives, cleaning products, and more. The best ways to avoid VOC exposure are using products labeled as "low VOC," and if using products indoors, make sure you have adequate ventilation.
Water conservation is the practice of using water efficiently to reduce unnecessary water usage. Over the last half-century, the U.S. population has doubled while our water demand has tripled. This is why we must reduce our water usage. A few options to help you at home are using more efficient dishwashers and washing machines, low flow toilets, and making sure to turn off the water when you aren't using it, like brushing your teeth.
Zero waste is a set of principles focused on waste prevention that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles to reuse all products. The goal is for no trash to be sent to landfills, incinerators, or the ocean. Going zero waste isn't easy, but it's not about doing a little bit at a time to cut down on the amount of waste we create.
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