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What Does Eco Really Mean? | A Glossary of Sustainability Terms for Recycle Week

What Does Eco Really Mean? | A Glossary of Sustainability Terms for Recycle Week

It's Recycle Week! One of our favourite weeks of the year. Recycle Week is held annually by Recycle Now to help businesses, charities and individuals engage with the way we dispose of our waste. Recycling is at a record high globally, however the sheer amount of waste we make means that drastic action must be taken. Recycling can be done in so many amazing, creative and powerful ways, but do you really know what recycled means? There are so many eco and green terms flying about nowadays that if you're confused, you're not alone. With various different terms all meaning similar but slightly different things, it’s easy for them to blur into one. That's why we've put together this simple glossary of sustainability language and terms to help clear things up. From biodegradable to zero waste, here are some of the most commonly used eco words and what they actually mean...



If a product is recycled, that means it is made from recycled materials. Recycling is the process of taking a product or material and turning it into something new. The original product is destroyed in this process, usually through a melting process, but it is then used to form new products. Anything from notebooks to clothing can be made from recycled materials. This cuts down waste and ensures useful resources are converted into new products, rather than being wasted after a single use. We use recycled metals, including brass and aluminium, to make our Jewellery collections. You can read more about how we utilise recycled materials here



If a product says it is recyclable, that simply means that you can put it into the recycling bin when you are done with it. It does not necessarily mean that it has been made from recycled materials, though some products are both recycled and recyclable. Many items are recyclable nowadays! Examples are aluminum cans, plastic water bottles, most food tubs, bottles, cans, and many more. 



Sustainable is a big word that can mean different things to different people. To put it simply & according to the Cambridge Dictionary, sustainable in the eco context means ‘causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time.’ The World Commission on Environment and Development describes it as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Sustainability means creating new things in a way that doesn't deplete our natural resources and does little to no damage to the environment. A simple concept of sustainability is that if you use a tree to make something, you should be replanting another tree in its place. Every product you will find on our website and in our stores has been sustainably produced. 



Veganism, as a term, was actually coined in 1944 as an off-shoot from vegetarianism, here in the UK. Vegans do not eat or use animal products such as meat, dairy, honey, eggs, silk, wool or leather. Veganism is not just a dietary choice, it is an ethical lifestyle. There are a staggering 600,000 vegans in the UK and the numbers keep on rising. According to The Vegan Society, "Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose." Vegans will also avoid other things that cause harm to animals such as visiting zoos or using feather pillows. There are a number of reasons why someone chooses to live a vegan lifestyle, but animal welfare is ultimately at the heart of the movement and it is considered a philosophy-based lifestyle.



A newer term with a less definite meaning, plant-based is definitely adjacent to vegan but it is not the same! Plant-based usually refers to diet only, so someone who eats plant-based foods would still be happy to wear wool and leather, and use cosmetic products tested on animals.Eating a plant-based diet does not necessarily involve avoiding products or services that cause suffering to animals. Again, there are many different ways people use the term plant-based, but the general consensus is that a plant-based personal will not eat a 100% vegan diet 100% of the time, instead their diet focuses mainly on plant foods such as vegetables and grains. People usually eat a plant-based diet because of health reasons or environmental ones, but animal welfare isn't usually at the forefront. Plant-based diets include flexitarian, vegetarian and pescatarian diets.



If you're an animal lover, or a cosmetics lover, you've probably seen the term 'cruelty-free' thrown around a lot. To put it simply, cruelty-free means that a product and its ingredients weren’t tested on animals. A lot of brands offering cosmetics, personal-care products and household-cleaning products test their products and/or ingredients on animals in laboratories. The animals used for these experiments range from mice and rabbits to pigs and dogs. A lot of these experiments can be painful, causing harm to the animals before they are euthanised. This is why many people choose to buy cruelty-free products! Shopping cruelty-free is easy, take a look at Cruelty Free UK for top tips on getting started.  



Biodegradable refers to whether or not a product can be broken down, and reabsorbed, without causing any harm to the surrounding environment. Microbes, fungi and bacteria are responsible for naturally breaking down items. Different things take different lengths of time to break down, and some materials are better at biodegrading than others. Things that take hundreds of years to biodegrade can still be sold as 'biodegradable', though this is obviously much less sustainable than something that only takes months to biodegrade. This means that, technically, almost any product could be labelled ‘biodegradable’ because most things will break down at some point in the future whether they’re derived from nature, like a banana skin, or made from chemicals, like plastic. Biodegradable items must also be disposed of properly in order to be able to biodegrade. Biodegradable plastics often need specific conditions in order to break down. If they are left in an area without these specific conditions, they will never degrade.



Compostable materials are materials that have been certified to break down completely into non-toxic components (water, carbon dioxide, and biomass) that will not harm the environment. These materials also need to be given the right conditions in order to break down. The time it takes for something to break down depends largely on the product itself and the composting conditions, but the process is usually faster than biodegrading. Some materials can decompose in your home compost (such as loose tea leaves and apple cores) but not all compostable materials are suitable for composting at home. For anything to be legally labelled compostable, it has to have been certified to break down in industrial (council) composting facilities within 180 days. 



The Department for Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) states that: "Organic food is the product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides; growth regulators and livestock feed additives. Organic agriculture is a systems approach to production that is working towards environmentally, socially and economically sustainable production. Instead, the agricultural systems rely on crop rotation, animal and plant manures, some hand weeding and biological pest control." Essentially, organic means fewer chemicals, and more respect for wildlife and biodiversity. Many things can be organic, from fruits and vegetables to T-shirts! Have a look at the Soil Association website here for more information. 



If something is eco-friendly then it is considered to be something that is good, or kind, to the environment. It’s seen to not be harmful. Therefore you can have eco-friendly products such as an eco-friendly chocolate bar, but you can also have eco-friendly processes, decisions or actions, such as how to make your home more eco-friendly. Eco-friendly is so closely tied up with our understanding of sustainability that in many ways, the two are virtually interchangeable.


Zero Waste

Zero waste is a concept or principle. It is the aim to change how we consume things so that waste is prevented as far as possible, with the hope that waste is ultimately eliminated. This would mean that no waste ends up in landfills and incinerators, as well as in the natural environment, such as our oceans. The aim of someone living a zero waste lifestyle is to send nothing to landfill, recycle as little as possible and compost the rest of their waste. People living zero waste lifestyles will often choose to use refillable products, such as Fill, for their household and cosmetic products. They will also use reusable straws and cutlery, like our picnic set. Zero waste also involves reusing left over food to create yummy new dishes and recycling or reusing old jars and tins.   


Ethically Made

Everything we sell here at AARVEN is ethically made & sourced. But what does that mean? To put it simply, ethically made means our products are made without exploiting people, animals or the environment. Some ways that products can be ethical is by being fairly traded, organic or cruelty free, but there are thousands of categories that exist beside ethical production. For us, ethically made means ensuring a fair price for all of our artisans, working directly with craftspeople so they don't have to share their earnings with a middle man, never cancelling an order and auditing workshops to ensure there is no forced labour, child labour or unjust working conditions. As stated by Shop Ethical; "There is nothing wrong with trading goods and services, however it’s a different story when this becomes about reducing the power of local communities, increasing the divide between rich and poor, the Global West and the Third World, driving our ever increasing consumption of natural resources, reducing biodiversity and even significantly reducing the basic protections of animals." You can find out more about our global supply chain here.

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