We’ve come a long way since the first time anyone used “reduce, reuse, recycle” (though it’s still a classic!). Today, words we use to describe efforts to help the environment have evolved—and at Under the Canopy, we know it can feel hard to keep up. To make it easier, take a look at our quick rundown and learn how the latest vocab words can enable you to make more planet-friendly shopping choices.
What it means: “Sustain,” of course, means to keep something going. When it comes to the environment, simply put, “sustainability” is about how we’re leaving the world behind for our kids and grandkids.
A deeper look: Sustainability focuses on using and conserving natural resources wisely today so that future generations can meet their own needs when it’s their turn. Companies dedicated to sustainability may practice it in their manufacturing process, the products they create, or how their products are ultimately used.
Related words: Environmental sustainability, sustainable development, corporate responsibility, corporate citizenship, corporate conscience, responsible business.
02. ORGANIC COTTON.
What it means: Cotton grown without harmful chemicals (such as artificial pesticides or fertilizers) and produced in a way that promotes the fertility and natural recycling of the earth’s soil.
A deeper look: If a product claims to use organic cotton, check on its label for the “Global Organic Textile Standard.” GOTS certifies not only that at least 70% organically grown fibers are present, but that the entire processing chain has met strict standards that protect you, the workers creating the item, and the planet.
Find it in: Everything from bedding and bath towel sets to personal care items.
What it means: “Genetically modified organisms,” living organisms (like plants, animals, and bacteria) whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a lab—not out in nature. Growing evidence connects GMOs with environmental, health, and ethical issues.
A deeper look: You’ll often hear about GMOs in regard to food. But because it is the world’s primary crop for producing textiles, cotton has been genetically modified and is commonly used in a host of products. For people who prefer non-toxic certified organic cotton (like the kind used by Under the Canopy), it’s also important to look for the GOTS certification—which prohibits the use of GMOs.
Related words: Bioengineered, genetic engineering, gene-editing technology.
04. CONSCIOUS CONSUMPTION.
What it means: Actively taking into account the consequences your everyday purchases could have on the health of the earth and the people on it.
A deeper look: Among other things, becoming a more “conscious consumer” means doing research on a company to make sure it aligns with your beliefs (and holding it accountable); buying for quality; and investigating a product’s materials and looking for labels that certify its claims.
Related words: Conscious shopping, shopping ethically, thoughtful purchasing, socially conscious shopping.
05. FAIR TRADE.
What it means: Understanding that the products we buy and sell are connected to the livelihoods of others—and ensuring that all workers involved in those products have higher, “fairer” standards (such as a real living wage, no child labor, and a chance for small producers to participate in the global marketplace).
A deeper look: If you see a Fair Trade Certified™ label on a product’s packaging, you can be assured that rigorous environmental, social, and economic standards were met during its production.
Find it in: You name it! Clothing, coffee, baby blankets, shoes, flowers, and more.
What it means: When a company is open and upfront about the way it conducts business.
A deeper look: If a company is transparent about its operations, it helps you—the conscious consumer—decide if you want to do business with them. For example, if buying from a sustainable company is important to you, seeing that the company has third-party certification (from GOTS or the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®, for example) can help you determine if their eco claims are trustworthy.
Related words: Accessibility, traceability, openness, information disclosure, clarity, accuracy.
07. LOW-IMPACT DYES.
What it means: Dyes used the manufacture of textiles that have minimal impact on the environment. Unlike conventional dyes, they are non-toxic.
A deeper look: One benefit for you? Low-impact dyes are less likely to cause allergic reactions. Benefits for the earth? In the manufacturing process, they require less water and rinsing, plus they absorb better than conventional dyes, which doesn’t waste dye. Look for the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® mark to confirm if a purchase uses low-impact dyes.
Find it in: Any textile items with color—think bed sheets, home goods, even underwear and socks.
08. POST-CONSUMER RECYCLED CONTENT.
What it means: A product made from post-consumer recycled content is made from waste that’s been used by someone, disposed of, and then recovered from a landfill.
A deeper look: As an example, each organic comforter, pillow, and Euro pillow by Under the Canopy uses post-consumer recycled content: a soft, hypo-allergenic polyester fiberfill made from recycled plastic bottles. (And you can certify those type of claims by checking for the RSC—Recycled Claim Standard—label.)
Find it in: Pre-consumer, pre-industrial, and post-industrial recycled content.