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What Does Eco-Friendly Really Mean?

African American women buys cereals in the sustainable store

With so much happening to Mother Nature, we all try to be more sustainable when we shop. But with all those eco terms thrown around it becomes a challenge to figure out what is really good for the environment.

We often come across words like eco, sustainable, organic, vegan, cruelty-free, zero-waste, etc. when we shop. And no doubt, many of us that try to be a little more sustainable, grab those green-labeled products without any back thoughts. But have you ever asked yourself what all those eco terms actually mean and what impact they have on the environment? We at Moincoins support sustainable shopping and we want to make sure that you grasp the exact meaning behind each term. To help you make easier and more transparent shopping decisions, we’ve decided to create this short glossary. Check it out so you can read behind the tags and evaluate each brand’s ethics.

Eco terms cheat sheet


Organic means that goods are produced without using prohibited chemicals like synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or other harmful substances. The fundamentals of all things organic lie in organic farming which aims to deliver the best natural quality of goods by means of eco-friendly practices. That’s why organic products can only be labeled if they’re grown on healthy, chemical-free crops. Organic farming is supported and also strictly controlled by the USDA, so you can be sure that the term doesn’t get misused. Organic certification can be applied to all kinds of products, starting from food to clothing to makeup. So when you buy organic honey or a shirt made of 100% organic cotton, you definitely help to make a good change to the global production order.

Green vs eco-friendly

These two words are following us on every product shelf, they are very similar in meaning, yet often misused. “Green” is a broad, more casual term related to every practice that generally benefits the environment and the people around it. “Eco” is more specific - it means “not harmful to the environment”. But, it doesn’t necessarily imply that good is produced with nature in mind. To express this even more specific meaning, we need to clarify one more definition. Let’s jump to the next paragraph.


When a product is characterized as sustainable it means that it is produced in a way that doesn’t affect the natural resources of current and future generations. Sustainable brands are not compromising the environment for profit and are trying to minimize all devastating factors on the local and global scale. Of course, we should understand that it’s pretty much impossible to produce goods without any kind of negative impact on the Planet and its inhabitants and that “sustainability” can be very limited, e.g. touch only one element of the production cycle.

At Moincoins, we use the term “sustainable” in relation to the environmental decisions we make as humans. We’re all about sustainability when it comes to shopping, that is why we created an eco category where we highlight the best eco-friendly deals from the green stores.


Most probably you’ve just thought of coffee, didn’t you? And you weren’t wrong, but there’s a little more to that. Fairtrade started with coffee, but now many more certified products are marked with this easily recognizable blue and green mark. In principle, fair trade is about better standards of working conditions, prices, local sustainability, decent salaries and fair trade terms. Don’t confuse “fairtrade” (one word) with “fair trade” (two words). The second one is a general term, anyone can use it and put a different meaning in it.

Ethical vs ethical shopping vs fairtrade

“Ethical” is more of a philosophy, implying that the way a product is produced and purchased demonstrates respect both for the workers and the Planet, it’s also about the decency of human behavior and moral principles. But if we take “ethical shopping”, for example, this can be defined as a practice of purchasing goods that aims to minimize the negative impact on the society and environment in the understanding of this one particular person. It’s hard to globalize this definition since one’s moral principles can differ. And fairtrade is to some extent ethical because it imposes fair standards, but in the end, it’s more of a certification. Ethics is a state of mind, we shouldn’t mix them up: a brand can be ethical but not fairtrade certified.

Zero waste

The concept of zero waste goes beyond recycling or reusing. It affects the processes of how a product was produced, is being consumed and will later be disposed of. In order to reduce waste that goes to landfills, products need to be redesigned, taking into consideration packaging and other materials that will be discarded after usage. Zero waste echoes a bit impossible to you, right? We know we live in a world full of packaging, but there are already many companies that are working towards zero-waste practices, e.g. Subaru, Toyota, Google, Ethique, Seed and Bean and many more. To embrace the idea of zero-waste living both brands and consumers need to radically change their waste habits - eliminate, reduce, reuse, compost, and recycle as much as possible.

Vegan vs cruelty-free

Vegan means that the product you’re holding does not contain any animal or animal-derived ingredients. Cruelty-free signifies that no animal testing was applied at any stage of production. Many companies indeed don’t test their final products on animals, but the ingredients they use can be everything, but not cruelty-free certified. Keep one thing in mind, vegan doesn’t necessarily mean cruelty-free. Check the packaging for ingredients and if you get in trouble reading those, check for the app that will do everything for you, there are plenty of those available nowadays.

How to shop smartly and sustainably?

Eco-friendly shopping is gaining in popularity in recent years, given the increasing awareness of the negative impact production has on the environment. What we should understand is that the responsibility lies not only with the brands but also with us consumers who set the demand for all those products. We don’t say you need to stop shopping or immediately switch to green brands, no. Start small, for example on your next grocery shopping, choose to pack everything in an eco-friendly shopping bag instead of a plastic one. Ask yourself what else you can do to make a change, maybe you don’t need that new polyester-made hoody, maybe you can use a beeswax wrap instead of a plastic bag to pack your sandwich. We at Moincoins will support your green efforts by offering you a big selection of eco-friendly deals from those sustainable brands you like.

If you’re already on your path to becoming an environmentally responsible shopper, just make sure you do your own research, know what all those eco labels mean and choose to shop, save and clear your karma.