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12 Sustainability Terms to Understand for a More Environmentally Conscious Lifestyle

Here at Bed Threads, we take sustainability seriously and are committed to providing you with luxurious linen without harming the environment so you can sleep — and live — peacefully. It's one of the reasons we chose to produce our buttery soft threads in 100 per cent French Flax Linen, because it's a fabric that needs less water and fewer pesticides to cultivate (plus, our packaging is even plastic-free).

But with so many sustainability terms being thrown around in the e-commerce space, it can be incredibly confusing to wrap your head around it all.

So, to help assist you in playing your part in the environment, we've laid out 12 of the most important sustainability terms you need to know about. Remember, every conscious decision you make can have a positive impact on future generations.

12 Sustainability Terms You Need to Know

1. Biodegradable

If a product is biodegradable, it means it's able to break down into carbon dioxide, water vapour and organic material by organisms like bacteria and fungi, all of which aren't harmful to the environment.

Linen is known as one of the most biodegradable fabrics. It's made from the flax plant fibres (one of the world's most sustainable plants), so when untreated, it's fully biodegradable and won't end up sitting in landfill or floating around in oceans. Unlike synthetic textiles like polyester, nylon and rayon, which can take between 20 to 200 years to fully decompose, linen can complete the process in as little as two weeks.

2. Carbon footprint

Carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by an individual or an organisation throughout the production, use and end-of-life of a product or service. If X company generates Y tonnes of carbon per year, Y is the carbon footprint of X.

3. Carbon neutral

Companies that are carbon neutral achieve zero net carbon emissions, which means the company offsets the amount of carbon they produce by removing carbon emissions elsewhere, or purchasing carbon credits. Companies that deal with carbon offsets will list these certifications on their website if they possess them, so it’s always wise to double-check to see if they have their strategy outlined.

We're 100 per cent carbon neutral, so we measure, reduce and offset greenhouse gas emissions where possible, doing our bit to protect and conserve the environment.

4. Carbon offset

Carbon offset refers to the reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. This can be achieved through the purchasing of carbon credits or the use of carbon reading schemes.

5. Greenhouse gas (GHG)

Greenhouse gas refers to the gases in the Earth’s atmosphere that trap heat. They allow sunlight to pass through the atmosphere, however, prevent the heat the sunlight brings from leaving the atmosphere. This causes climate change (think extreme weather, increased wildfires and disruption of food chains) and contributes to respiratory disease from the build-up of smog and air pollution.

6. Greenwashing

Greenwashing, also known as ‘green sheen’, refers to the form of marketing that falsely persuades the public into thinking a business is more interested in protecting the environment when it’s not.

To identity greenwashing, ensure a company provides adequate information that supports their eco-friendly claim. If no information is provided, then it’s probably a case of greenwashing.


OEKO-TEX is an internationally-recognised textile testing company — the Zürich-based International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology. OEKO-TEX has a range of worldwide standards with which it assesses fabrics to ensure that they're non-toxic to customers and are constantly updating them with new scientific knowledge that arises and with evolving requirements in the industry. OEKO-TEX will certify a fabric ‘Standard 100’ when they declare it safe for human use, according to their criteria (see more below on ‘Standard 100’). We're proudly OEKO-TEX 100 certified.

8. Overconsumption

Almost everything you use and everything we do involves natural or raw materials — like trees, gas, water, oil — that have been processed, transformed, bought, sold and so forth. Unfortunately, as the world has developed, our need for these raw materials has rapidly grown, thus, leading to overconsumption. So, overconsumption refers to the situation where the use of a natural resource has exceeded the sustainable capacity of a system. The result? It worsens the already-high levels of pollution and toxic gasses that contribute to global warming, destroying the ecosystem. It exhausts the planet's life support system and leaves us short of materials critical to our quality of life.

Growing flax plants requires 25 times less water and energy compared to other materials like cotton, which translates to less strain on the planet's resources. Plus, the parts of the flax plant that aren't used to produce linen are used elsewhere — the seeds can be used to produce linseed, oil and straw for a variety of products including animal feed, soaps and flooring — so no part is wasted.

9. Recyclable

Recyclable waste or materials can be given another life by turning them into new materials and objects. Recycling reduces wastage and thereby reducing energy usage, air pollution and water pollution.

Linen fibres are biodegradable and recyclable. Your linen bedding won’t negatively impact the environment, even after it has come to the end of its useful life.

10. Sustainability

Sustainability simply means meeting a need without compromising the ability of future needs. In relation to the environment, something sustainable will cause little to no damage to the environment and therefore be able to continue over a longer period of time.

11. Sustainable return on investment (S-ROI)

Sustainable return on investment is a performance measure used by individuals and organisations to evaluate the gains produced as a result of their sustainability initiatives relative to the amount of money invested in those initiatives. In layman's terms, a successful business must remain profitable even if it operates as environmentally friendly.

12. Standard 100

When a fabric is awarded a Standard 100 certification it means that it has been tested by OEKO-TEX for harmful substances such as formaldehyde, pentachlorophenol, nickel and more, and declared safe for human use. The certification is voluntary, meaning companies cannot pay to receive Standard 100 certification, and both the certification and the testing criteria are updated annually.

Liked this? Here are the 6 biggest recycling myths an expert wants you to stop believing.

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