The world's trusted guide to sustainable and ethical fashion

The world's trusted guide to sustainable and ethical fashion

What Does Sustainability Mean, Anyway?


In honor of Earth Day, instead of doing product roundups or event listings, I decided to do something more simple, and get back to the roots of what I do here on EcoCult. I wrote this post on what “sustainability” means for the sustainable fashion site Zady. Even though it’s not long, I hope it will give you some clarity–I use the word a lot, and I plan to refer back to this post often. 


  • “Involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources.” – Merriam Webster
  • “The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.” –
  • “Creating and maintaining the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations”. – International Institute for Sustainable Development
  • “Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.” – Oxford Dictionary

Sustainable. The terms “eco-friendly” and “green” have largely been shunted aside by the environmental community as vague, meaningless cop-outs, in favor of this more serious and academic alternative. You’ve been hearing it a lot (especially leading up to Earth Day–wow, it’s everywhere) but what does it mean?

As you can see from the definitions above, you could, in theory, examine a product or service to determine if it meets the standards of sustainability. Does it use up resources faster than they can be replenished? Does it harm the environment? And there are companies that conduct life-cycle assessments of products to determine just that.

But the adjective “sustainable” can be just misleading. For one thing, unlike the term “organic,” which is regulated under a strict set of standards by the USDA and requires an expensive and lengthy certification process, there is nothing stopping a company from slapping the word “sustainable” on their packaging and press releases.

Read the rest on Zady.

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