8th January 2018 4 r's of sustainability

What is an eco-friendly product?

We think about what constitutes an eco-friendly product continuously. We’re always looking for new products and assessing them for whether they would be suitable to sell on ECO Arcade.

You’ll be relieved to hear that we don’t automatically believe every claim and make up our own mind based on a widely accepted 4 R’s of sustainability:

  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Replace
  • Recycle

Almost everything we do or use has an impact on the environment. We don’t want people to get too neurotic about their choices, however we aim to help make these choices relatively simple so people are reassured they are making a difference.4 r's of sustainability

Let’s understand the 4 R’s of sustainability and how they apply to products in more detail.

4 R’s of sustainability applied to eco-friendly products

These 4 R’s of sustainability underpin how we choose products.


Does the product reduce the use of energy and/or resources in production or use compared to other products used by others to do the same job.

This criteria covers a lot of products and product types. For example reusable travel mugs aren’t often overtly sold as an eco-friendly product but they are overwhelmingly better for the environment than plastic lined paper cups (even if they are recycled in the tiny number of facilities).

An electric or hybrid car reduces the amount of air pollution and is probably better for the environment than a petrol engine car over its lifetime.


In terms of sustainability, reuse implies that we try to reuse what we have. In terms of eco-friendly products we widen this to include products that reuse waste products or have been repurposed to a different use.

We stock bags that have been made out of recycled cotton off-cuts. This reuses a former waste material and makes something useful. We also stock garden lights made from recycled glass which reuses waste glass. This reduces the amount of energy needed to produce the item although a lot of glass is recycled anyway.


In the 4 R’s Replace means exchanging a polluting product for a more eco-friendly item that does the same job. Here there’s overlap with previous criteria.

Stick with us here but, although our eBikes use an electric motor, they can help replace polluting car journeys by encouraging perhaps reluctant cyclists to cycle more: See our range of ebikes here: eBikes at ECO Arcade

Another good example is Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs or LEDs versus Incandescent bulbs. Households and workplaces can spend 10 to 20% of their total power consumption on lighting and using these energy efficient bulbs instead saves money and energy with a payback time of only a couple of years.

Crucially they reduce the amount of energy needed for the same amount of light so are a very straightforward eco-friendly replacement of the old product type. Be wary of replacing certain high-impact materials though. For example cotton based Tote bags have to be used over 100 times to fully realise the benefit of swapping to this type of bag – How often should you reuse a cotton tote bag to be better for the environment than a plastic bag?


Many of our products use recycled materials such as our pussy cat bags etc. By using recycled materials these products reduce the amount of energy and resources needed to produce an item made from virgin material. See our recycled products here: Recycled products on ECO Arcade.

Other criteria we use for eco-friendly products

We also sell products such as toys that are not in themselves eco-friendly but help to educate or demonstrate renewable or alternative energy. They therefore can be made available on ECO Arcade.

We don’t currently stock any explicitly ethically produced or fair trade products but would be open to assessing these products.


Caveats do apply in all of our choices and we won’t get things right all the time. Sometimes the eco-friendly choice is clear and obvious, sometimes it’s a little more nuanced. There is currently no generic standard or Fair Trade type quality mark for eco-friendly products so we have go back to basic principles like the 4 Rs of sustainability.

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