The terms are very closely tied together. I would say that “Green” is an overarching term that can mean almost anything. Unfortunately, many companies that claim to be green, clean, and/or sustainable are advertising with unfounded claims to entice more customers into buying their products. So, it is important to shop carefully and make yourself aware of what labels actually mean something and what labels are just slapped onto the side of products to make them look more attractive. I have included a link to a website that can help you do this.
“Clean” would ideally mean that the company does not spew lots of pollutants out into the atmosphere. “Sustainable” would mean that the company has carefully planned its business operations so that it does not consume non-renewable resources or deplete renewable resources so badly that they cannot be regenerated. However, there is no legal definition of these terms for their use on product labels.
There tend to be some differences between the terms green, clean, sustainable, and eco-friendly. Clean typically means that there is less pollution emitted in the manufacturing process, or none at all. Clean can refer to older technology that has been improved or new technology, but is typically used in relation to benefits for human health.
Sustainable incorporates the triple bottom line, which is a balance between economic benefit, environmental quality, and human wellbeing. Green can also be used as a synonym for sustainability, but is typically more focused on the environment. Green can also be associated with cost savings, but it isn’t as associated with social aspects like sustainability is. The same goes for eco-friendly (mostly used to communicate environmental benefits). Sustainability is the most all-encompassing term.
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