top of page

Unfamiliar with a term? Confused by sustainability jargon? So am I, much of the time! So we compiled this A – Z list to ensure common baseline understanding...



Aerial spray (noun): a liquid or matter that is driven through the air in the form of tiny drops or particles, through the use of an aerial device. Usually the term refers to crop dusting acts where airplanes are used to spread pesticides, fungicides, or fertilizers into agricultural crops; but the term can also refer to instances where flames retardants are used to combat fires. 

Aerosol (noun): the suspension of solid particles and/or liquid droplets within a gas. This word can refer to both aerosol sprays that can release these substances by use of a propellant gas or a solid/liquid solution that is suspended by a solvent/medium. Aerosols can be particulate, or biological. Pollen, bacteria, spores, and volatile organic compounds are biological aerosols. Soot, smog and ash are particulate aerosols. Particulate and biological matter that are in the air are aerosols of the atmosphere. 

Agricultural waste (noun): byproducts or material eliminated or discarded by agricultural production, including but not limited to: biological, hazardous, solid, and water waste. Some examples are nutrient depleted soil, excrement and pesticide runoff water, unusable and usable biomass.

Air pollution (noun): air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials into the atmosphere from either man made or natural sources. Greenhouse gases are a form of air pollution. Tropospheric ozone is the result of air pollution and is believed to cause respiratory health problems such as asthma. 

Air quality (noun): the degree to which the ambient air is free contaminants, this is addressed by measuring indicators of pollution.

Alternative energy (noun): energy generated from/through alternative or substitute sources or practices of energy to traditional sources. Modern energy alternatives to conventional energy are solar, wind, geo-thermal and tidal energy. 

Annual consumption (noun): the quantity of resources consumed per year by a population.

Anthropogenic (adj): originated, made or resulting from human activity, as opposed to a natural origin. Contrast Biogenic. 

Appreciative Inquiry (noun): a philosophy of organizational assessment and change that seeks examples of success to emulate and organizational or personal strengths to build upon, rather than focusing upon fixing negative or ineffective organizational processes.

Bamboo (noun): a fast growing, hollow, giant woody grass that grows chiefly in the tropics, where it is widely cultivated. Fields of application for bamboo are varied.

Bio-Based product/Bioproduct (noun): a product (other than food or feed) that is composed of biological products or renewable agricultural materials( including plant, animal and marine), or forestry materials.

Bioaccumulation (noun): the increase in concentration of a chemical in organisms that reside in environments contaminated with concentrations of various organic compounds. Chemicals absorbed in bioaccumulation are unlikely to be decomposed, broken down, or degraded faster than they are absorbed in either the environment or the organism. See also BIOMAGNIFICATION

Biodegradable (adj): capable of being disposed of by bacteria or other biological agents. Often time constraints are not noted when biodegradable is used to describe the lifespan of products. (I) The two main classifications of biodegradable plastics are hydro-biodegradable (HBP) and oxo-biodegradable (OBP).

Biodiesel (noun):refers to a vegetable oil- or animal fat-based diesel fuel. Biodiesel is typically made by chemically reacting specified lipids with an alcohol. Biodiesel is meant to be used in standard diesel engines and is thus distinct from the vegetable and waste oils used to fuel converted diesel engines. Combustion engines can be modified to run on biodiesel, but may not meet emission standards in certain states. Due to government subsidies on nonrenewable petroleum, foreign gas is often as expensive as domestically made biodiesel in the United States. 

Biodiversity (noun): the variety of organisms found within a specified  geographic region. The degree to which living organisms vary, as within and between species or within and between ecosystems. Maintaining biodiversity is necessary to preserve the health and survival of an ecosystem.

Biodynamic (adj): a method of organic crop cultivation that takes into account such factors as lunar phases, planetary cycles, and the interrelationship of soil, plants, and animals

Biofuel (noun): gaseous or liquid materials produced from plant material or biomass with a useful enough energy content/density to be used as an energy source. Seen as an alternative to conventional gasoline in automated vehicles. An example is bioethanol.

Biogenic (adj): changes in the environment resulting from the activities of living organisms. Contrast anthropogenic. 

Biomagnification (noun): the sequence of processes in an ecosystem by which higher concentrations of a particular chemical, such as the pesticide DDT, accumulate in organisms higher up the food chain, generally through a series of prey-predator relationships. The highest members in the food chain are most likely to suffer toxic levels of pollutants from successively consuming lower level members that have bioaccumulated toxins. Humans living near mercury contaminated fishing areas are at the greatest risk of mercury poisoning due to the fact that they are the highest order consumers in the seafood biomagnification scheme. It is hardest to commercially produce the meat of a heterotroph in a organically because of biomagnification. 

Biomass (noun): living or recently-dead organic material that can be used as an energy source, excludes organic material that has been transformed by geological processes (such as coal or petroleum).

Biome (noun): a major regional or global biotic community characterized chiefly by the dominant forms of plant life and prevailing climate. (I) Primarily the Northern biome of Southern America is characterized as tropic rain forest whereas most of the North African biome is characterized as xeric shrubland. 

Biomimicry (noun):  a design discipline that studies nature's elements, processes and designs and uses artificial practices to emulate, or reproduce these naturally occurring products, which can serve as solutions to human problems. Chitin is an example as a molecule that is artificially produced into a biodegradable surgical thread, where it naturally found in the exoskeletons of cicadas. The Nature's 100 best is a list of biomimicked inventions.

Biosphere (noun): the part of the earth and it's atmosphere capable of supporting life. 

Bioswales (noun): are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. They consist of a hallowed or lowered drainage course with gently sloped sides filled with vegetation, compost, and/or rubble. The water's flow path, along with the wide and shallow ditch, is designed to maximize the time water spends in the swale, which aids the trapping of pollutants and silt. Biological factors also contribute to the breakdown of certain pollutants. A common application is around parking lots, where substantial automotive pollution is collected by the paving and then flushed by rain. The bioswale, or other type of biofilter, wraps around the parking lot and treats the runoff before releasing it to the watershed or storm sewer.

Black water (noun): waste water from toilets. compare with gray water.

BPA (Bisphenol A)(noun): bisphenol A is an organic compound used primarily to make plastics. It is a key monomer in production of epoxy resins and in the most common form of polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate plastic, which is clear and nearly shatter-proof, is used to make a variety of common products including baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs, and household electronics. BPA is also used in the synthesis of polysulfones and polyether ketones, as an antioxidant in some plasticizers, and as a polymerization inhibitor in PVC. Epoxy resins containing bisphenol A are used as coatings on the inside of almost all food and beverage cans. At least 8 billion pounds of BPA are used by manufacturers annually. 

Carbon Footprint (noun): the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted directly or indirectly through an activity, or from a product, company or person, typically expressed in equivalent tons of either carbon or carbon dioxide. You can calculate your carbon foot print here Google has a map application that calculates the amount of CO2 you emit from using different types of transportation; options include public transportation, personal driving, and the most benign option, walking. 

Carbon neutral (noun): entity or person who manages resources to counteract carbon produced by certain actions. Achieving carbon neutrality means measuring the carbon emissions for an identified product, service or company, by offsetting emissions or green restoration or enhancement. It is theorized that combustible fuels that are produced by algae will be carbon neutral, as they intake CO2 and produce a fuel that when combusted will emit CO2.

Carbon offsets (noun): credits private companies can purchase to help the environment or counter degradation caused by human activity. See EMISSIONS TAX.

Carbon Sequestration (noun): removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through natural or artificial processes. Natural sequestration occurs in the carbon cycle when plants or other carbon dioxide consumers(algae, phytoplankton) also known as carbon sinks use carbon dioxide in their growth processes. In the example of trees as natural sequesters, carbon dioxide removal can be promoted by afforestation. An example of artificial sequestration is the use of carbon scrubbers to prevent carbon from entering the atmosphere. 

Carcinogen (noun): A chemical substance or type of radiation that can cause cancer when exposed to humans or animals. 

Carpool (noun): an arrangement between people to make a regular journey in a single vehicle, typically with each person taking turns to drive the others.

Certified organic (adj): produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents. Often certified by governments and non-profit agencies in the attempt to maintain adequate standards. In the United States the acting regulation board is the United States Department of Agriculture(USDA). Note that the term when used in marketing, advertising, packaging, or labeling is almost entirely unregulated without the certification of reputable organization.

CFL(compact fluorescent light bulbs) (noun): a fluorescent light with a longer life span and more efficient energy consumption than incandescent light. Most designs radiate a light described popularly as 'soft white.' The fact that these lights are made from mercury complicates their clean disposal. 

Climate Change (noun): refers to a statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate or in its variability, persisting for an extended period. Climate change is a change in the 'average weather' that a given region experiences. When we speak of climate change on a global scale, we are referring to changes in the climate of the Earth as a whole, including temperature increases (global warming) or decreases, and shifts in wind.

Closed-loop Recycling (noun): the process of utilizing a recycled product in the manufacturing of a similar product or the remanufacturing of the same product. This is improvement of used products to meet new standards. See REMANUFACTURING.

CO2(Carbon dioxide) (noun): a colorless, odorless gas produced through both natural and unnatural processes. Instances include burning carbon, burning, organic compounds, combustion of carbon based fuels, decomposition and respiration. It is absorbed by plants in the process of photosynthesis. It is a normal gaseous constituent of the atmosphere. 

Compostable (adj): is the chemical dissolution of materials by bacteria or other biological means.Often products consisting of biodegradable and nonbiodegradable elements are marketed as compostable.

Consignment (adj) :  placing any material in the hand of another, but retaining ownership until the goods are sold.  Consignment stores are easy to find and a great way to buy pre-owned.

Conscious capitalism (noun): is a term used to describe a capitalist system that seeks to be aware of the effects of its actions, and to consciously affect human beings and the environment in a beneficial way. Conscious capitalism also refers to a movement towards values-based economic value, where values represent social and environmental concerns globally as well as locally.

Conventional (noun): Agreed, stipulated or traditionally accepted standards, habits, belief social norms or criteria, often taking the form of a custom. In a social context, a convention may retain the character of an "unwritten" law of custom. Concerned with what is generally held to be acceptable at the expense of individuality and sincerity.

Cost-benefit analysis (noun): relating to or denoting a process that assesses the relation between the cost of an undertaking and the value of the resulting benefits. Cost-benefit analyses are under taken to reduce wasted costs, and in this way they are naturally oriented towards conservation of resources. Before the green movement the cafeteria had already made many cost-benefit analyses to reduce input costs, now those actions are seen as frugal attempts to avoid food waste. 

Cradle-to-cradle (noun): A design philosophy put forth by architect William McDonough that considers the life-cycle of a material or product. Cradle-to-Cradle design models human industry on nature's processes, in which materials are viewed as nutrients circulating in healthy metabolisms where as in the real world are able to be recycled or reused. Basic principle behind William McDonough and Michael Braungart's book by the same name.

CSR (noun): corporate self regulation integrated into a business model. CSR policy functions as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards, and international norms. The goal of CSR is to embrace responsibility for the company's actions and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the sphere.

Daylighting (noun): low-tech way to make a home greener, daylighting uses strategically placed windows, skylights and light tubes in order to maximize natural daylight and minimize the need for artificial lighting.

DDT (noun): a synthetic organic compound introduced in the 1940s and used as an insecticide. Like other chlorinated aromatic hydrocarbons(organochlorines), DDT tends to persist in the environment and become concentrated in animals at the head of the food chain, through the process of biomagnification. In 1962 Rachel Carson challenged the use of pesticides when the environmental impacts weren't fully evaluated in her book 'Silent Spring.' Its use is now banned in most developed countries. The US banned DDT in 1972. The Endangered Species Act cites the ban as a major factor in the comeback of the American Eagle.

Deforestation (noun): the conversion of forested land to other non-forested uses by the removal and destruction of trees and habitat. Deforestation is cited as one of the major contributors to global warming, as the destruction of carbon sequestering plants reduces the ability for the environment to cycle carbon dioxide. 

Degradation (noun): the separation of a chemical compound into elements or simpler compounds. The stability that a chemical compound ordinarily has is eventually limited when exposed to extreme environmental conditions like heatradiationhumidity or the acidity of a solvent. The details of decomposition processes are generally not well defined, as a molecule may break up into a host of smaller fragments.

Dematerialize (noun): the reduction of mass in a product that does not diminish quality or intended service for the consumer.  The absolute or relative reduction in the quantity of materials required to serve economic functions in society. In common terms, dematerialization means doing more with less. Dematerialization serves as a counterargument to economic idea that 'more is better.'

Design for the Environment(DFE) (noun): a philosophy applied to the design process that advocates the reduction of environmental and human health impacts through materials selection and design strategies.

Dirty 30: List of 30 common synthetic chemical ingredients to avoid when choosing products because many have been linked to cancer and many have already been banned in the EU [Dirty 30

Downcycle (verb): is the process of converting or recycling waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of lesser quality and reduced functionality. The goal of downcycling is to prevent wasting potentially useful materials, reduce consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution and water pollution, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin production. Downcycling is an consequence in recycling where the materials products are made of are unable to be used to remake the product. A clear example is plastic recycling, which turns the material into lower grade plastics

Eco-friendly (adj): is a term used to refer to goods and serviceslaws, guidelines and policies claimed to inflict minimal or no harm on the environment. Companies sometimes use these terms to promote goods and services by making environmental marketing claims and with eco-labels. The use of the term to promote products is vague and the use of the term as a marketing promotion is discouraged by the International Standards Organization.

Ecometrics (noun): the quantification of a company's environmental performance over time. Ecometrics defines economic and environmental issues and seeks to find solutions through developed study. Ecometrics measures materials and energy inputs and outputs for use in benchmarking and monitoring environmental progress. The development of mathematical models is central to the discipline, major advances having been made in model formulation, data gathering, estimation hypothesis testing and computation. 

EcoRenaissance (noun): The transition from a conventional age of limited environmental activism to a modern age, where there are environmentally conscious pursuits in all intellectual arenas including politics, society, economics and art. 

Ecoroof (noun): is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier and drainage and irrigation systems. Ecoroofs serve several purposes for a building, such as absorbing rainwater, providing insulation, creating a habitat for wildlife, and helping to lower urban air temperatures and combat the heat island effect. There are two types of ecoroofs: intensive roofs, which are thicker and can support a wider variety of plants but are heavier and require more maintenance, and extensive roofs, which are covered in a light layer of vegetation and are lighter than an intensive green roof.

Ecosystem (noun): the natural interacting biotic and abiotic members of a habitat. Biotic factors can be animals, microorganisms, plants, fungi, and other living factors. Abiotic factors can be chemical-physical factors such as soil content, solar irradiation, and other non-living factors. Each ecosystem is defined by biome and habitat, examples of ecosystems are marine, subterranean, and forest. 


Efficient (adj): achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense working in a well-organized and competent way. Preventing the wasteful use of a particular resource.

Elasticity of Demand (noun): is a measure used in economics to show the responsiveness, or elasticity, of the quantity demanded of a good or service to a change in its price. More precisely, it gives the percentage change in quantity demanded in response to a one percent change in price (holding constant all the other determinants of demand, such as income). Inelastic demand is the instance where demand is maintained in response to a significant change in price, whereas elastic demand is the instance where demand is responsive to price.

Emission Reduction Credit (ERC) /Carbon Offset: an emission reduction credit represents avoided or reduced emissions often measured in tons. ERCs are generated from projects or activities that reduce or avoid emissions. A carbon offset refers to a specific type of ERC that represents an activity that avoids or reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.

Emissions (noun): the discharge of pollutant gases, liquids or particles into the general atmosphere.

Emissions cap/standard (noun): the maximal legal amount of a particular pollutant that may be released into the air from a pollutant source. The cap/standard depends upon the type of pollutant, the location of the source, the quality of the surrounding area, and the emissions standards imposed by the regulatory government. 

Endocrine disruptor (noun): chemical pollutants that have the ability to substitute, or interfere with, natural endocrine(hormone) systems within organisms. Exposures can lead to reproductive malfunctions, developmental malfunctions. Contrast neurotoxin.

Energy Efficiency (noun): using less energy to fulfill the same function or purpose; usually attributed to a technological fix rather than a change in behavior, examples include using building insulation to reduce heating / cooling demand, compact fluorescent bulbs to replace incandescent, or proper tire inflation to improve gas mileage.

Energy efficient (adj): is the goal of efforts to reduce the amount of energy required to provide products and services. For example, insulating a home allows a building to use less heating and cooling energy to achieve and maintain a comfortable temperature. Installing fluorescent lights or natural skylights reduces the amount of energy required to attain the same level of illumination compared to using traditional incandescent light bulbsCompact fluorescent lights use two-thirds less energy and may last 6 to 10 times longer than incandescent lights. Improvements in energy efficiency are most often achieved by adopting a more efficient technology or production process.

Energy Star (noun): government-backed initiative to promote energy efficiency. Household products can earn the Energy Star label for saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Energy.

Environmentally friendly (eco-friendly): terms used to refer to goods and services, laws, guidelines and policies claimed to inflict minimal or no harm to the environment.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): a report required by the National  Environmental Policy Act detailing the consequences associated with a proposed major federal action significantly effecting the environment. 

Environmental justice/equity (noun): a merger of social forces that combines the civil right movement with environmental protection to demand a safe and healthy environment for all, regardless of economic status, gender, or ethnicity. The extent to which all people from any region receive equal treatment under environmental statues. regulations, and practices.

Environmental stewardship: to look after, maintain, or manage environmental issues.+

Environmentally Preferred Products (EPP): products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. This comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance and/or disposal of the product or service.

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) (noun): a federal agency created by the US government in 1970 with the purpose of protecting the environment to the fullest extent possible under the laws enacted by the US congress. It's mandate was to mount an integrated , coordinated attack on environmental pollution and degradation in conjunction with state and local governments. It at once became responsible for the original federal programs that were created to combat air and water pollution, solid waste disposal,  pesticide registration, toxic substances, radiation standards, noise control, and EIS procedures.

EPP Certification (noun): process by which products or services are certified as Environmentally Preferred Products (EPPs). The certification addresses all stages of the product's/service's life-cycle, incorporates key environmental and human health issues relevant to the category(alike an EIA), and undergoes outside stakeholder review.

Fair trade (noun): an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries create better trading and social conditions and promote sustainability. The movement advocates higher social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably agricultural products such as coffee. 

Food and Drug administration (FDA) a federal agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through regulating the quality and safety of foods, food colors and additives, cosmetics, tobacco productsdietary supplementsprescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugsvaccinesbiopharmaceuticalsblood transfusionsmedical deviceselectromagnetic radiation emitting devices, veterinary products, and cosmetics. Established in 1938. 

Food pyramid/plate (noun): is a triangular or pyramid-shaped nutrition guide divided into sections to show the recommended intake for each food group. The most widely known food pyramid was introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1992, was updated in 2005, and then replaced in 2011 by MyPyramid.

Food web (noun): the linking and interlinking of food chains into an ecosystem with several trophic levels. 

Formaldehyde (noun): glue in particleboard, fiberboard, plywood and coatings on fabrics, draperies, also in some paints and foam. In view of its widespread use, toxicity and volatility, exposure to formaldehyde is a significant consideration for human health. In 2011, the US National Toxicology Program has described formaldehyde as "known to be a human carcinogen".+

Fossil Fuel (noun): a naturally occurring fuel such as coal, oil, and natural gas(the major three) in the form of an organic sedimentary deposit that contains carbon or hydrocarbon. Are produced from the decomposition of fossilized remains of plants and animals and can be combusted for use as energy. Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources that are finite in quantity and inelastic in the consumer economy. Substitute forms of energy are being sought. 

Fossil water (noun): the same as Paleowater

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): is an international not-for-profit, multi-stakeholder organization established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world's forests. Its main tools for achieving this are standard setting, independent certification and labeling of forest products. This offers customers around the world the ability to choose products from socially and environmentally responsible forestry.

Fragrance: Also known as parfum, it is a common chemical used in conventional products to mask or add scent to a product.  Labels can say simply fragrance and so could contain between 10-300 different chemicals that may not have been tested for safety and which could be carcinogenic or could be linked to the disruption of hormones or be highly toxic to one's immune system. [Campaign for Safe Cosmetics].

Genetic Engineering:  A novel technology that is fundamentally changing the genetic makeup of numerous crops, animals, trees, and insects-and forever altering our food supply.  Scientists have found that the introduction of genetically engineered and modified plants, insects, fish and other mammals could lead to widespread species extinctions. –Truth in Labeling Coalition

Global Warming (noun): refers to a specific type of climate change, an increased warming of the Earth's atmosphere caused by the buildup of man-made green house gases that trap the sun's heat, causing changes in weather patterns and other effects on a global scale. These effects include global sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns and frequency, habitat loss and droughts.

Glocal (adj): refers to the individual, group, division, unit, organization, and community which is willing and able to think globally and act locally. It describes people, places, and things that consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities and cities

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO): An organism whose genetic makeup has been deliberately altered by inserting a modified gene or gene from another variety or species, in order to create or enhance desirable characteristics from the same or another species. 

Gray Water (noun): the relatively clean wastewater generated from domestic activities such as laundry washing, dishwashing, and bathing, which can be recycled on-site for uses such as landscape irrigation and constructed wetlands.

Green (noun): is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements. Environmentalism advocates the preservation, restoration and/or improvement of the natural environment, and may be referred to as a movement to control pollution. Note that the term when used in marketing, advertising, packaging, or labeling is almost entirely unregulated.

Green Building (noun): a comprehensive process of design and construction that employs techniques to minimize adverse environmental impacts and reduce the energy consumption of a building, while contributing to the health and productivity of its occupants; common metrics for evaluating green buildings include the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and Australia's Green Star program. Facets of a green building can include passive or active solar heating systems, grey water reuse systems, or ecoroofs.

Green business (noun): business that employs eco-friendly processes to reduce its carbon footprint, like alternative power sourcing, paper reduction, recycling, use of recycled materials, water and energy efficiency practices, and reuse of gray water. These businesses might not work towards environmental advancements but practice in an environmentally conscious manner. 

Green Collar (adj): descriptive of  a class of jobs or careers that are relative or contribute beneficially to the green movement.

Greenhouse Effect(noun): the trapping of heat within the Earth's atmosphere by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which accumulate in Earth's atmosphere and act as a blanket keeping heat in.

Greenhouse Gases (GHG) (noun): these gases are so named because they contribute to the greenhouse effect due to high concentrations of these gases remaining in the atmosphere. The GHGs of most concern include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxides (N2O).

Green Revolution: Beginning in the 1940s, the Green Revolution refers to the increase in agriculture production worldwide due to new technologies such as synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and hybridized seeds.  The Green Revolution decreased biodiversity significantly and cancer rates increased dramatically in rural farmlands.

Greenwashing (noun): the process by which a company publicly and misleadingly exaggerates, embellishes, or labels the environmental attributes of itself or its products, while participating in environmentally- or socially-irresponsible practices.

Habitat (noun): is an ecological or environmental area that is inhabited by a particular species of animalplant or other type of organism. It is the natural or physical environment in which an organism or species population lives.

Hazardous waste (noun): any waste that is classified as hazardous under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regulations. Hazardous wastes result from industrial processes, or from unused chemical resources. To qualify as hazardous, waste must be significant threat to human health or safety. This is usually because the waste is toxic, ignitable, corrosive, or reactive.

Hemp (noun): the cannabis plant, especially when grown for fiber. The fiber of this plant, extracted from the stem and used for industrial purposes including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, health food and fuel. Recently hemp has been employed in the economy with considerable commercial success.

Herbicide (noun): a chemical agent(often synthetic) capable of killing or causing damage to certain plants(usually directed at weeds) without significantly disrupting other animal or plant communities.

Herbivore (noun): an animal that feeds on plants. 

Hybrid (noun): a thing made by combining two different elements, a mixture. (Biology) the offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties, such as a mule (a hybrid of a donkey and a horse).(Vehicle) a vehicle that uses two or more distinct power sources to move the vehicle.The term most commonly refers to hybrid electric vehicles(HEVs), which combine an internal combustion engine and one or more electric motors.

Hypoallergenic (adj): relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.

Indoor Air Quality (noun): refers to the contents of interior air that could affect the health and comfort of occupants. Acceptable IAQ is air in which there are no known concentrations of harmful contaminants .

Industrial Ecology (noun): an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the sustainable combination of environment, economy, and technology.

Insecticide (noun): a chemical agent used, either natural or synthetic used to kill or inhibit the growth or development of insects. 

Intensive (adj): concentrated on a single area or subject or into a short time; very thorough or vigorous. aiming to achieve the highest possible level of production within a limited area, especially by using chemical and technological aids. concentrating on or making much use of a specified thing. Expressing intensity; giving force or emphasis. Denoting a property that is measured in terms of intensity (e.g., concentration) rather than of extent (e.g., volume), and so is not simply increased by addition of one thing to another.

International Organization for Standardization(IOS) (noun): an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations. Founded in 1947, the organization promulgates worldwide proprietary, industrial and commercial standards. It has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Karmic capitalism(inclusive capitalism) (noun): a philosophy that the sum of an organization's actions in this and previous states of existence, are eligible to decide their fate in future existences.


Landfill (noun): an area where solid or solidified waste materials from municipal or industrial sources are buried or collected. 

Leaching (noun): the process by which soluble materials are washed out and removed from the soil, ore, or buried waste.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDª): an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies intended to improve performance in metrics and performance criteria such as energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies intended to improve performance in metrics such as energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. 

Life Cycle Assessment/Environmental impact Assessment (LCA/EIA) (noun): the study of the effects of a product or activity through each stage of it's life including inception, manufacture, distribution, use, and disposal; often however the direct and indirect impacts of a product or activity are difficult to fully quantify. A science-based tool for comparing the environmental performance of two or more scenarios. LCA quantifies the potential environmental impacts of products or systems throughout their life cycles, and can highlight a productÕs impact areas to target strategic improvements.

Lifecycle (noun): the series of changes or stages that products, activities, and organisms undergo as they pass from creation to disposal. Conventionally the stages in a productÕs lifecycle are manufacture, transport, stockpile, purchase, consumption, and disposal. 

Local (adj): belonging or relating to a particular area or neighborhood, typically exclusively so, relating to a particular region or part, or to each of any number of these.

Locavore (noun): one who chooses to eat locally produced food, as to lessen the environmental impact and conserve resources

Low emissions (noun): producing a low amount of discharged substances or emissions. See EMISSIONS.

Low flow (adj): plumbing fixtures, including faucets, toilets and showerheads, that are efficient with the amount of water used to satisfy a task. Also a phenomenon that occurs where river depth is below the average, which occurs in dry periods or droughts.


Mercury (noun): a heavy metal element that is liquid at room temperature. It is naturally or anthropogenically released into the environment. When at room temperature it is toxic. It does not biodegrade naturally and can remain in the environment indefinetly, and therefore can easily bioaccumulate. It can be biotransformed into various states, and can be highly toxic of swallowed or inhaled. It is used in compact fluorescent lights, and thermometers.  

Mitigate (verb): the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something. To minimize or avoid the negative effects. This might be achieved by the rectification of the the impact by repairing the affected area, reducing the impact by taking protective steps, or compensating for the impact.

Mutagen (noun): an agent, such as radiation or a chemical substance, that has the ability to cause a genetic mutation. See also CARCINOGEN.

Nanoparticle (noun): particles used in cosmetics because they penetrate the skin easily and may accumulate in body tissue. This penetration into skin can possibly cause cell damage and gene damage. The European Union is demanding label of products where nanoparticles are present but the US is not. Read more at NPR and the EDF.

National Organic Program(NOP): is the federal regulatory framework governing organic food. It is also the name of the organization in the Department ofvAgriculture (USDA) responsible for administering and enforcing the regulatory framework. The Organic Food Production Act of 1990 required that the USDA develop national standards for organic products. NOP regulations cover in detail all aspects of food production, processing, delivery and retail sale. Under the NOP, farmers and food processors who wish to use theword "organic" in reference to their businesses and products, must be certified organic. A USDA Organic seal identifies products with at least 95% organic ingredients.

Natural Capital (noun): is the extension of the economic notion of capital to goods and services relating to the natural environment. Natural capital is thus the stock of naturalecosystems that yields a flow of valuable ecosystem goods or services into the future. For example, a stock of trees or fish provides a flow of new trees or fish, a flow which can be indefinitely sustainable. Natural capital may also provide services like recycling wastes or water catchment and erosion control. Since the flow of services from ecosystems requires that they function as whole systems, the structure and diversity of the system are important components of natural capital. The idea of natural capital expands economic models to include natural resources that have value to humanity but no inherent price.

Natural gas (noun): a mixture of of gaseous hydrocarbons(fossil fuel), chiefly methane , ethane, propane, and butane which is trapped in porous rocks beneath the ground and is often found with reserves of oil. A clean burning fuel (without producing a smoke or soot) that has a high heat value. It provides for a third of America's consumed energy. It is transported across water in a liquefied form and is transported municipally by pipeline. It is one of the major fossil fuels. 

Natural resource (noun): any portion or feature of the natural environment such as the atmosphere, water, soil, forest, wildlife, land, minerals, or other environmental asset that is of value in meeting human demand. Natural resources can be renewable or non-renewable.

Natural (adj): existing in or caused by nature or natural processes. Note that the term when used in marketing, advertising, packaging, or labeling is almost entirely unregulated.

Neurotoxin (noun): a substance that can damage, poison, or destroy nerve tissues or cells. Botulism, mercury, and lead are common examples of neurotoxins. 

Neurotoxicity: occurs when the exposure to natural or artificial toxic substances, which are called neurotoxins, alters the normal activity of the nervous system in such a way as to cause damage to nervous tissue. This can eventually disrupt or even kill neurons, key cells that transmit and process signals in the brain and other parts of the nervous system 

Non-degradable (adj): describes an organic compound or substance that is not decomposed or metabolized by the routine mechanisms that lead to the destruction of materials in the natural environment. Some materials described as nondegradable will eventually be degraded under the influence of long term biological, chemical, or geological factors, however the rate of decomposition is slow.

Nonrenewable Resource (noun): a natural resource such as fossil fuels that cannot be replaced after it's extraction, removal or consumption; or is replaced very slowly. The exhaustion process is usually accompanied by a considerable increase in price, as most nonrenewable resources are finite and inelastic in the resource economy.


Obesity: is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems

Off-the-grid (adj): self-sufficient home or building where one or more form of public utilities are not needed(energy, gas, water resource utilities for example). Solar or wind energy supplies or freshwater supply are examples of such setups.

Off-gas (noun): Exhausted gases from any process vessel or equipment. 

Omnivore (noun): An animal that consumes both plants and animals, such as a human being. Contrast herbivore, pescatarian. 

Organochloride (noun): an organic compound containing at least one covalently bonded chlorine atom. Their wide structural variety and divergent chemical properties lead to a broad range of applications. Many derivatives are controversial because of the effects of these compounds on the environment and on human and animal health. Examples are DDT in pesticides, and PCB in wiring insulation.

Organic Cotton(noun): Organic cotton is generally understood as cotton, from plants not genetically modified, that is certified to be grown without the use of any synthetic agricultural chemicals, such as fertilizers or pesticides. Its production also promotes and enhances biodiversity and biological cycles. United States cotton plantations are required to enforce the National Organic Program (NOP). This institution determines the allowed practices for pest control, growing, fertilizing, and handling of organic crops.

Organic (noun): relating to or containing compounds of carbon, chiefly of biological origins. the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotationgreen manurecompost and biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and control pests on a farm. Organic farming excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured fertilizerspesticides (which include herbicidesinsecticides and fungicides), plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibioticsfood additives, and genetically modified organisms. Note: Organic measures are often improperly practiced in agriculture however are often used in marketing, advertising, packaging and  labeling. However there are organic regulatory organizations such as the USDA, that serve as third parties which can certify a agricultural practice or product as organic. 

Overpopulation (noun): a situation in which an existing population is too large to be adequately supported by available resources on a sustainable level of consumption. A population size that exceeds the carrying capacity of the environment and that is likely to lead to a population crash. 

Ozone Layer (noun): a layer in the stratosphere that houses the gas ozone(O3). This layer is responsible for preventing 97% of Ultraviolet radiation from entering the rest of the earth's atmosphere. The stratosphere ozone layer is non-uniform throughout the earth. Also a developing layer in the troposphere that causes acid rain, respiratory problems and agricultural damage; the development of this layer is attributed to pollution through vehicle exhaust. Ozone is a constituent of smog. 

Ozone Layer Depletion(noun): a phenomenon caused by the the break down of certain compounds that contain chlorine and/or bromine which destroy ozone molecules in the stratosphere. Significant ozone thinning was noticed over the Antarctic in 1985, and confirmed by satellite surveillance. The main cause of thinning was believed to be correlated to an increase in atmospheric CFCs, and natural volcanic eruptions. CFC phase-out protocols were adopted by many developed countries and by 1996 were successful in halting the production of most CFCs. In the instance that the ozone layer was depleted; agricultural crops would be scorched, marine plankton would be affected, human skin cancer as well as eye cataracts and immune system damage rates would increase.

Parabens: are a class of chemicals widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.


Paraffin (noun): a flammable, whitish, translucent, waxy solid consisting of a mixture of saturated hydrocarbons, obtained by distillation from petroleum or shale and used in candles, cosmetics, polishes, and sealing and waterproofing compounds. Any hydrocarbon chemical that is saturated, used synonymously with alkane when used to describe chemical makeup. 

Paleowater (noun): is groundwater that has remained sealed in an aquifer for a long period of time. Water can rest underground in "fossil aquifers" for thousands or even millions of years. When changes in the surrounding geology seal the aquifer off from further replenishing from precipitation, the water becomes trapped within, and is known as fossil water. Paleowater is a non-renewable resource. 

PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ether): a group of the most commonly used chemicals, may have negative effects on your health and the environment, commonly used in electronics as well as textiles. ItÕs a good idea to minimize exposure to them especially as they are all around is in: furniture, wire insulation, draperies, and computers.

Pesticide (noun): a collective name for a variety of insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, fumigants, rodenticides, or other chemical agent used to kill an unwanted organism. Pesticides have greatly contributed to human welfare through increased productivity. Excessive use, misuse, and environmental contamination however have allowed these persistent chemicals and toxins to spread through the food chain. See also BIOACCUMULATION, BIOMAGNIFICATION.

Pescetarianism (noun): is the practice of a diet that includes seafood and excludes other animals. In addition to fish and/or shellfish, a pescetarian diet typically includes all of vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, beans, eggs and dairy.

Petroleum (noun): a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons that is present in certain rock strata and can be extracted and refined to produce fuels including gasoline, kerosene, and diesel oil.

Petrochemical (noun): chemicals that are derived from the refining and processing of crude oil or natural gas and are used in the manufacture of many industrial chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, plastics, synthetic fibers, paints, and medicines. Based on ethylene, propylene, and butylene. The unsaturated petrochemical compounds are used for chemicals, and the saturated are used for combustible gases.

Photovoltaic Cells (PV cells) (noun): also called Solar Cells, they convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV cells are made of semiconducting materials(silicone primarily) similar to those used in computer chips. When sunlight is absorbed by these materials, the solar energy knocks electrons loose from their atoms, allowing the electrons to flow in circuit through conductive material to produce direct current electricity. Photovoltaic cells are positioned with others into solar modules. From there on modules are positioned with many others into an array or with a few others to make a panel.


Phthalates (noun): are esters of phthalic acid and are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity). They are used primarily to soften polyvinyl chloride. Phthalates are being phased out of many products in the United StatesCanada, and European Union over health concerns. Found in toys, shower curtains, window blinds, furniture covers, artificial leather, personal care products and more common products.

Plasticizers (noun): are additives(usually solvents) that increase the plasticity or fluidity of the material to which they are added; these include plastics, cement, concrete, wallboard, and clay.

Polylactic Acid (PLA)(noun): a biopolymer made from renewable resources. It is thermoplastic and can be used to make fibers, packaging and other products as an alternative to petroleum based plastics. It is derived from bacterial fermentation of agricultural by-products such as corn, sugar, or wheat. PLA is not only made from renewable resources, but is also biodegradable. PLA is currently manufactured by Cargill, PURAC, Hycail, and several other companies.

Pollutants (noun): contaminant substances that are harmful or poisonous.


bottom of page