Glossary of Terms

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If you’re new to, you might have come across a few words or phrases that are unfamiliar to you.  So we’ve pulled together a list of terms that we have used throughout the site to empower you with a little more information and a few more resources.  (You can also just feel free to take it as an opportunity to expand your Green vocabulary!) Got suggestions for Green vocabulary? Contact us. Glossary of Terms

Air pollution includes chemicals and particulates that cause smog, acid rain, health problems, global warming and ozone layer depletion. 

Algal blooms are a rapid increase in the population of algae in an aquatic system. Algal blooms may occur in freshwater as well as marine environments.  Some algal blooms are the result of an excess of nutrients (particularly phosphorus and nitrogen) into waters and higher concentrations of these nutrients in water cause increased growth of algae and green plants. As more algae and plants grow, others die. 

Conventional cleaning products contain large amounts of phosphates, which can trigger algal blooms as they enter the watershed.

Carbon neutralization is the process whereby an individual or organization seeks to reduce, sequester or offset their emission of carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide is the most abundant greenhouse gas in our atmosphere and is a byproduct of transportation, manufacturing, energy production, and many other day-to-day activities.

The typical approach to becoming carbon neutral is to first reduce your emissions of carbon dioxide through changes in day-to-day practices, then purchase carbon offsets for the remaining amount of carbon dioxide which is still being released.

Carcinogen is a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.

CO2 (or carbon dioxide) emission refers to the release of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide is the most abundant greenhouse gas in our atmosphere and is a byproduct of transportation, manufacturing, energy production, and many other day-to-day activities.

Conscientious consumption is an ethic that acknowledges the power of consumer activism in the movement towards sustainability.

“Conventional” products refer to products made using conventional practices and materials, as opposed to “Green” or “Dark Green” products.

“Cradle to Cradle” is a phrase coined by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s and popularized by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. This framework seeks to create production techniques that are not just efficient but are essentially waste- free. In cradle to cradle production all material inputs and outputs are seen either as technical or biological nutrients. Technical nutrients can be recycled or reused with no loss of quality and biological nutrients composted or consumed. By contrast cradle to grave refers to a company taking responsibility for the disposal of goods it has produced, but not necessarily putting products’ constituent components back into service.

ECF (Elemental Chlorine Free) paper is usually made from non-recycled pulp that contains minimal chlorine derivatives.

Ecosystem service refers to the ability of earth’s natural systems to generate such benefits as water supply, water purification, waste treatment and detoxification, regulation of air quality, regulation of regional and local climate, regulation of erosion, natural hazard protection, wild fisheries, spiritual fulfillment, and aesthetic enjoyment.

EDTA is a widely-used abbreviation for the chemical compound ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid.  EDTA is commonly used in conventional cleaning products, and degrades slowly in the environment.

Emission Reduction refers to the process of reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.  Emissions can be reduced in a number of  ways, including reduced energy consumption, reduced or more efficient transportation, more efficient manufacturing processes, and more efficient practices within the workplace and beyond.

Ecological Footprint represents the net impact on our environment of all the things bought, sold, and left behind in the course of daily work. Whether you are a consultant working from home, a small non-profit laboring for the greater good, or a large corporation with facilities worldwide, the unfortunate fact is that virtually all of our actions contribute in some way to ecological deterioration and climate change. The reasons for this are many. Resources are consumed faster then they regenerate; ecosystems are being polluted by toxic runoff; and the burning of fossil fuels is flooding our atmosphere with CO2.  Individuals and organizations can minimize their ecological footprint by implementing green purchasing and practice policies, a zero waste policy, and by measuring, reducing, and offsetting emission of harmful greenhouse gases.

Environmental Management Systems (EMS) and environmental, or sustainability, reporting implements a set of management strategies allowing for an organization to analyze, control, and minimize damage to the environment.

Global Acres are the unit of measurement for an ecological footprint, and represent the productivity of an average acre of land, which is able to sequester carbon and produce renewable resources.  According to a 2002 report by Redefining Progress, humans currently consume 20% more global acres of resources than exist on the planet, thus conscientious individuals and organizations should seek to minimize their own ecological footprint and encourage others to do so as well.

Greenhouse gases are the gases present in the atmosphere which reduce the loss of heat into space and maintain or increase the temperature on the Earth’s surface.  Greenhouse gases are essential to maintaining the temperature of the Earth; without them the planet would be so cold as to be uninhabitable.  Rising quantities of Greenhouse gases in recent history have been scientifically linked to rising global temperatures, which in turn have lead to rising sea levels and changing weather patterns.  Common greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

Green purchasing is the practice of selecting products and services which minimize the ecological impact of an individual or organizations day-to-day activities.  Many organizations implement a green purchasing policy with guidelines for purchasing agents to select the “greenest” products and services available. To help facilitate “green” purchasing we have created the Green Screen™ making it easy and cost effective for you to make choices that are in line with your Green business values.

The Kyoto Protocol was established in 1997 to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases which cause climate change.  The agreement made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and has been ratified by over 170 countries, with the United States being the most notable country not participating.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)  has created the Green Building Rating System™ that encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria.

Non-electricity related emissions include those emissions from fossil fuel-powered transportation, natural gas used for heating, and non-electric industrial processes for manufacturing, refining, etc.

Non-renewable resources include oil, iron, and gold.

Office “Greening” is the process of creating a more ecologically friendly workplace. recommends that every organization designate at least one office greening agent or sustainability manager, implement green purchasing and practice policies, and aim to achieve zero waste from their day-to-day business practices.

PCF (Processed Chlorine Free) paper refers to paper made from recycled pulp, which may contain chlorine remnants, but is not produced with additional chlorine.

Phenolic compounds are chemicals used in some cleaning products which can have adverse human health effects.

Phosphates are chemicals commonly used in cleaning products which can lead to harmful algal blooms when they enter the watershed.

The Precautionary Principle is a philosophy which states that policy makers should not wait for scientific proof of harmful effects before taking steps to limit harmful environmental and human health impacts from new products or activities.  Specific areas of application include genetically modified food products and chemicals which may have harmful developmental effects in low doses.

Raw materials include steel, wood, brick, and concrete.

Renewable energy is obtained from resources which are essentially inexhaustible, such as solar, wind, rivers, and tides.

Renewable resources include forests, fisheries, and living soil.

TCF (Totally Chlorine Free) paper is virgin pulp that contains no chlorine whatsoever.

The Natural Step is a nonprofit organization founded in Sweden in 1989 by Swedish scientist, Karl-Henrik Robèrt. The Natural Step has pioneered a "Backcasting from Principles" approach to effectively advance society towards sustainability. The Natural Step has developed through a consensus process a systematic principle definition of sustainability.

The Triple Bottom Line (or "TBL", "3BL", or "People, Planet, Profit") captures an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success; economic, environmental and social. With the ratification of the UN ICLEI TBL standard for urban and community accounting in early 2007, this became the dominant approach to public sector full cost accounting. Similar UN standards apply to natural capital and human capital measurement to assist in measurements required by TBL, e.g. the ecoBudget standard for reporting ecological footprint. In the private sector, a commitment to corporate social responsibility implies a commitment to some form of TBL reporting. This is distinct from the more limited changes required to deal only with ecological issues.

VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are gases emitted from liquid or solid substances which may cause short-term and long-term harmful health effects.  Examples of products containing VOCs include paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.

Water pollution includes chemicals and debris that render water unusable for natural habitat, human consumption, and recreation.