Learn It – Live It!
If you are just getting started in the world of “GREEN” living, all the new terms can be quite overwhelming. In fact, up until a short time ago, ‘organic’ was about the only term that the U.S. Government had actually clearly defined. Just as the age of the Internet came upon us with its new vocabulary, eco-explanatory terms will develop and expand for years to come. Hopefully this list will give you a better understanding of “GREEN” terminology. (Updated on October 26, 2012: 24 new terms.)
Uses mechanical devices such as pumps and fans to move heat between collectors, storage, and use. Solar panels that collect solar energy and convert it to electricity are considered an active solar design.
Active solar water heater
Heat from the sun is absorbed by collectors and transferred by pumps to a storage unit. The heated fluid in the storage unit conveys its heat to the domestic hot water of the house through a heat exchanger. Controls regulating the operation are needed.
A building constructed of sun dried brick made of clay and straw, used in hot and dry climates
Should be affordable to buy and maintain
Products developed in agriculture that was not a primary goal of the agricultural activity. The most commonly used as a building product is straw, which is used in wall panels or as bales in a technique called straw bale construction with the bales used as building blocks. The straw bale construction method was common in the plains states at the turn of the century and is currently being revived in Europe and the U.S.
Agricultural fibers (i.e., cotton) are just recently being introduced for use as insulation materials.
Contamination of air by smoke and harmful gases, mainly oxides of carbon, sulfur, & nitrogen.
AluminumAbundant element used in cookware, foil, flatware, canned foods and beverages, reusable water bottles, antacids, additives found in flours and mixes. Has been linked to neurological problems and Alzheimer's disease.
Ususally environmentally friendly, this is energy from uncommon sources such as wind power or solar energy, not
A fuel other than gasoline or diesel for powering motor vehicles, often with improved energy efficiency pollution reduction features, including electricity, natural gas, methanol, ethanol,and fuel cells.
A mineral fiber that has been commonly used in many building construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardant. Invisible fibers of asbestos can be inhaled and have been connected to lung diseases and cancer.
Used to make anything from blankets to shoes to flooring, bamboo is versatile, fast-growing, & a replenishable plant.
A field of building science investigating the indoor living environment for a variety of irritants. Practitioners believe the environment of residential, commercial and public buildings can affect the health of the occupants, producing a restful or stressful environment. Important areas of building biology building materials and processes, electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and radiation (EMR) and indoor air quality
A group of chemicals that help protect the public in fire situations. When heated, the bromine detaches from the molecule and slows down the spread of the fire. These chemicals are especially harmful for children, because high quantities have been shown to cause liver toxicity, thyroid hormone disruption, developmental toxicity, neurodevelopment deficits, and cancer in animals.
Organic matter, especially plant matter, which can be converted to fuel and is therefore regarded as a potential energy source.
Capable of being decomposed by the action of biological agents, especially bacteria
Biomimicry or biomimetics
The examination of Nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems.
A synthetic estrogen found in products including reusable plastic food containers, lining of canned goods, PVC; and on receipts and money. Can disrupt endocrine system with high risk to developing fetuses and babies.
A wastewater created by toilets
Abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.
Building related illness
The term “building related illness” (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.
Refers to human-built structures such as single family homes.
A naturally occurring greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, concentrations of which have increased (from 280 parts per million in pre-industrial times to over 350 parts per million today) as a result of humans burning coal, oil, natural gas and organic matter (e.g., wood and crop wastes). It is attributed with being a major contributor to global warming.
A measure of your impact on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gasses produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide.
A colorless, odorless gas that comes from incomplete combustion of gas stoves, fireplaces, kerosene appliances, tobacco smoke, and automobile exhaust. Proper ventilation is important to prevent negative health effects such as fatigue, dizziness, nausea and even death.
Refers to neutral total carbon release, brought about by balancing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere with renewable energy. (A carbon footprint is a "measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide". It is meant to be useful for individuals and organizations to conceptualize their personal (or organizational) impact in contributing to global warming. A conceptual tool in response to carbon footprints are carbon offsets, or the mitigation of carbon emissions through the development of alternative projects such as solar or wind energy or reforestation.
Carbon offsetting -- see "Offsetting"
Limiting the amount of carbon you use each year. Carbon rationing action groups (CRAGS) help you to reduce your carbon footprint.
Carbon dioxide is naturally absorbed by things such as oceans, forests and peat bogs. These are called carbon sinks.
A charge on fossil fuels based on their carbon content.
The fibrous part of plants used in making paper and textiles. Most building products with the word cellulose imply that paper was used in the manufacture.
Cellulose insulation with borates
Cellulose insulation is made from recycled newspaper. The borates provide fire and vermin protection. Most cellulose insulation now uses chemical fire retardants as opposed to the natural borates. Environmentally sensitive persons should avoid cellulose insulation that contains newspaper ink, which can cause allergic reactions. There are cellulose insulation products made without inked newspaper.
Cementitious foam insulation
A magnesium-oxide based material blown with air to create an inert, effective insulation. It is especially good for people with chemical sensitivities.
Certified sustainably managed
Some certifying organizations have been established that oversee the harvesting of wood for lumber. The underlying guidelines are for preservation of a diverse sustainable forest that exhibits the same ecological characteristics as a healthy natural forest.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s )
A family of chemicals used in refrigeration, air conditioning, packaging, insulation, or as solvents and aerosol propellants. Because CFC’s are not destroyed in the lower atmosphere they drift into the upper atmosphere where their chlorine components destroy the earth’s protective ozone layer.
A change in temperature and weather patterns due to human activity (ie. burning fossil fuels)
An interaction mechanism between processes in the climate system-- when the result of an initial process triggers changes in a second process that in turn influences the initial one.
Close the Loop
A term used to describe the last, and most important step in the recycling process. It refers to the point when a consumer buys a recycled product after it has been put into a recycling program and reprocessed into a new item.
A complex material made up of two or more complementary substances. They can be difficult to recycle. Plastic laminates are an example. Composite materials are best applied in situations where they can be removed for reuse (not requiring remanufacture).
A mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land.
Two heat-loving fungi, often found in composts that self-ignite without flame or spark, could soon have new vocations. The complete genetic makeup of Myceliophthora thermophila and Thielavia terrestris has been decoded by an international group of scientists.The findings, published in Nature Biotechnology, may lead to the faster and greener development of biomass-based fuels, chemicals and other industrial materials.
A process whereby organic wastes, including food wastes, paper and yard wastes, decompose naturally, resulting in a produce rich in minerals and ideal for gardening and farming as a soil conditioner, mulch, resurfacing material, or landfill cover.
Diamonds produced without the involvement of violence, human rights violations, or environmental degradation. The conflict-free Diamond Council examines the entire supply chain- from mine to consumer- before certification.
The careful utilization, preservation, and renewal of a natural resource in order to prevent depletion of human or natural resources.
Cork is fully recyclable, flexible and repels water. A myriad of uses from boots to floor tiles, jewelry, and everything in between.
A plant or group of plants selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by propagation. Most cultivars have arisen in cultivation but a few are special selections from the wild.
A method of illuminating building interiors with natural light so that the use of artificial lighting is reduced in the day time. Common daylighting strategies include the proper orientation and placement of windows, use of light wells, light shafts or tubes, skylights, clerestory windows, light shelves, reflective surfaces, and shading, and the use of interior glazing to allow light into adjacent spaces.
Trees and plants that shed their leaves at the end of the growing season.
Demand control ventilation
Ventilation provided in response to actual number of occupants and occupant activity.
The charrette process is focused workshop(s) which take place in the early phase of the design process. All project team members meet together to exchange ideas, encouraging generation of integrated design solutions.
Department of Energy
Deciduous trees that grow in the U.S.; this is the only type of wood in the U.S. where on a general scale the growth of new trees easily exceeds the removal rate.
Dust spot efficiency
The dust spot efficiency test is a semi-quantitative measure of a filter’s collection efficiency for fine particles---those associated with smudging of the interior surfaces of buildings. Upstream and downstream paper target filters collect particles and the opacity (light transmission) is measured.
EMFs (Electro Magnatic Fields)
The subject of on-going research and a significant amount of public debate. In workplace environments, where EMF exposures can be up to 10,000 times greater than the average, the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued some cautionary advisories
Earth sheltered design
Home design that is partially or totally below ground, either by digging into existing topography or filling over parts of the structure. Earth sheltered design uses the constant temperature of the soil to improve energy efficiency and can be beneficial for us on hilly sites to decrease maintenance and environmental impact.
Earth's thermal energy
A short distance below the surface, the Earth maintains a mostly constant temperature very close to the human comfort range. This can be used advantageously for geothermal heating systems.
An evaluation of your home or workplace with the aim of cutting your energy and water usage.
A ethically, organically made bag to use instead of plastic or paper carrier bags.
Not harmful to the environment. Also environmentally friendly or nature friendly
A wax cube which mimics food in a refrigerator to save it energy
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
Electric and magnetic fields are common in nature and in all living things. Electric power produces fields that have a possible association with health risks.
A limit placed on companies regarding the amount of greenhouse gases it can emit
Embodied energy accounts for all energy expended for production and transportation plus inherent energy at a specific point in the life cycle of a product.
The act of delivering the same or more services for less energy.
Energy Efficient Home
A vague term, used freely by sellers of homes.
Energy Saving Grant
Money awarded to you to help improve the efficiency of your home and use less energy.
About 20 to 30% more efficient than code.
A computer model that analyzes the building’s energy-related features in order to project energy consumption of a given design.
Energy recovery ventilator (ERV)
A mechanical device that draws stale air from the house and transfers the heat or coolness in that air to the air being pulled into the house. This can help reduce energy costs and dilute indoor pollutants.
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, or disposal of the product or service.
An alternative automotive fuel derived from grain and corn; usually blended with gasoline.
Exterior grade plywood
Uses phenol formaldehyde (a volatile organic compound) as an adhesive that is released in much smaller amounts compared to urea formaldehyde used in interior grade plywood and particleboard.
Crops and products that are produced according to principles in which poor workers in developing countries recieve fair prices for their products, workers enjoying safe working conditions and fair wages. Sustainable methods, no pesticides or genetically modified organisms are honored with "Fair Trade Certified" logos to make consumers aware.
Found in most plants, are thought to change the way that cells associated with inflammation
act, preventing or reducing it. Several studies show that they can
disrupt the function of certain viruses and bacteria, including those
associated with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and certain types of herpes.
The ash residue from high temperature combustion processes. Electric motor plants using western coal produce a non-toxic fly ash that because of its very high calcium content can be a substitute for Portland Cement (the common bonding material in concrete).
Fuel, such as coal, oil and natural gas, produced by the decomposition of ancient (fossilized) plants and animals.
Colorless, pungent smelling, toxic material used as an adhering component of glues in many wood products. It can cause respiratory problems, cancer, and chemical sensitivity.
Permitted to graze or forage for grain, etc., rather than being confined to a feed lot or a small enclosure. A labeling term that has come under strong scrutiny due to interpretation of standards.
A technology that uses an electrochemical process to convert energy into electrical power. Often powered by natural gas, fuel cell power is cleaner than grid-connected power sources. In addition, hot water is produced as a by-product that can be utilized as a thermal resource for the building.
Full spectrum lights
These lights come closer to the natural light spectrum and are considered healthier.
In winter, geothermal heat exchange technology utilizes heat from subsurface water and soils to heat buildings; in summer, this technology extracts heat from the building into subsurface water and soils for cooling.
Glass bottles and jars can be recycled endlessly. That means that unlike some other recycled products, a recycled bottle can be recycled into another glass bottle- and another- so on, forever
An increase in the average temperature of the earth, attributed to the burning of fossil fuels.
The adjective used to describe people, behaviors, products, policies, standards, processes, places, movements or ideas that promote, protect, restore or minimize damage to the environment.
Green building: (Green Design)
The practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use and harvest energy, water, and materials, and reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better site selection, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal. Also, known as sustainable or environmental building.
Becoming tired with some of the constant messages of corporate green credentials and warnings of impending global doom.
The latest term to describe a home designed to be environmentally friendly, including energy & water efficiency, healthy & more.
Green Technology Initiative
A consortium of companies pioneering green computing with the aim of helping to educated and inspire businesses to become more energy efficient and responsible with their IT infrastructure
Holding your wedding with the least environmental impact possible
Explains global warming. The process that raises the temperature of air into the lower atmosphere due to heat trapped by greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons and ozone.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
Any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include, but are not limited to, water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and ozone (03).
Wastewater that does not contain sewage or fecal contamination and can be reused for irrigation after simple filtration.
High density polyethylene. A type of plastic that is commonly used in milk and water jugs.
The area or natural environment in which an organism or population normally lives. A habitat is made up of physical factors such as soil, moisture, range of temperature, and availability of light as well as biotic factors such as the availability of food and the presence of predators.
The rain that falls on a roof and is channeled by gutters to a storage tank or cistern. The uses of this water are dependent on any pollutants that may be picked up from the roof surface.
A substance, such as industrial byproduct, that is potentially damaging to the environment and harmful to humans and other living organisms.
Heat recovery systems
Building mechanical systems that capture waste heat from another system and use it to replace heat that would otherwise come from a primary energy source.
Long a favorite accessory and jewelry piece, hemp is one of he most versatile fibers available. It can be found in books and paper products, bags, pet supplies, face creams, flour, and has long outgrown its hippy roots.
A chemical substance used to destroy or inhibit the growth of plants, especially weeds.
High quality duct system
This option avoids the potential of significant heating and cooling losses, as well as avoiding potential health threats caused by depressurizing or pressurizing a house. All ducts are sealed using a fibrated latex mastic and fiberglass tape. Inner and outer linings of the duct are both sealed. The air handler, support platform and return plenum are sealed air tight at the joints. Duct tape is not used in any part of the system. No ductwork is run inside of the building envelope walls. The system can be performance tested to ensure proper installation.
Household Hazardous Waste
A product that is discarded from a home or a similar source that is either ignitable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic. (e.g. used motor oil, oil-based paint, auto batteries, gasoline, pesticides, cell phones, computers, etc.)
The study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social and built environments.
HCFCs are generally less detrimental to depletion of stratospheric ozone than chlorofluorocarbons. HCFCs are generally used to replace CFC’s where mandates require CFC’s to be eliminated. A total ban on all CFC’s and HCFCs is scheduled effective 2030.
Hydrolic energy (Hydroelectric energy)
Electric energy produced by moving water
To reduce transportation cost and increase viability of the local economy, building materials that are mined, manufactured or fabricated in an area close to where building will take place is always preferred.
The breathable air inside a habitable structure or conveyance.
Integrated pest management
A coordinated approach to pest control that is intended to prevent unacceptable levels of pests by the most cost-effective means with the least possible hazard to building occupants, workers and the environment.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a UN-commissioned international working group formed in 1988. It assesses climate change and its human causes.
A measure of electric usage equivalent to the use of 1,000 watts for one hour.
Kitchen recycling center
A built-in section of the kitchen cabinetry that allows convenient separation of recyclable materials.
A suite of rating systems for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED is intended to provide building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.
Area where waste is dumped and eventually covered with dirt and topsoil
A harmful environmental pollutant that is typically in the home in lead-based paints and in lead solder used in plumbing before l978. Lead is toxic to many organs and can cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys and nervous system.
Life cycle assessment
The comprehensive examination of a product’s environmental and economic aspects and potential impacts throughout its lifetime, including raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, use and disposal.
Life cycle cost
The amortized annual cost of a product, including capital costs, installation costs, operating costs, maintenance costs, and disposal costs discounted over the lifetime of a product.
Environmental pollution consisting of the excess of harmful or annoying light
A person who eats food grown or raised locally. In "real life", one who pays attention to where food comes from and procures local food whenever possible.
Many paints have added fungicides and pesticides. A low-biocide paint does not include such additives.
“Low-E” (low emissive) windows reflect heat, not light, and therefore keep spaces warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
Cars, etc. which emit little pollution compared to conventional engines. Eco-cars / Electric cars / Hybrid cars
Low pressure drop high efficiency air filters
Extended surface pleated air filters that allow greater air filtration without a significant increase in horsepower requirements.
Forms that contain brief information regarding chemical and physical hazards, health effects, proper handling, storage, and personal protection appropriate for use of a particular chemical in an occupational environment.
An odorless, colorless, flammable gas that is a major component of natural gas; it is a more powerful global warming agent than carbon dioxide.
Municipal Solid Waste
Garbage or refuse that is generated by households, commercial establishments, industrial offices or lunchrooms and sludges not regulated as a residual or hazardous waste. This does not include source-separated recyclables.
Purely defined - anything found in nature or derived directly from plants,animals or minerals. Natural products do not contain any man-made, synthetic ingredients. On food, "natural" or "All natural" labels are not meaningful because the federal standards are weak. The USDA will allow a product to be labeled "natural" if it is free from artificial ingredients, added coloring and heavy processing. Natural is NOT the same as "organic" (See "organic" in this glossary.)
Sometimes known as "organic" dyes come from natural sources. These dyes are different from synthetic dyes, which can also be organic- but often use toxic, non-natural sources and ingredients. Natural dyes usually cost more but are considered more eco-friendly overall.
Nitrogen oxide: (NOx)
A colorless, poisonous gas. It is a by-product of gas combustion such as that from vehicle exhausts or power stations. In the atmosphere, NOx can contribute to smog, can impair visibility, and have health consequences.
Resources that are in limited supply, such as oil, coal, and natural gas. Also see "renewable resources."
The process of reducing carbon emissions by 'offsetting' it. An example is by taking flight an compensation paying a company to plant trees to equal the carbon use out.
Fossil fuel used to produce gasoline, etc. and other materials such as plastics.
In the U.S., organic food is produced according to certain legally regulated standards. For crops, it means they were grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers or sewage sludge, and that they were processed without ionizing radiation or food additives. For animals, it means they were raised without the routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones. At all levels, organic food is produced without the use of genetically modified organisms.
Organic fabrics and textiles
Plant and animal fibers like cotton, wool, hemp, linen, cashmere, silk, jute, soy and bamboo can be certified organic if they are produced according to organic standards set by the USDA. However, the organic label does not guarantee that the finished fabric or textile product is free of all synthetic chemicals, bleaches or heavy dyes. The Organic Trade Association certifies finished textiles and garments in the United States.
Organic meat, dairy, poultry, eggs and other livestock products
Organic animal products come from livestock that are fed organic feed and forage throughout their lives, b
The emitting of fumes into the air; there are numerous building materials that have chemicals in them which outgas, when exposed to high temperatures, moisture and/or ozone levels.
1) stratospheric ozone: in the stratosphere (the atmosphere layer beginning 7-10 miles above the earth), ozone is a form of oxygen found naturally which provides a protective layer shielding the earth from ultraviolet radiation’s harmful effects on humans and the environment. 2) ground level ozone: ozone produced near the earth’s surface through complex chemical reactions of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and sunlight. Ground level ozone is the primary component of smog and is harmful to humans and the environment.
The wrapping material around a consumer item that serves to contain, identify, describe, protect, display, promote, and otherwise make the product marketable and keep it clean. Often oil-based materials are used
A thin material made of pulp from wood, rags, or other fibrous materials and used for writing, printing, or wrapping.
Solid material that escapes from combustion processes and which can be inhaled causing potential health problems.
In home construction, the building design and placement permits the use of natural processes such as radiation, convection, absorption, and conduction to support comfort levels.
The building's structure (or an element of it) is designed to permit increased ventilation and retention of coolness within the building components. The intention is to minimize or eliminate the need for mechanical means of cooling.
The building's structure (or an element of it) is designed to allow natural thermal energy flows such as radiation, conduction, and natural convection generated by the sun to provide heat. The home relies solely or primarily on non-mechanical means of heating.
Passive ventilation relies typically on using both convective air flows that result from the tendency of warm air to rise and cool air to sink and taking advantage of prevailing winds. Many passive ventilation systems rely on the building users to control window and vents as indicated by site conditions and conditions within the building.
Passive solar water heater
A water heating system that does not require mechanical pumps or controls to create hot water for domestic use.
BPDEs /Polybrominated diphenyl ethers
A chemical fire retardant the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
classifies as a “possible human carcinogen…,” which is used in numerous
consumer and commercial products.
Polyethylene terepthalate. A type of plastic used to make soft drink bottles and other kinds of food containers. PET is also used to make fabric.
Polytetrafluoroethylene is a polymer found in nonstick cookware, as well as fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, as well as food packaging, clothing and carpet. Linked to many physical health reactions
Paving material that allows water to penetrate to the soil below; this reduces the amount of water that needs to be treated by the water system and increases the water in the aquifer.
Plants or crops grown without the use of chemical pesticides for controlling weeds, insects, slugs,grubs or rodents. his label is not equivalent to organic and is not verified by an independent or government standard.
Used in a large variety of products, from enteric coatings of pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements to viscosity control agents, gelling agents, film formers, stabilizers, dispersants, lubricants, binders, emulsifying agents, and suspending agents. End-applications include adhesives and glues, electronics, agricultural adjutants, building materials, personal-care products, medical devices, detergents and surfactants, packaging, children's toys, modeling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products, and textiles. Phthalates are easily released into the environment because there is no covalent bond between the phthalates and plastics in which they are mixed. As plastics age and break down, the release of phthalates accelerates. People are commonly exposed to phthalates, and most Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have metabolites of multiple phthalates in their urine. Because phthalate plasticizers are not chemically bound to PVC, they can easily leach and evaporate into food or the atmosphere. Phthalate exposure can be through direct use or by indirect means through leaching and general environmental contamination. Diet is believed to be the main source of di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP) and other phthalates in the general population. Fatty foods such as milk, butter, and meats are a major source. In studies of rodents exposed to certain phthalates, high doses have been shown to change hormone levels and cause birth defects
Photovoltaic panels (PVs)
Photovoltaic devices use semiconductor material to directly convert sunlight into electricity. Power is produced when sunlight strikes the semiconductor material and creates an electrical current.
Called “plasticizers,” are a group of industrial chemicals used to make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible or resilient
The 'art' of making a product break/fail after a
certain amount of time. Not so soon that you will blame the
manufacturer, but soon enough for you to buy another one and make for
profit for themT.
Man-made durable and flexible synthetic-based product composed mainly of petroleum. Bags and bottles are used daily by the millions and are not very good for the environment due to decomposition time periods. Recycling is great option for disposal.
Contamination of air, soil, or water with harmful substances
Post-consumer recycled content
Post-consumer material is a material or finished product that has served its intended use and has been discarded for disposal or recovery, having completed its life as a consumer item.
Pre-consumer recycled content
Pre-consumer material is material diverted from the waste stream following an industrial process, excluding reutilization of materials such as rework, regrind or scrap generated in a process and capable of being reclaimed within the same process. Synonyms include post-industrial and secondary material.
A radioactive, colorless, odorless gas that occurs naturally. When trapped in buildings, concentration build up, and it can cause health hazards such as lung cancer.
A measure of the thermal resistance of material, especially insulation.
Materials destined for the trash but were rescued and refurbished as a new product. ie. wood, bricks, tiles, glass, plastics.
The chasing arrow symbol used to show that a product or package can be recycled. The three arrows represent the collection, processing, and reuse of a material.
The amount of pre- and post-consumer recovered material introduced as a feed stock in a material production process, usually expressed as a percentage (e.g., 30% post-consumer content).
The series of activities, including collection, separation and processing, by which products or other materials are recovered from the solid waste stream for use in the form of raw materials in the manufacture of new products other than fuel for producing heat or power by combustion.
Not using or buying products in the first place so less waste, less recycling and less reusing is necessary
Planting of forests on lands that have previously contained forest but that have been converted to some other use. (Not the same as tree farming, where trees are planted and harvested as an agricultural crop.)
Energy resources such as wind power or solar power that can keep producing indefinitely without being depleted.
Before throwing away or recycling, a product that can be reused until its time to recycle.
A landfill that has been designed and engineered to accept municipal waste while ensuring minimal impact upon the environment.
Gases and vapors often adsorb, and particles deposit, on surfaces such as carpet, drywall, etc. These surfaces are known as “sinks”—contaminants can be re-emitted from the sinks at a later time.
Consists of programmable electronic controls and sensors that can regulate heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, appliance and equipment operation in an energy conserving and climatically responsive manner.
Socially responsible investing (SRI)
Energy derived from the sun
Heat from the sun is absorbed by collectors and transferred by pumps or fans into a storage unit for later use or the the house directly. Controls regulating the operation are needed. The heat can be transferred to water pumps for hot water as well.
Reducing the amount and/or toxicity of an item before it is ever generated (e.g., buying an item with less packaging, using a non-toxic alternative to clean with).
The soybean is a food staple for many vegetarians and those with lactose intolerance due to its high protein levels. Soy is also useful beyond food, to make everything from baby clothes to sweaters.
The phenomenon in a building or building component caused by wind pressure and temperature differentials which results in air being drawn through some components of a building and out others creating a continuous pattern of air flow.
A colorless, extremely irritating gas that is a primary cause of acid rain.
"Sustainability", according to Webster's American Heritage Dictionary, is to "keep in existence; maintain." As it relates to the world we live in, sustainability means meeting our present needs without compromising the needs of future generations. The sustainable approach recognizes the interaction of natural and technological systems on our planet, and seeks to minimize the adverse impacts of our everyday lives on the systems that support all life. Sustainability implies that we look at and understand our local environment in terms of climate, natural resources, and human resources and improve our relationship with them without jeopardizing their future usefulness. Recognizing the nature of the interdependence of the human and natural environment is a key concept toward understanding sustainability. A sustainable approach encourages people to become a part of the natural flows and cycles of our world and not seeking to overpower them
Materials that do not occur naturally but are produced artificially through chemical processes. Most synthetic products (ie. plastic, nylon, polyester, polystyrene, etc.) are made from petroleum byproducts. Synthetic components of food, personal care and pharmaceutical products are produced chemically.
A technical nutrient is a material or product that is designed to go back into the technical cycle, into the industrial metabolism from which it came. A product designed as a true technical nutrient would be made of safe materials designed to be truly recycled as a raw material for fresh product, and the delivery system for its service would cost the same or less than buying it. (See Cradle To Cradle,by McDonough and Braungart).
A highly conductive element such as a metal channel in the building envelope that penetrates or bypasses the less conductive element such as insulation, and acts as a thermal short circuit through the insulation system.
A space or other element that reduces the heating and cooling load on another space located between the space and the exterior.
An opening between a conditioned and unconditioned space that heated or cooled air can move through, therefore violating the air tightness of the building envelope.
The shell of a building that essentially creates a barrier from the elements. A highly insulated thermal envelope allows maximum control of interior temperatures without outdoor influence.
A space or other element such as a solid masonry wall that collects heat during one period and releases it during another in a repetitive pattern.
Antibacterial chemical found in kitchen products including cutting boards, countertops, dish towels, plastic food containers, sponges and liquid hand soap. Linked to skin & eye irritation, liver toxicity, & hormone disruption.
Products contain at least 95% certified organic ingredients. The remaining 5% can be non-organic or synthetic as long as they are approved on the national list. (www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards/ListReg.html)
A way of living that avoids products containing animal products or byproducts, involved in testng animals or in any way resulted in animal harm. True vegans do not eat products containing meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, gelatin, whey, honey or refined sugar. Vegans do not use products made with leather, wool, cashmere, silk, suede, fur, animal fats, or products that have any animal-derived ingredient.
The process whereby worms feed on slowly decomposing materials (ie. vegetable scraps) in a controlled environment to produce nutrient-rich soil.
Products that are made with 100% new raw materials and contain no recycled materials.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
VOCs are chemicals that contain carbon molecules and are volatile enough to evaporate from material surfaces into indoor air at normal room temperatures (referred to as off-gassing). Examples of building materials that may contain VOCs include, but are not limited to: solvents, paints, adhesives, carpeting and particleboard. Signs or symptoms of VOC exposure may include eye and upper respiratory irritation, nasal congestion, headache and dizziness.
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Your broken or not wanted electronic gadgets like mobile phone or computers.
Web of Life
Food webs are limited representations of real ecosystems as they necessarily aggregate many species into trophic species, which are functional groups of species that have the same predators and prey in a food web. Ecologists use these simplifications in quantitative (or mathematical) models of trophic dynamics. Using these models they can measure and test for generalized patterns in the structure of real food web networks
Wind power systems
Wind power systems convert the energy of the wind into electricity. Surplus electricity is often stored in a battery storage system for later use, or the power is passed back to the utility essentially making the meter go in reverse.
Creative landscaping for water and energy efficiency and lower maintenance. The seven xeriscape principles are: good planning and design; practical lawn areas; efficient irrigation; soil improvement; use of mulches; low water demand plants; good maintenance
Since our "green" vocabulary is constantly being expanded and refined by both social and scientific evolution in this important area of concern, your suggestions will be welcome and considered as part of our editing process: Change in wording, Correction of definition, Addition of new terms. Note: We are trying to keep this glossary at a layman's level for best use and practice. Thanks for visiting my site. ^Back To Top^
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