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green glossary of terms
  • Biodegradable: The ability of a material to be broken down by natural processes (such as microorganisms) and then absorbed by the ecosystem.
  • Carbon Footprint: An estimate of how much carbon dioxide an entity (be it person, family or building) produces and releases into the atmosphere. The resulting figure is used to buy carbon offsets (see definition) or engage in ameliorative activities such as planting trees.
  • Carbon Offsets: Credits earned for activities that help balance CO2 emissions, such as planting trees. They can also be bought from a provider who uses the money to plant trees, generate renewable energy or conserve energy.
  • Compostable: The ability of organic material to be biologically decomposed under aerobic conditions, typically within a span of several months.
  • Corporate social responsibility: A concept whereby an organization considers the welfare and interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their operations on their customers, community, stakeholders and the environment.
  • e-cycling: Refers to the process of recycling the components or metals contained in used or discarded electronic equipment,2 otherwise known as electronic waste (e-waste). E-cyclable items include, but are not limited to: televisions, computers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, telephones and cellular phones, stereos, and VCRs and DVDs. The need for e-cycling facilities has been increasing recently due to technology’s rapid rate of obsolescence.
  • E-waste: Refuse created by discarded electronic equipment and components.
  • Fair trade: A movement advocating that farmers and producers should receive equitable compensation for their labors, i.e., what counts as a living wage in the country of their origin. TransFair USA is the only U.S. certifier of fair-trade products, which have to comply with the organization’s economic, social and environmental criteria before they can carry the fair-trade label.
  • Greenwashing: The practice of making misleading or unsubstantiated claims about the environmental benefits of a product or service.
  • Organic: Refers to foods and fibers that are grown and processed without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Organic livestock is reared without the use of antibiotics or hormones.
  • Post-consumer: Refers to an end product generated by a consumer that is being diverted from the solid waste stream for recycling.
  • Recycling: The process of converting materials that are no longer useful in their current condition and turning them into a brand-new product.
  • Sustainable: The use of natural resources to meet present needs, without compromising those of future generations.
  • Sustainable design (also referred to as “green design”, “eco-design”, or “design for environment”): is the art of designing physical objects and the built environment to comply with the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability. It is a growing trend within the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, engineering, graphic design, industrial design, interior design and fashion design.
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