Glossary of Terms

Biodiesel

Biodiesel is a domestic, renewable fuel for diesel engines derived from natural oils like soybean oil. Biodiesel can be used in any concentration with petroleum based diesel fuel in existing diesel engines with little or no modification. Biodiesel is not the same thing as raw vegetable oil. It is produced by a chemical process which removes the glycerin from the oil.

Biodiesel [online] Jefferson City, MO. Available from: http://www.biodiesel.org/resources/definitions/[accessed 16 December 2009]

Carbon Dioxide

A naturally occurring gas, and also a by-product of burning fossil fuels and biomass, as well as land-use changes and other industrial processes. It is the principal anthropogenic greenhouse gas that affects the Earth’s radiative balance. It is the reference gas against which other greenhouse gases are measured and therefore has a Global Warming Potential of 1. See climate change and global warming.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Carbon Emissions

Polluting carbon substances released into atmosphere: carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide produced by motor vehicles and industrial processes and forming pollutants in the atmosphere

Encarta® World English Dictionary [North American Edition] (2009) Microsoft Corporation. [online]  Available from: http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_701704880/carbon_emissions.html [accessed 16 December 2009]

Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint is an estimate of how much carbon dioxide is produced to support your lifestyle. Essentially, it measures your impact on the climate based on how much carbon dioxide you produce. Factors that contribute to your carbon footprint include your travel methods and general home energy usage. Carbon footprints can also be applied on a larger scale, to companies, businesses, even countries.

ecomii Green Dictionary A to Z. [online] Available from: http://www.ecomii.com/dictionary/carbon-footprint [accessed 16 December 2009]

Carbon Offsets

Carbon offsets are used to reduce the amount of carbon that an individual or institution emits into the atmosphere. Carbon offsets work in a financial system where, instead of reducing its own carbon use, a company can comply with emissions caps by purchasing an offset from an independent organization. The organization will then use that money to fund a project that reduces carbon in the atmosphere. An individual can also engage with this system and similarly pay to offset his or her own personal carbon usage instead of, or in addition to, taking direct measures such as driving less or recycling.

Carbon offsets are most often used by companies or institutions to reduce their carbon footprint without actually polluting less. Most offsets involve renewable energy. For example, a company in Massachusetts can pay to build a wind turbine off the coast. By using its money to create renewable energy, that company thereby offsets its own carbon use.

ecomii Green Dictionary A to Z. [online] Available from: http://www.ecomii.com/ecopedia/carbon-offsets [accessed 16 December 2009]

Climate Change

Climate change refers to any significant change in measures of climate (such as temperature, precipitation, or wind) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer). Climate change may result from:

  • natural factors, such as changes in the sun’s intensity or slow changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun;
  • natural processes within the climate system (e.g. changes in ocean circulation);
  • human activities that change the atmosphere’s composition (e.g. through burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g. deforestation, reforestation, urbanization, desertification, etc.)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Composting

The controlled biological decomposition of organic material in the presence of air to form a humus-like material. Controlled methods of composting include mechanical mixing and aerating, ventilating the materials by dropping them through a vertical series of aerated chambers, or placing the compost in piles out in the open air and mixing it or turning it periodically.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Deforestation

Those practices or processes that result in the conversion of forested lands for non-forest uses.  This is often cited as one of the major causes of the enhanced greenhouse effect for two reasons: 1) the burning or decomposition of the wood releases carbon dioxide; and 2) trees that once removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the process of photosynthesis are no longer present.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Energy Star

Energy Star is a program that evaluates the energy efficiency of appliances, house fixtures and other home utilities. Co-sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, the Energy Star program seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by identifying energy efficient appliances, helping Americans save money on utility bills with more energy efficient homes.

Energy Star ratings can be applied to a variety of household appliances, fixtures, and materials, including refrigerators, washers, dryers, lighting fixtures, computers, home electronics, windows, and heating insulation. When replacing an appliance or fixture in your home, look for the Energy Star label on products that are energy efficient and help protect the environment. When building a new home, you can also hire certified contractors who agree to actively build Energy Star-rated homes.

ecomii Green Dictionary A to Z. [online] Available from: http://www.ecomii.com/ecopedia/energy-star [accessed 16 December 2009]

EUI

EUI, or energy use intensity, is a unit of measurement that describes a building’s energy use. EUI represents the energy consumed by a building relative to its size.

https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=buildingcontest.eui [accessed 11 June 2013]

Fair Trade

Crops produced according to principles in which poor farmers in developing countries receive fair prices for their products, workers enjoy safe working conditions and fair wages, communities receive development assistance and investment in social programs and crops are grown with sustainable farming methods and without the use of pesticides or genetically modified organisms. Products labeled as “Fair Trade Certified” are verified and audited by an independent certifier. Fair Trade Certification is currently available in the United States for coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fresh fruit, sugar, rice and vanilla.

Oprah.com. [online]  Available from: http://www.oprah.com/article/world/environment/informed_glossary_az/2 [accessed 16 December 2009]

Freecycle

Freecycle is a non-profit organization that creates online forums for the exchange of goods in an effort to keep reusable goods out of landfills. The website was started in 2003, when founder Deron Beal sent out an e-mail to between 30 and 40 friends and nonprofit organizations announcing the establishment of the network. Freecycle organizes its members into local communities, where members can contact one another to offer and receive goods. The goods exchanged are “gifts” to other members—members cannot charge for the items.

To sign up for Freecycle, go to http://www.freecycle.org and sign up for a free membership. The membership will give you access to the Freecycle community, where you can choose your own networks and groups to join. Finally, there is a “feel good” reason to clean the junk out of your house.  Give the gift of giving—your trash might be another person’s treasure.

ecomii Green Dictionary A to Z. [online] Available from: http://www.ecomii.com/ecopedia/freecycle [accessed 16 December 2009]

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is electricity generated by harnessing hot water or steam from within the earth.

LEED Reference Guide for Green Interior Design and Construction (ed. 2009) Glossary, 436.

Global Warming

Global warming is an average increase in the temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface and in the troposphere, which can contribute to changes in global climate patterns. Global warming can occur from a variety of causes, both natural and human induced. In common usage, “global warming” often refers to the warming that can occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities. See climate change, greenhouse effect, enhanced greenhouse effect, radiative forcing, troposphere.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Gray Water

Domestic wastewater composed of wash water from kitchen, bathroom, and laundry sinks, tubs, and washers.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Greenhouse Effect

Trapping and build-up of heat in the atmosphere (troposphere) near the Earth’s surface. Some of the heat flowing back toward space from the Earth’s surface is absorbed by water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, and several other gases in the atmosphere and then reradiated back toward the Earth’s surface. If the atmospheric concentrations of these greenhouse gases rise, the average temperature of the lower atmosphere will gradually increase. See greenhouse gas, anthropogenic, climate, global warming.7

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

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), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), ozone (O3 ), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). See <a href=”http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/glossary.html#CO2“>carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride.7

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Greenwashing

Greenwashing is a form of corporate misrepresentation where a company will present a green public image and publicize green initiatives that are false or misleading. A company might release misleading claims or even true green initiatives while privately engaging in environmentally damaging practices. Companies are trying to take advantage of the growing public concern and awareness for environmental issues by promoting an environmentally responsible image. Greenwashing can help companies win over investors (especially those interested in socially responsible investing), create competitive advantage in the marketplace, and convince critics that the company is well-intentioned. There is a profit-driven motive to greenwashing as well— green products are among the fastest growing segments in the market and present a huge potential for growth. The increase in green advertising claims has become a cause for concern at the Federal Trade Commission, who planned to begin re-evaluation of existing green marketing guidelines in 2008.

ecomii Green Dictionary A to Z. [online] Available from: http://www.ecomii.com/ecopedia/greenwashing [accessed 16 December 2009]

Heat Island Effect

The Heat Island Effect occurs when dark surfaces absorb the Sun’s energy and re-radiate it throughout the day and night raising the ambient air temperature.  The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C). Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water quality.

US Environmental Protection Agency. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/hiri/ [accessed 9 September 2012]

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The IPCC was established jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization in 1988. The purpose of the IPCC is to assess information in the scientific and technical literature related to all significant components of the issue of climate change. The IPCC draws upon hundreds of the world’s expert scientists as authors and thousands as expert reviewers. Leading experts on climate change and environmental, social, and economic sciences from some 60 nations have helped the IPCC to prepare periodic assessments of the scientific underpinnings for understanding global climate change and its consequences. With its capacity for reporting on climate change, its consequences, and the viability of adaptation and mitigation measures, the IPCC is also looked to as the official advisory body to the world’s governments on the state of the science of the climate change issue. For example, the IPCC organized the development of internationally accepted methods for conducting national greenhouse gas emission inventories.

Localvore

The term localvore describes someone who adheres to a local diet. A localvore only eats food grown within a specific nearby area, buying fresh, usually organic produce directly from farmers and small markets. Localvores often enjoy relationships with local farmers, whose presence is essential to the ecological diversity and sustainability of the region, and their avoidance of large-scale farms and transportation costs reduces the carbon impact of their eating.

ecomii Green Dictionary A to Z. [online] Available from: http://www.ecomii.com/ecopedia/localvore [accessed 16 December 2009]

Methane (CH4)

A hydrocarbon that is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential most recently estimated at 23 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane is produced through anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition of waste in landfills, animal digestion, decomposition of animal wastes, production and distribution of natural gas and petroleum, coal production, and incomplete fossil fuel combustion. The GWP is from the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (TAR). For more information visit EPA’s Methane site.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Natural Gas

Underground deposits of gases consisting of 50 to 90 percent methane (CH4) and small amounts of heavier gaseous hydrocarbon compounds such as propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10).

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Organic

USDA Certified Organic foods and farms cannot use most synthetic or petroleum derived pesticides and fertilizers, any irradiation, or sewage sludge. No genetic engineering is allowed. Organic farmers use crop rotation, tilling and natural fertilizers, such as compost.

A USDA-accredited certifier verifies that a farmer or producer meets the standards of the USDA National Organic Program.

ecomii Green Dictionary A to Z. [online] Available from: http://www.ecomii.com/ecopedia/organic [accessed 16 December 2009]

Ozone (O3)

Ozone, the triatomic form of oxygen (O3), is a gaseous atmospheric constituent. In the troposphere, it is created both naturally and by photochemical reactions involving gases resulting from human activities (photochemical smog). In high concentrations, tropospheric ozone can be harmful to a wide range of living organisms. Tropospheric ozone acts as a greenhouse gas. In the stratosphere, ozone is created by the interaction between solar ultraviolet radiation and molecular oxygen (O2). Stratospheric ozone plays a decisive role in the stratospheric radiative balance. Depletion of stratospheric ozone, due to chemical reactions that may be enhanced by climate change, results in an increased ground-level flux of ultraviolet (UV-) B radiation. See atmosphere, ultraviolet radiation.4

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Ozone Layer

The layer of ozone that begins approximately 15 km above Earth and thins to an almost negligible amount at about 50 km, shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The highest natural concentration of ozone (approximately 10 parts per million by volume) occurs in the stratosphere at approximately 25 km above Earth. The stratospheric ozone concentration changes throughout the year as stratospheric circulation changes with the seasons. Natural events such as volcanoes and solar flares can produce changes in ozone concentration, but man-made changes are of the greatest concern. See stratosphere, ultraviolet radiation.6

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Parts Per Million (ppm)

Number of parts of a chemical found in one million parts of a particular gas, liquid, or solid. See concentration.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Phantom Load

A phantom load is the electricity consumed by an appliance or electrical device when it is not actively being used or is in the “off” mode. Although these devices, or “power vampires” appear to be off, they continue to draw electricity from outlets to keep their circuits instantly ready for the next time they are turned on. Power vampires only consume a few watts when not in use, but throughout a day and over an entire year, a few watts can add up to almost 20% of a home’s power.

To prevent power vampires from drawing phantom loads and raising your electric bill, unplug any devices that are not in use and do not require power. Common power vampires include rechargeable battery chargers (for laptop, phone, music player, etc.), TVs, DVD players and VCRs, cable boxes and modems, answering machines, fax machines, and printers. In general, any device that has a power adapter, or “power brick,” or feels warm after it has been switched off for a while is a power vampire. Using inexpensive power strips that can be shut off when devices are not in use can also prevent phantom loads.

ecomii Green Dictionary A to Z. [online] Available from: http://www.ecomii.com/ecopedia/phantom-load [accessed 16 December 2009]

Recycling

Collecting and reprocessing a resource so it can be used again. An example is collecting aluminum cans, melting them down, and using the aluminum to make new cans or other aluminum products.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Reforestation

Planting of forests on lands that have previously contained forests but that have been converted to some other use.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Renewable Energy

The term renewable energy generally refers to electricity supplied from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, geothermal, hydropower, and various forms of biomass. These energy sources are considered renewable sources because they are continuously replenished on the Earth.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Solar Panels

Solar panels are a type of photovoltaic (PV) system that collects energy from sunlight and converts it into usable energy for a building. Also called photovoltaic (PV) cells, solar panels typically contain no corrosive chemicals, do not pollute, require little maintenance, and operate silently from the roof of a building. During daylight hours, PV panels produce energy that is fed back into the electrical grid, sometimes causing the electric meter to run backward. At night, the building uses energy off the power lines as usual, but the building saves money in its utility bill from the energy produced during the day.

Solar panels come in a variety of sizes and are best installed on flat roofs where they can be angled toward the south-facing sun, but they can be placed anywhere within 1,000 feet of your home that receives plenty of sun. PV panels require light but not heat and can be installed in cold, sunny locations just as easily as warm ones. Although not very heavy, PV panels weigh about twice as much as typical shingles do. Building-Integrated PV (BIPV) panels can also be installed as an alternative to conventional shingles. The average payback period of a solar panel is five to ten years, but that number will vary depending on the amount of power you use, the location and area of the panels, and the geographic location of your home.

ecomii Green Dictionary A to Z. [online] Available from: http://www.ecomii.com/ecopedia/solar-panels [accessed 16 December 2009]

Solar Radiation

Radiation emitted by the Sun. It is also referred to as short-wave radiation. Solar radiation has a distinctive range of wavelengths (spectrum) determined by the temperature of the Sun. See ultraviolet radiation, infrared radiation, radiation.3

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Sustainable

Meeting the needs of the present without diminishing the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability also means that human practices do not result in the permanent damage, alteration or depletion of the environment, ecosystems, species or natural resources.

oprah.com. [online] Available from: http://www.oprah.com/article/world/environment/informed_glossary_az/4 [accessed 16 December 2009]

Water Vapor

The most abundant greenhouse gas, it is the water present in the atmosphere in gaseous form. Water vapor is an important part of the natural greenhouse effect. While humans are not significantly increasing its concentration, it contributes to the enhanced greenhouse effect because the warming influence of greenhouse gases leads to a positive water vapor feedback. In addition to its role as a natural greenhouse gas, water vapor plays an important role in regulating the temperature of the planet because clouds form when excess water vapor in the atmosphere condenses to form ice and water droplets and precipitation. See greenhouse gas.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 1997) Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms. [online] Washington, D.C. Available from: http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/ [accessed 16 December 2009]

Wind Energy

Wind energy is energy collected from motion caused by heavy winds. Wind energy is collected in turbines with propellers that spin when the wind blows and turn the motion of the propeller into energy that can be used in the electrical grid. Wind energy is a clean, renewable energy source that is abundant in windy areas. Large wind farms are often located outside of cities, supplying power for electrical grids within the city.

ecomii Green Dictionary A to Z. [online] Available from: http://www.ecomii.com/ecopedia/wind-energy [accessed 16 December 2009]

Numerous definitions in Glossary of Terms sourced from the Environmental Protection Agency