Green terminology 101:
The world of ventilation, airflow and engineering use terms that many of us don't. We've assembled many definitions for your benefit.
Air Pollution: Airborne contaminants or pollutants that adversely affect the environment or human health. A byproduct of the manufacturing process and transportation of goods. Buying eco- friendly products indirectly reduces air pollution.
Biodegradeable: A material or substance which will decompose quickly and without harmful effects to the environment, when left exposed to nature.
Carbon Footprint: The total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted over the full lifecycle of a product or service, expressed as grams of CO2 equivalents. Greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and climate change, so reducing carbon footprints is desirable for a healthier earth.
Carbon neutral: The fact that no extra carbon dioxide is released as a result of a particular manufacturing process, service or lifestyle. This is brought about by balancing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere with an equal amount of carbon dioxide that has been sequestered or offset. Examples include planting trees or using renewable energies that don't emit any carbon dioxide.
Carbon Offset: Carbon offsetting is the act of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through emissions trading. For example, a factory or production facility may not be able to reduce its own carbon footprint any further through its own actions, so it may voluntarily purchase credits for another party to offset their actions. The goal of carbon offsets is to attain a carbon neutral overall effect. Certified: Acknowledging that a product is genuine to what it claims, typically having gone through a process similar to obtaining a license.
Construction Waste Management Plan (CWMP): A plan that diverts construction debris from landfills through conscientious plans to recycle, salvage, and reuse. For best results, this type of plan should also eliminate packaging of materials when possible and be carefully monitored or audited by the contractor.
Co-op: Short for Co-operative. Worker cooperatives are owned and democratically controlled by its workers. Since the co-op is worker- owned and membership is not compulsory, this type of manufacturing set-up avoids exploitation of its workers.
Eco-chic: A product or good that is both eco-friendly and hip.
Eco-friendly: An alternative to goods usually bought in most stores. These products are made with ecology and the environment in mind.
Emissions: Emissions are particles and gases released into the air as byproducts. There are many types of emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions, for example, contribute to global warming and is not sustainable to the health of the earth.
Energy Efficient: Products and systems that use less energy to perform as well or better than standard products. While energy- efficient products sometimes have higher up-front costs, they tend to cost less over their lifetime when the cost of energy consumed is factored in. An example of this is fluorescent light bulbs vs. incandescent bulbs.
Energy Star: A joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that promotes the use of energy-efficient products and services. Energy Star-marked appliances and electronics, which meet the program's strict energy-efficiency guidelines, saved Americans $16 billion on their utility bills in 2007 alone — or greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to those from 27 million cars.
Fair Trade: A social movement that promotes standards for international labor and gives workers a sense of economic self- sufficiency through fair wages and good employment opportunities to economically disadvantaged populations.
FSC: See Forestry Stewardship Council. FSC-labeled wood products indicate that the wood is harvested from sustainably managed forests.
Green Building: A green building is designed to conserve resources and reduce negative impacts on the environment - whether it is energy, water, building materials or land. Compared to conventional construction, green buildings may use one or more renewable energy systems for heating and cooling, such as solar electric, solar hot water, geothermal, biomass, or any combination of these.
Green Design: A term used in the building, furnishings, and product industries to indicate design sensitive to environmentaly-friendly, ecological issues.
Greenwashing: Greenwashing is a superficial nod to the environment that marketers and businesses that historically were not interested in sustainable concerns, are doing in order to improve their public relation standings with the consumer or public. Analogous to brainwashing.
Going Green: A phrase referring to individual action that a person can consciously take to curb harmful effects on the environment through consumer habits, behavior, and lifestyle.
Hybrid: A car that runs on both electric battery and fuel, making the gas mileage extremely efficient and also produces fewer emissions which help control pollution in the environment.
LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. A leading certification process by the U.S. Green Building Council that evaluates new buildings constructed to common green standards.
Low-VOC: A term referring to reduced amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paint and finishes. Low-VOC paints do not off- gas as much as conventional paints and contains fewer toxins that are harmful to the environment.
Natural: A product that is made from materials and ingredients found in nature, with little or no human intervention. For example, wood is a natural material while plastic is not.
Non-toxic: Something that is not toxic or poisonous. One Percent for the Planet: An organization consisting of businesses that pledges to give at least 1% of their total annual revenues to charities and organizations that help the natural environment.
Organic: Of or relating to a product that is solely made from plants or insects. Organic materials and products often carry certifications according to industry.
Phantom power:Also known as "vampire power" or "phantom load"; refers to the power drawn by appliances and electronics even when they're switched off or not in use. By one estimate, U.S. residents spend $1 billion per year on it.
Pollution Prevention: Reducing the amount of energy, materials, packaging, or water in the design, manufacturing, or purchasing of products or materials in an effort to increase efficient use of resources, reduce toxicity, and eliminate waste.
Post-consumer: Refers to recycled material that was used first by a consumer. A high post-consumer content helps divert materials from ending up in landfills.
Pre-consumer: Refers to recycled material that came from the manufacturing process. Pre-consumer recycling of scraps and discards diverts waste that may otherwise end up in landfills, and reduces use of raw materials.
Recyclable:A product or material that can be converted back into material that can be used again in manufacturing new goods. Typically, recycleable materials (aluminum, steel, paper, etc.) must remain in their pure form. If too many adhesives are used, or a product is made from a composite, those materials may not be separated at the end of its life-cycle for recycling.
Recycled: To use again or reprocess.
Renewable Energy: Energy harvested from sources that are not depleted when used, typically causing very low environmental impact. Examples include solar energy, hydroelectric power, and wind power.
Remanufacturing: A recycled concept by which an existing product can have its useful life extended through a secondary manufacturing or refurbishing process such as remanufactured systems furniture.
Renewable: A raw material that can be replenished within a reasonable amount of time. Example, bamboo and sustainably harvested woods are renewable. Gold and precious stones are not renewable.
Sustainable: Actions and products that meet current needs without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Sustainability is a broad term and often refers to the desire to provide the best outcomes for the human and natural environments both now and into the indefinite future.
VOC: Volatile organic compounds. VOC's are toxins commonly found in conventional paints, sealers, and finishes. VOC's off-gas into the air and are not good to people or to the environment.
Waste Reduction: A process to reduce or eliminate that amount of waste generated at its source or to reduce the amount of toxicity from waste or the reuse of materials. The creation of waste is a growing problem on the environment, as landfills get filled and toxins leach back into the ground. The best way to reduce waste is not to create it in the first place.
Zero-VOC: A term used to indicate paint containing no volatile organic compounds - a healthier alternative to conventional paints.