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Something added to an original product that alters the general quality or counteracts natural qualities.

Air Pollution
Chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials introduced into the atmosphere that cause harm or discomfort to humans, other living organisms, or the environment. Greenhouse gasses from the burning of fossil fuels in our cars and industrial manufacturing are major air pollutants.

Alternative Energy
Energy from sources other than fossil fuels. The energy comes from renewable resources that are environmentally friendly such as the sun or wind.

The air surrounding earth that protects life. Its makeup is being affected by emissions given off by mankind.

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An environmentally friendly building material; it’s a fast growing grass which makes it an abundant and renewable resource that’s good for the environment.

Big Five
The five most commonly recycled materials. They are plastic, glass, paper, aluminum, and steel.

Biodegradable Products
Help reduce waste and pollution because they can be broken down by living organisms when immersed in an ecosystem.

Variation of life forms in a given habitat. An ecosystem’s biodiversity relies on the health and interactions of all natural surroundings and outside influences (including humans). All of earth’s biodiversity is interdependent, which is why it is important to be conscious of our environmental footprints.

The part of the earth and its atmosphere that supports life. Nearly every part of the Earth supports life from the polar ice caps to the equator.

Bisphenol-A (BPA)
A compound used in the production of polycarbonate plastic. BPA is an estrogen receptor agonist that can cause effects on the body. Long term, low dose exposure can lead to toxicity in humans.

Bovine Growth Hormones (BGH)
A hormone injected into cows to increase milk production. Its use is considered controversial because of health effects. BGH is banned in Europe and Canada, and has been boycotted by 95 percent of US dairy farmers.

The leftovers from producing a product. Sometimes they can be recycled and useful; sometimes they can have damaging ecological consequences.

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Carbon dioxide
A greenhouse gas generated by the combustion of fossil fuels. Its concentration in the atmosphere is increasing due largely to human activity and industrialization. Scientists claim that the increase is a major cause of global climate change. Exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide can be toxic and cause health risks.

Carbon Footprint
A measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse 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.

Carbon Sequestration (carbon capturing and storage (CSS))
The process of capturing carbon dioxide instead of releasing it into the air. This practice is used by some factories in an attempt to counter global warming.

Carbon Tax
A pollution tax for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses meant to reduce emissions and slow climate change. It has not been fully implemented, but some say it could be a major motivating factor in reducing emissions.

Carbon Neutral
Achieving zero net greenhouse emissions.

Sharing a car with one or more people to reduce traffic, pollution, and gas costs.

A practice in logging where a majority of the trees are cut down with no regeneration. A form of deforestation that is highly criticized due to its cause of high erosion rates and loss of biodiversity.

Climate Change
Long term or significant variations in the average weather of a region. Factors that shape climate can include the Earth’s orbit, greenhouse gasses, and solar radiation. Sometimes referred to as global warming.

Closing the Loop
Purchasing something that is made of recycled material. It creates healthy product lifecycle by reducing waste.

Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL)
A new phenomenon in light fixtures. CFLs don’t use as much energy as regular bulbs, they last longer, and they can be recycled.

Decaying organic matter usually from kitchen and yard scraps that can be used as a fertilizer adding replenishing nutrients to your soil. Compost can be made at home with a composter.

Preserving natural resources through restoration and prevention of waste. Done by heeding to the three Rs; reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
The concept that all companies have obligations to the wider community and that good corporate citizenship extends further than simply following the law.

Refers to the concept of creating products that are waste-free and cause no environmental damage after use. The goal is to make products from materials that can be recycled, reused, composted, or consumed.

A product’s whole life cycle from the extraction of resources to the final disposal.

A practice which aims to avoid harmful treatment of animals or humans in the production of goods.

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Removal or destruction of forested areas that results in reduced biodiversity and habitat due to the lack of reforestation; clear cutting is a common form that has raised controversy.

Discarding waste. There are many ways to dispose trash depending on its material. Some are environmentally friendly like recycling and some are damaging. Purchase products that can be disposed of in an eco-friendly way.

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Goods or services that do limited harm to the environment.

Ecological/Environmental footprint
A person’s impact on the environment. Compares human’s consumption with the earth’s ability to regenerate.

The scientific study of the life and interactions between organisms and their environments. Ecologists identify and work to solve ecological crises that effect population, such as the ozone hole, deforestation, and global warming.

The community of life in an area that all function together to survive.

Maximizing resources and performing or functioning with the least waste possible. Being efficient saves money, time, energy, and environment.

Refer to greenhouse gasses given off and sent into the atmosphere. Commonly refer to automobile or factory emissions.

Energy Audits
An analysis of the energy consumption of a building. Used to measure the environmental impact and set targets for improvement.

An international standard for energy efficient consumer products. Products are marked with the Energy Star logo.  

Environmental Restoration
Repairing damages done to the environment and preventing future damages.

Discarded electrical devices and components such as cell phones and computers.

Extended Producer Responsibility
Responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage its life cycle.

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Fair Trade
A movement that advocates fair wages for workers as well as healthy social and environmental practices during the production of goods. Fair trade certified items are marked with the Fair Trade Certified logo.

Food Miles
The distance a food travels from the time of its production to the end user. Used to measure the environmental impact of transporting the food. Sometimes it is more environmentally friendly to purchase local than organic due to the environmental cost of transportation.

Fossil fuel
Fuel such as oil, coal, or natural gas that comes from the remains of organisms preserved in the earth’s crust. They are typically nonrenewable.

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Global Warming
The increase in Earth’s climate and its projected continuation. Scientists believe it is due to a raise in man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Green Building
Increasing the efficiency by which a building uses resources. Green building can improve health and the environment, and save money.

Green Collar Economy
The growing number of jobs and business created by increasing environmental awareness.

Greenhouse Effect
Process that keeps the earth warm by which solar radiation is kept in the earth’s atmosphere by greenhouse gasses.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
Gasses in the atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect. They are necessary for the earth to be livable, but too many can become harmful.

A marketing practice used to deceive consumers about the environmental stance of a company or their products and services.

Water located below the earth’s surface. Many times comes from runoff, which makes it important to discard chemicals safely.

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The ecological area and the physical environment a particular species inhabits.

Household Hazardous Wastes (HHW)
Common household chemicals or waste that no longer has a use. It is important to dispose of them responsibly, and not allow them to seep into the groundwater. Recently new cleaning products are available that are ecofriendly.

Hydroelectric (hydropower)
Power created by water that is renewable and does not cause waste or greenhouse gases.

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Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
The content of interior air that may affect the health of a building’s occupants. Poor IAQ can be hazardous to health; sometimes even more so than outdoor air quality.

Intergenerational Equity
The fair treatment of future generations.

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Kyoto Target
Lowering greenhouse gas emissions 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. The international agreement was established by 137 countries in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan to address climate change. It has been adopted by other governments and businesses as a guideline for improvement.

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Common methods for disposing waste. These dumpsites are becoming more crowded and numerous as land is scarcer. Concern over landfills is increasing the need to reduce waste.

Life-cycle Assessment
The study of all inputs and outputs of materials and energy to determine a product or service’s environmental impact over its whole life time.

Most commonly low-flow toilets or low-flow showerheads. Save resources by using less water per use. Low-flow appliances are affordable and easy to install.

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Organisms that are too small to be seen by the naked eye.

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Products or processes that are produced by nature and do not contain artificial additives. Natural products are preservative free and have been minimally processed.

Nonrenewable Energy
Energy that comes from non-renewable resources such as gasoline, coal, natural gas, diesel, oil and other fossil fuels. They cannot be replaced, remade, or regenerated at the same rate that they are consumed.

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Old Growth Forests
Ancient forests that have developed naturally over time, experiencing little disruption from logging or other types of human influence.

Materials that come from living things and are produced without the use of sewer-sludge fertilizers, most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, genetic engineering (biotechnology), growth hormones, irradiation and antibiotics.

Ozone Depletion
The steady decline of the amount of ozone in Earth’s atmosphere and the larger depletion of the ozone over the Polar Regions (also known as the ozone hole).

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The materials used to transport a product. Packaging causes a great deal of waste. Some companies are making efforts to make their packaging more sustainable through use of ecofriendly materials.

Passive Solar Heating/Cooling
Using sunlight to maintain a comfortable interior temperature. This aspect of green building reduces costs of mechanical heating and cooling systems.

Phantom Load
The electricity being used by appliances when they are off or in standby. This is wasteful, and can be avoided by unplugging items when not in use.

Pollution Prevention
Increasing efficiency to reduce pollution created. This can be done by an individual changing their daily routine, or a company modifying a production process.

A thermoplastic used in many consumer products (most notably plastic grocery bags). It is not biodegradable and rarely recycled by consumers.

A type of food additive that may have adverse health effects.

Product Life Cycle (PLC)
The phases a product goes through from its inception to disposal. A products life cycle can be environmentally friendly and continue to be useful after its served its initial purpose.

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Rechargeable Batteries
Batteries that do not have to be thrown away after they run out of electricity; you can reuse them again and again after charging. This saves money and causes less waste.

The reprocessing of old materials into new products.

Recycled Content Produce (RCP)
Containing recycled content left over from manufacturing or post-consumer products that have served their original use.

Renewable Resources
Natural resources that are in no danger of being depleted from the earth’s supply. They replace as fast as or faster than they are used for energy. Examples are solar, wind, and hydro.

Using an item more than once either for the same use or a new function for environmental and economic benefits.

Liquid that drains or flows from land into streams or groundwater. It may collect any chemicals or pesticides and wash it into a larger water source.

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Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)
Ailments associated with poor indoor air quality. It’s a problem that green building aims to fix.

Slow Food Movement
Created to contrast fast food, it is a cultural movement started in Italy to promote local foods and slower paced lifestyle and cuisines.

Solar Energy
Renewable energy from the sun that can be converted into electricity through the use of solar panels.

Source Reduction
Changing the design of a product to reduce its amount of toxicity before it becomes waste.

To exist with minimal long-term effects on the environment. The most "official", widely accepted definition for sustainability, around the globe, was created in 1987 by the United Nations' World Commission on Environment and Development: "Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

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Tankless Water Heater
Heats water as it flows instead of retaining it. Important part of green building, saving money through energy and water costs.

A chemical or poisonous substance.

Trip Reduction
Reducing the amount of trips one takes to save energy.

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Free from any animal products including meat, leather, cheese, eggs, etc.

Virgin Product
A product that is made with new raw materials and no recycled content.

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To consume inefficiently or carelessly.

Waste Management
Action to reduce waste going into landfills through efficiency and the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle).

Waste Stream
The path waste takes after disposal; essentially a cycle that travels from end-user into the environment where it becomes a resource for other products and returns to other users.

Water Filters
Devices used to purify drinking water. They are available for home use and are very easy to use. They can either be attached to the faucet or inserted in a pitcher.

Wind Energy/Windpower
Renewable energy from wind that can be converted into electricity through the use of windmills.

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