Green Glossary

Alternative Energy — Power derived from sources like wind or solar energy without creating harmful emissions

Biodegradable — Able to decompose naturally into simple organic compounds that are safe for the earth

Biofuel — Fuel such as biodiesel or ethanol that is made from renewable, organic materials for use as a replacement for fossil fuels

Bisphenol A (BPA) — Used to make polycarbonate plastics, which become the durable light plastics that are very common in food and drink packaging, including baby bottles and children’s toys. Controversy surrounds the chemical because of the possible adverse effects, such as increased risk of multiple cancers

Carbon Footprint — The total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere during one’s life, or during the time it takes to complete a product or service

Carbon Neutral — Resulting in a net discharge of carbon into the atmosphere of zero, usually once an initial discharge has been offset by another action, like planting trees

Composting — The process by which organic food, paper, and yard wastes are broken down naturally by organisms (bacteria, fungi, worms) into a mineral-rich product for use by farmers and gardeners

Embodied Energy — The total energy used in all the processes required to complete a building, from the acquisition of natural resources to the transport of materials and administrative actions

Energy Efficiency — Using less energy to do more or to get more service

EnergyStar — An energy-performance rating system created jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, in which energy-efficient buildings are awarded stars

Environmental Footprint — The amount of nonrenewable resources a company or individual uses, plus the amount of waste and emissions it creates

Green Design — Architectural design that is resource-efficient and environmentally sound; its elements include solar panels, natural lighting, and sustainable construction materials

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) — The rating system and certification program that sets the standards for an official "green" building based on five criteria: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality

Nontoxic — Not causing adverse health affects (used to describe a product, substance, or chemical)

Organic Fabric — One in which 95 percent or more of the fibers are grown without engineering or chemical pesticides and fertilizers

Phthalates — A class of chemicals made from alcohols and phthalic anhydride used most commonly to soften vinyl, for things such as toys and baby bottles. Phthalates have been linked to a number of health risks, including kidney and lung damage

Reclaimed Materials — Ones that have been salvaged from the waste stream and reused in their original form, with minimal reprocessing

Recycled Materials — Those that are remanufactured to form part of a new product

Renewable Materials — Those that naturally replenish themselves and are abundant in their natural environment, such as bamboo (fast-growing) and cork (made from bark, so its trees are unharmed by harvesting)

Sustainable Materials — Those made without adverse effect on the environment

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) — Potentially harmful human-made chemicals that are emitted into the air as gases from certain solids or liquids, such as paint, cleaning fluids, and other household items

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