Acid rain Rain with increased acidity due to absorption of airborne pollutants such as C02 and sulphur dioxide.
Precipitation, as rain, snow, or sleet, containing relatively high concentrations of acid-forming chemicals, such as the pollutants from coal smoke, chemical manufacturing, and smelting, which have been released into the atmosphere and combined with water vapour.
Active Solar Design Uses mechanical devices such as pumps and fans to move heat between collectors, storage, and use. Solar panels that collect solar energy and convert it to electricity are considered an active solar design.
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.
Contamination of air by smoke and harmful gases, mainly oxides of carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen.
Alternative Energy Energy derived from sources that do not use up natural resources or harm the environment, such as solar, wind, or nuclear energy, that can replace or supplement traditional fossil-fuel sources, as coal, oil, and natural gas. Also, green power.
Energy from a source other than fossil fuel sources, like natural gas or coal, such as wind, sun or running water. To take advantage of alternative energy, consider installing solar tubes, panels or solar electricity generation systems.
Alternative Fuels A fuel other than gasoline or diesel for powering motor vehicles, often with improved energy efficiency and pollution reduction features, including electricity, natural gas, methanol, ethanol, and fuel cells.
Biodegradeable A material or substance which will decompose quickly and without harmful effects to the environment, when left exposed to nature.
Any material that can be broken down by living things including micro- organisms such as bacteria.
Biodiversity The variety of different species within a set habitat. For example, the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest is greater than that of the Gobi desert.
Biofuel A derivative of biological material, such as food waste, used oil from fast- food fryers or poultry litter, that can be converted to fuel and be both sustainable and carbon neutral. One way to take advantage of biofuels is to drive a car that runs on it.
Biomass In energy terms, biomass refers to the use of organic material for the generation of heat, electricity or motive power. Biomass is produced from organic materials, either directly from plants or indirectly from industrial, commercial, domestic or agricultural products. It is carbon neutral as the CO2 released when energy is generated from biomass is balanced by that absorbed during the fuel's production.
Brown Power Power generated from environmentally hostile technology, such as coal, nuclear, large hydro, and natural gas plants.
Carbon capture New technology can now capture large amounts of carbon emissions and store them in isolated areas. This means they do not float into our atmosphere and speed up climate change.
Carbon dioxide Carbon dioxide is a gas that is made when fossil fuels are burnt to provide power for everything from driving your car to boiling the kettle. It is also made when organic things like trees are burnt. It is then released into the earthâ€™s atmosphere and is one of the harmful gases known as Greenhouse Gases.
Carbon footprint We all have a carbon footprint; itâ€™s the amount of CO2 each of us produces in our daily lives (for example through using electricity in our homes or driving) and the impact that has on the environment. Other gases like methane (produced by cows) also contribute to a carbon footprint, for example consuming meat and dairy products adds to our 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 negative Any process or product that removes carbon from the atmosphere. Growing trees are carbon negative.
Carbon neutral Because so many of the things we do involve burning carbon at some stage (for example, though riding a bike does not produce emissions, manufacturing the bike did) it has so far been difficult to say what being carbon neutral really is. But many people agree that it is all about cutting down carbon emissions as much as possible by doing things like switching to renewable energy.
A process that doesn't add to the net amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Look for ways you can reduce carbon emissions, such as maintaining your car, reducing travel miles and conserving energy in the home.
Carbon offset Carbon offsetting is a way of balancing your carbon emissions. There are a number from fossil fuels with renewable energy such as wind or solar power. It can help to reduce your carbon footprint but is best viewed as a last resort once actual energy use has been reduced as much as possible.
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.
Chlorofluorocarbons Used in refrigeration, insulation and aerosol propellants, these chemicals drift into the upper atmosphere and destroy the ozone layer. Look for products that are CFC free.
Climate change Over the years our climate has changed. Climate change can be due to natural causes, but most scientists agree that the rises in the earthâ€™s temperature are linked to the way we live and activities like burning fossil fuels. This means that the temperature of the earth is getting hotter, causing ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise. According to the World Wildlife Fund, climate change could cause a global, humanitarian and environmental disaster.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) These bulbs contain a gas that produces invisible ultraviolet light when the gas is stimulated by electricity. Illumination is a result of the light reflecting off a white coating inside the bulb. The bulbs use less energy because the process doesn't require heating a filament to produce light. They also last longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
Compost A mixture of various decaying organic substances, such as dead leaves, manure, or kitchen scraps, used for fertilizing soil, improve soil structure, and add nutrients.
Conservation The careful utilization, preservation, and renewal of a natural resource in order to prevent depletion.
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.
Cottage Industry An industry in which the creation and services of products is home based and not factory based. The products produced are often independent, and one of a kind and not mass produced.
Cradle to cradle This is a construction and production ethos proposed by Walter R. Stahel that aims to make all components of a made object reusable or disposable with no negative ecological effects.
Decomposition The breakdown or decay of organic materials by bacteria and fungi.
Decontamination To make safe by eliminating poisonous or otherwise harmful substances, such as noxious chemicals or radioactive material.
Deforestation Deforestation is simply the process of removing trees from land. Trees help absorb CO2, one of the main gases that contribute to climate change, so the more trees get chopped down, the less carbon is absorbed. Deforestation now contributes to nearly 20% of global carbon emissions, according to the Forestry Commission.
Desalination This is the process of removing salt from the sea and other salt water. It is a way of increasing the water supply for humans and farm animals.
Dioxins A group of chemicals, some of which are highly toxic, which can be formed by incomplete combustion (such as you may find in incinerators) and are believed to contribute to pollution and climate change.
DIY: Do-It-Yourself Creating things yourself without the help of professionals. A mentality that often goes hand-in-hand with recycling and conserving resources.
Dual-flush toilets Dual-flush toilets are designed to conserve water and allow consumers to choose either a low- or full-flush capacity.
Durability Related to the quality of an item, durability indicated how well a product stands up after a sustained period of use.
Eco-friendly Not harmful to the environment.
Products are made with ecology and the environment in mind.
Ecological Footprint The impact of humans on ecosystems created by their use of land, water, and other natural resources, usually calculated in terms of area of planet needed to sustain consumption.
The Ecological Footprint measures how our lifestyles affect other people as well as the planet. It works out how much land and sea is needed to feed everyone and to provide all the energy, water and raw materials like wood we use in our everyday lives.
Ecological Impact The effect that a man-caused or natural activity has on living organisms and their environment.
Ecological (Environmental) Sustainability The maintenance of ecosystem components and functions for future generations.
Ecology The relationship between organisms and their environment.
Ecosystem A collection of living things and the environment in which they live.
A system made up of a community of living organisms. You might talk about the ecosystem of a local area or the whole country.
The interconnectedness of organisms (plants, animals, microbes) with each other and their environment.
Emissions The release of any gas, liquid or solid.
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.
Emission Controls Any measure that limits and reduces the release of emissions.
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 efficient products use less energy, but work just as well, if not better, than standard products. Energy efficient light bulbs use up to 80% less energy and last much longer than standard light bulbs. Find out more here. There are lots of other energy efficient products available from fridges to computers, so look out for them next time you buy.
Environment The air, water, minerals, organisms, and all other external factors surrounding and affecting a given organism at any time.
Environmental Impact Any change to the environment whether it harmful or helpful.
Erosion The wearing away of land surface by wind or water, intensified by land- clearing practices related to farming, residential or industrial development, road building, or logging.
Ethanol An alternative automotive fuel derived from grain and corn; usually blended with gasoline.
Flat-pack Refers to furniture that is designed to pack flat, thereby reducing shipping costs and fuel used in transportation. Flat-pak designs are ready to assemble by the customer, right out of the box.
Food Chain A series of organisms interrelated in their feeding habits, the lowest being fed upon by a higher one, which in turn feeds a still higher organism, etc.
Fossil fuels Oil, natural gas and coal are all fossil fuels. They are formed in the ground from the remains of dead plants and animals over millions of years.
Any combustible organic material, as oil, coal, or natural gas, derived from the remains of former life.
Any fuel that was created by decomposed plants and animals. Burning fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide and is a large contributor to pollution.
Free-range Permitted to graze or forage for grain, etc., rather than being confined to a feedlot or a small enclosure. A labeling term that has come under some scrutiny due to interpretation of standards.
Fuel Efficiency The proportion of energy released by fuel combustion that is converted into useful energy.