Everyone needs an ecofriendly glossary. You have probably seen terms like eco-friendly, environmentally friendly, carbon neutral, green, sustainable and so on but what do they all mean? When you’re trying to go green, there is nothing more off-putting than trying to decipher all the terms being used!
We spent over 5 hours researching terms that are regularly used when referring to climate change. We have put all the terms we found so far, into an eco-friendly glossary. Our list is a work in progress as new terms are regularly being created. The list is alphabetical to make it easier to find the explanation of a particular term.
Eco-related Terms List
Air pollution: when there are chemicals or any type of particles in the air that can harm people’s health. Pollution in the air can cause sickness to humans, harm animals, and damage vegetation.
Biodegradable: Capable of being decomposed by natural processes such as sunlight or microorganisms in the soil.
Biodiversity: the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat, including the number, types, and distribution of species. Many human processes are harmful to the environment and have impacted the life cycle of many species. Consequently, we are also experiencing a mass extinction event.
Climate change: a significant change in the Earth’s climate that can be measured over decades or longer periods of time. It is often referred to as global warming, although this term is used less frequently now because it doesn’t accurately describe all the effects of climate change.
Climate crisis: a term used to describe the impact that climate change has on Earth and its inhabitants
Carbon credits: a unit of measurement for assessing a company’s responsibility to reduce its carbon emissions
Carbon Dioxide: CO2 gas is a naturally occurring part of the earth’s atmosphere and makes up about 0.04% by volume. It does not have any odour and cannot be sensed by us at low concentrations. However, it has become dangerous because it is accumulating in our atmosphere and is causing a greenhouse effect.
Carbon emissions: the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Carbon footprint: a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide (co2 ) and other greenhouse gases that are emitted as a result of an individual’s ( i.e a person, organisation or industry) activities. Carbon footprints are measured in tons.
Carbon neutral: replace carbon sources with natural resources that take the carbon out of the atmosphere e.g. trees
Carbon offsetting: a form of carbon trading where the buyer pays a third party company to compensate for their emissions. Carbon offsetting is often favoured over other types of carbon trading because it allows for more flexibility in how the money is distributed. Carbon offsetting has been proven to be a successful means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but there are many different approaches to implementing it.
Circular economy: a sustainable economy process that takes into account the lifecycle of products and services from making products sustainably to minimising waste.
Climate change: a change in regional and global patterns due to increased levels of carbon dioxide
Climate crisis: irreversible changes to the planet that threatens the sustainability of life.
Climate mitigation: taking steps to reverse and minimise damage to the planet so that life remains sustainable.
Composting: this is the process of breaking down organic materials into a nutrient-rich soil amendment. This can be done with food scraps, yard trimmings, paper products, and other organic materials. Composting is a great way to reduce waste and create healthy soil for gardening.
Conservation: the protection and preservation of natural resources
Cradle to cradle: a closed-loop system, where products are designed so that they can be reused, recycled into new products, or composted at the end of their useful life. This means that by using environmentally friendly materials and designing with the environment in mind, we can create products that will not pollute our earth or create toxic waste.
Eco: refers to the environmentally friendly movement as a reaction to our world’s emphasis on industry and people’s disconnect from nature.
Eco conscious: refers to a person who is eco-friendly and aware of the environmental impacts of their actions.
Eco consumer: a consumer whose purchases are motivated by an interest in protecting or benefiting the environment.
Eco-friendly/ecofriendly: is the short version of ecology-friendly and is used to describe products, services, policies and processes that minimise the impact on the environment. This can include reducing energy consumption, waste production, and harmful emissions.
Eco-label: a certification mark or label that indicates how products, services, organisations, and supply chains are environmentally focussed in some way. These labels might indicate sustainable materials being used, sustainable processes for the production or distribution of goods, renewable energy sources used by an organisation or water conservation efforts. The Fairtrade label is a good example of an eco-label.
Ecology: the scientific study of the relationships between organisms and their environment
Ecological: this involves preserving the link between living organisms and the environment i.e being more harmonious and maintaining the natural balance. The Cambridge dictionary states that ecology is: “the relationships between the air, land, water, animals, plants etc.”
Ecofeminism: the theory that the domination of women is connected to the exploitation of nature, and that a feminist perspective is essential for creating an ecologically sustainable world
Eco-marketing: marketing that has an environmental focus or message.
Ecotourism: tourism that is sensitive to the environment, preserves the cultural heritage of the places visited and conserves natural resources.
Energy audit: an analysis of a building’s energy use to find ways for reducing its consumption. eco-label: a certification mark used to indicate that a product has been manufactured or marketed in an environmentally responsible manner
Energy conservation: using less energy to perform a task or achieve the same goal
Energy efficiency: using energy in a more efficient manner to perform a task or achieve the same goal
Energy poverty: describes energy deprivation which can result from unaffordable energy prices, and from a lack of access to modern energy services
Energy Star: a voluntary labelling program sponsored by the United States Environmental
Environmental impact assessment (EIA): this is a process designed to identify potential positive and negative impacts on health and the environment before a project begins. The goal is to identify potential risks early on so that eco-friendly solutions can be found and implemented, if necessary.
Environmental Management System (EMS): this refers to an organizational structure for minimizing negative impacts of manufacturing processes or other business operations on health and the environment. An EMS might include elements like formalized eco-friendly policies and eco-friendly goals, eco-training for staff members and regular audits of the EMS.
Environmental Product Declaration (EPD): this is a statement that provides information about how eco-friendly a product is using standardized testing methods, technical requirements, and calculation procedures. EPDs are often used to demonstrate compliance with an eco-label’s requirements.
Fairtrade: It is an ethical trade model that ensures producers in developing countries receive a price that covers the costs of producing goods and services, to ensure a fair return for their hard work.
Flexitarian: a person who occasionally eats meat, fish or dairy periodically, but otherwise follows a plant-based diet
Global warming: the Earth is getting warmer due to the increase in heat trapped by gasses (such as Carbon Dioxide and other pollutants).
Green: It is similar to the term ‘eco friendly’ as it refers to making something less harmful to the environment
Green building: this term refers to the use of eco-friendly construction methods and materials in the design, construction, and operation of buildings. Green buildings often have features like energy-efficient lighting and heating systems, recycled materials in construction, water conservation measures, and more.
Green chemistry: this term refers to the development of new processes and products that reduce or eliminate negative impacts on health and the environment. Green chemists work with substances like enzymes, minerals, water molecules, renewable materials such as vegetable oils or plant-based polymers, and biodegradable materials.
Greenhouse effect: The greenhouse effect is the process by which heat is trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the earth’s surface temperature to rise.
Green manufacturing: this term refers to eco-friendly manufacturing processes that reduce or eliminate negative impacts on health and the environment. These processes can include closed-loop production systems, recycling waste products, sustainable energy sources like solar power, wind turbines or geothermal heat pumps, water reclamation, and using biodegradable materials.
Green technology: this describes technologies that improve the environment or reduce negative impacts on it. These can include renewable energy sources, green transportation options, and eco-friendly manufacturing processes.
Greenwashing: the act of misleading consumers about the eco-friendly attributes or benefits of a product.
Heat Pumps: are devices that extract heat from the soil, air or water and transfer the heat to a building (usually your home).
Organic: this involves non toxic processes for growing food so avoids the use of pesticides and herbicides that could damage the environment and impact wildlife.
Overconsumption: taking too many resources which are in limited supply. Consumption of resources has outpaced the supply of sustainable resources.
Pollution: it is the consequence of adding a harmful substance or substances to an environment. There are several types of pollution: air, water, noise, light, land, plastic and radioactive pollution.
Recycling: this is the process of turning waste materials into new products. This can be done with plastic, metal, glass, and other materials. Recycling helps reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfills, and it also creates new products from used materials.
Reduce, reuse, recycle: the three main principles upon which the circular economy (see above) is based on. The aim is to keep and use resources for as long as possible and avoid using new virgin materials.
Renewable resources: materials that can be replaced by natural processes, such as wind, water and sunlight
Reuse/ reusable: this is the process of using something again after it has been used before. This can include things like reusing glass bottles or shopping bags. Reuse helps reduce the amount of waste that is produced, and it also saves resources.
Self sufficient: this term usually refers to a situation where someone can live independently of social systems – a person can grow their own food, organise their own heating, lighting and water without relying on external systems for support.
Solar power: this is the use of solar energy, which comes from sunlight. Solar power can be used to produce electricity or heat homes and buildings in eco-friendly ways.
Sustainability: this term refers to the ability of a system to maintain itself in the long run. In the context of the environment, it means making sure resources are replaced without damaging eco-systems e.g. sustainable wood. The term can be applied to environmental, economic, and social systems. Sustainability is often considered one of the most important aspects of eco-friendly living.
Sustainable architecture: this is a type of eco-friendly architecture that focuses on the use of natural resources like sunlight, wind, and water to reduce energy consumption. Sustainable architects might also use materials that are sustainable and eco-friendly, like bamboo or cork.
Sustainable development: development that meets current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Sustainable materials: wood, bamboo, metal, glass, ceramics. Sustainable fabrics include cotton, wool, hemp, jute or flax. Whilst wool may be a sustainable material, if you follow a vegan lifestyle, wool cannot be used. A vegan lifestyle does not use any material derived from an animal (including honey).
Waste management: the process of collecting, managing, and disposing of waste in an environmentally responsible manner. This includes reducing the amount of waste produced, recycling and composting as much as possible, and using waste as a resource to create new products.
Waste stream: is a flow of discarded items from a manufacturing process, a commercial office space, a retail store or any other place where products are consumed. The term is most often relates to sustainable development. It can also indicate materials that have been discarded because they are no longer wanted by the original manufacturer (e-waste) or by retailers.
Wind energy: this is the kinetic energy of wind that can be used to generate electricity in sustainable ways. Wind turbines are one way of harnessing wind energy so it can be put back into our eco-systems and reduce negative environmental impacts.
Wind turbines: this term refers to windmills that are designed for generating electricity using wind energy. Wind turbines work by converting kinetic energy into electrical current inside generators; they don’t emit any pollution or greenhouse gases, unlike traditional power plants.
Zero waste: this term describes a lifestyle or system in which very little waste is produced. Zero waste can be achieved through following circular economy principles: recycling, composting and reducing consumption. It requires changes in the way we live and consume. For example, not buying single-use plastic items. Changing from buying new products, consuming and then discarding may feel difficult to do, but it is possible to achieve!
These are just a few of the eco-related terms that you may encounter. There are many others, and this eco-friendly glossary is by no means exhaustive. The problem with ‘green’ terms is that there are so many terms that are used interchangeably, their meaning is at risk of being lost. Nonetheless, it will give you a good starting point for learning more about eco-friendly living. Did we miss out a term you expected to be on the list? Let us know via the contact page and we’ll add the term to our list.