Green Vocabulary: A-to-Z list

A B C D E F G I L M N O P R S T U V W 

List by categories

 A [ top ]
 
 Air Changes per Hour 
 Air Changes per Hour (ACH) is the number of times in one hour that the air in your house has been completely replaced with outside air. 
 
 
 B [ top ]
 
 Bio-based Product 
 A product (other than food or feed) that is produced from renewable agricultural (plant, animal and marine) or forestry materials. 
 
 Biodegradable 
 Capable of decomposing in nature within a reasonably short period of time.  
 
 Biological Contaminants 
 Agents derived from living organisms (e.g., viruses, bacteria, fungi and mammal and bird antigens) that can be inhaled and can exacerbate many types of health effects including allergic reactions, respiratory disorders, hypersensitivity diseases and infectious diseases. Also referred to as "microbiologicals" or "microbials". 
 
 Biomass & Biogas 
 Biomass and biogas are both derived from combustible plant and animal materials that can be used to produce heat and power. Biogas is processed into a gas, while biomass is used as a solid. While these fuels do emit carbon, they are considered renewable. Unlike fossil fuels, the carbon emitted by biofuels can be recaptured in a single life-cycle by re-growing the source fuel, making them carbon neutral. 
 
 Biomimicry 
 The study of nature and imitation of nature's forms. The process of learning from and then emulating life's genius.  
 
 British Thermal Unit 
 British Thermal Unit (BTU) is a unit of energy used in the power, steam generation, heating and air conditioning industries. A BTU is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of liquid water by one degree from 60° to 61°Fahrenheit at a constant pressure of one atmosphere. 
 
 Building Related Illness 
 Building Related Illness (BRI) - diagnosable illness with symptoms that can be identified and with a cause that can be directly attributed to airborne building pollutants (e.g. Legionnaire's Disease, hypersensitivity pneumonitis). 
 
 
 C [ top ]
 
 Carbon Dioxide 
 Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a colorless, odorless gas, formed naturally by decomposition, combustion, breathing, etc. CO2 contributes to global warming. 
 
 Cellulose 
 Cellulose insulation is made from wastepaper, such as used newspaper and boxes. It is shredded into small particles, and chemicals providing resistance to fire and insects are added. Cellulose insulation is dusty and brown, with flat particles, on which you can frequently find legible print. 
 
 Chlorofluorocarbon 
 Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) is a class of volatile, non-reactive, non-corrosive, non-flammable and easily liquefied gases, typically used in refrigeration and believed to be responsible for the deterioration of the stratospheric ozone. 
 
 Climate Change 
 Climate change is any long-term significant change in the expected patterns of average weather of a specific region (or, more relevantly to contemporary socio-political concerns, of the Earth as a whole) over an appropriately significant period of time. Climate change reflects abnormal variations to the expected climate within the Earth's atmosphere and subsequent effects on other parts of the Earth, such as in the ice caps over durations ranging from decades to millions of years.

See also "Global Warming Potential (GWP)".
 
 
 Closed Loop Recycling 
 Closed Loop Recycling is a production system in which the waste or byproduct of one process or product is used in making another product. For example, recycling waste newspaper to make paper-board or other types of paper.

See also "Recycling".
 
 
 Color Rendering Index 
 Color Rendering Index (CRI) is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reproduce the colors of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source. Light sources with a high CRI are desirable in color-critical applications such as photography and cinematography. Look for lamps with a CRI of 80 or higher. 
 
 Color Temperature 
 Color temperature is a characteristic of visible light that has important applications in lighting, photography, videography, publishing, and other fields. Color temperatures in the 2700–3600 K range are recommended for most general indoor and task lighting. 
 
 Compact Fluorescent Lamps 
 Compact Fluorescent Lamps are small, and are designed to fit in regular lamp sockets. They do require a special fixture. The electronic ballast-based fluorescents are more efficient, and produce better light than the older magnetic ballast models. 
 
 Condensation  
 Condensation is the buildup of water droplets on a cold window pane. This can occur on the inside of single pane windows, and in between the panes of multiple pane windows. Condensation on single pane windows can damage windowsill and wall surfaces if extensive. Condensation between the panes of multiple pane windows indicates a problem with the seal between the panes. 
 
 Conduction 
 Conduction is the transfer of energy through matter from particle to particle. It is the transfer and distribution of heat energy from atom to atom within a substance. For example, a spoon in a cup of hot soup becomes warmer because the heat from the soup is conducted along the spoon. Conduction is most effective in solids-but it can happen in fluids. Fun fact: Have you ever noticed that metals tend to feel cold? Believe it or not, they are not colder! They only feel colder because they conduct heat away from your hand. You perceive the heat that is leaving your hand as cold. 
 
 Convection 
 Convection is the transfer of heat by the actual movement of the warmed matter. Heat leaves the coffee cup as the currents of steam and air rise. Convection is the transfer of heat energy in a gas or liquid by movement of currents. (It can also happen is some solids, like sand.) The heat moves with the fluid. Consider this: convection is responsible for making macaroni rise and fall in a pot of heated water. The warmer portions of the water are less dense and therefore, they rise. Meanwhile, the cooler portions of the water fall because they are denser. 
 
 Cradle-to-Cradle 
 Cradle-to-Cradle is a term used to describe a material or product that is recycled into a new or similar product at the end of its intended life. 
 
 Cradle-to-Grave 
 Cradle-to-Grave is a term used to describe material or product that is disposed (landfill, incineration, etc.) of at the end of its intended life. 
 
 
 D [ top ]
 
 Design for the Environment 
 Design for the Environment (DfE) is a concept or philosophy applied to the design process that advocates the reduction of environmental and human health impacts through materials selection and design strategies. 
 
 Downcycling 
 Downcycling is the recycling of a material into a material of lesser quality. The obvious example is the recycling of plastics, which turns them into lower grade plastics.

See also "Recycling".
 
 
 
 E [ top ]
 
 Ecobalance 
 See "Life Cycle Assessment". 
 
 Ecological Footprint 
 Ecological Footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's ecosystems. It compares the resulting impacts on the environment based on the choices we make (i.e., raw materials selection, transpor1ation, etc.}. 
 
 Ecosystem 
 An ecosystem is a functioning natural unit of organisms from the natural community (plants, animals, micro-organisms) and non-living factors that interact with one another and their environment to sustain one another. 
 
 Embodied Energy 
 Embodied Energy is a combination of the energy required for the process to make a product and the molecular energy inherent in the product's material content. 
 
 Emission 
 Emission is the release of any gas, par1icle or vapor into the environment. 
 
 Energy Efficiency Ratio 
 Energy Efficiency Ratio (ERR) is a ratio calculated by dividing the cooling capacity in BTUs per hour (BTU/h) by the power input in watts at a given set of rating conditions, expressed in Btu/h per watt. 
 
 Energy Factor 
 The efficiency of storage water heaters is indicated by its Energy Factor (EF), which is based on an average hot water consumption of 64 gallons/day. The higher the EF, the more efficient the water heater. 
 
 Environmental Cost 
 Environmental Cost is the monetary impact from the negative environmental effects resulting from the choices we make.

See also "Ecological Footprint".
 
 
 Environmental Management Systems 
 Environmental Management Systems (EMS) are series of activities to monitor and manage the environmental impacts of manufacturing activities. (Example: ISO 14001). 
 
 Environmental Protection Agency 
 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an independent executive agency of the federal government, established in 1970, responsible for the formulations and enforcement of regulations governing the release of pollutants, to protect public health and the environment. 
 
 Environmentally Friendly 
 A generic statement often used to designate a product or process that has a reduced ecological footprint when compared to other products/processes. 
 
 Environmentally Preferable 
 Products, services or systems that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products, services or systems that serve the same purpose.  
 
 
 F [ top ]
 
 Fiberglass 
 Fiberglass (also called fibreglass and glass fibre) is the most familiar type of insulation. It is spun from molten glass, and is pure white in its virgin state. Additives and binders often color the fiberglass, with pink and yellow being the most common. Fiberglass comes in rolls, batts and as loose insulation which is blown into place. 
 
 First-hour rating 
 The ability of a water heater to meet peak-hour demands. It measures how much hot water the heater will deliver during a busy hour. The first-hour rating accounts for the effects of tank size, and how quickly cold water is heated. 
 
 Fluorescent lamps 
 Fluorescent lamps are up to five times more efficient than incandescent lamps, and last up to twenty times longer. They require a special fixture. Electronic ballast fluorescents are a new efficient improvement over the traditional magnetic ballast fluorescents. Fluorescent lamps are available as straight tubes, U-shaped tubes, circular tubes and compact fluorescent lamps. 
 
 Fluorocarbon 
 Non-flammable, heat-stable hydrocarbon liquid or gas, in which some or all hydrogen atoms have been replaced by fluorine atoms. As with CFC's, fluorocarbons, traditionally used as propellants (spray cans), are classified as ozone-depleting substances. 
 
 Fly Ash 
 Fine, non-combustible particulate primarily resulting from the combustion of coal in furnaces and kilns. Often used as a filler material in concrete to displace virgin raw materials. 
 
 Fossil Fuel 
 Any petroleum based fuel (gasoline, natural gas, fuel, oil, etc). 
 
 
 G [ top ]
 
 Gas fill 
 An inert gas such as argon is used instead of air between the window panes. Inert gases have a much better insulation value than air. 
 
 Global Warming Potential 
 Global Warming Potential (GWP) is the impact of greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to the 'greenhouse effect'. Elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and increased climate variability. Also referred to as Climate Change. 
 
 Green 
 Green is the nature color. It's also associated with regeneration, fertility and rebirth for its connections to nature. Green is a positive term referring to the environment, organics or an environmentally-friendly lifestyle. 
 
 Green Lifestyle 
 Green Lifestyle or Green Living is a lifestyle reflecting a strong commitment to the environment. It means compassionate and positive thinking and acting to reduce eco footprint by choosing a life with green deeds and green practices. 
 
 Green Living 
 See "Green Lifestyle". 
 
 Green Tag 
 A green tag or Renewable Energy Certificate (REC), represents the environmental attributes created when electricity is generated using renewable sources instead of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. REC's can be sold separately from their associated electricity and enable customers to 'green' the electricity they consume from their retail power supplier(s). 
 
 Greenhouse Effect 
 Greenhouse gases trap heat inside the atmosphere, warming the earths surface. 
 
 Greenhouse Gases 
 Gases which contribute to the greenhouse effect. These include carbon dioxide (CO2, methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), etc. 
 
 
 I [ top ]
 
 Incandescent Lamps 
 Incandescent Lamps are the most common source of light, glass bulbs with a filament inside. Approximately ninety percent of the energy consumed by an incandescent lamp is given off as heat rather than light. 
 
 Indoor Air Quality 
 Acceptable Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is air in which there are no known contaminants at harmful concentrations as determined by cognizant authorities and with which a substantial majority (80 percent or more) of the people exposed do not express dissatisfaction. 
 
 Industrial Ecology 
 An approach to the design of industrial products and processes that evaluates such activities through the dual perspective of product competitiveness and environmental interactions. 
 
 Insulation 
 Insulation is a substance that resists the transfer of heat, generally by incorporating small pockets of air. Insulation is rated in terms of thermal resistance, called R-value, which indicates the resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness. The R-value of thermal insulation depends on the type of material, its thickness and density. 
 
 
 L [ top ]
 
 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design 
 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a series of building rating products developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to provide a standard for what constitutes a "green building" or "high performance" building. 
 
 Life Cycle Analysis 
 See "Life Cycle Assessment". 
 
 Life Cycle Assessment 
 A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA, also known as Life Cycle Analysis, ecobalance, and cradle-to-grave analysis) is the investigation and valuation of the environmental impacts of a given product or service caused or necessitated by its existence. 
 
 Low-E glazing  
 A special window coating that helps prevent the warmth inside your house from escaping through the glass in the winter (pyrolytic). A variation (solar control) is designed to block heat from the summer sun. Low-E coating can reduce energy use by up to 35 percent. 
 
 Lumen 
 A lumen is the total amount of light emitted from a source. Lumens are typically used to rate the output of lamps. 
 
 
 M [ top ]
 
 Material Safety Data Sheet 
 Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDB) is a compilation of information required under OSHA hazard communication standard, including a listing of hazardous chemicals, health and physical hazards, exposure limits and handling precautions. 
 
 Multiple layers of glazing  
 Each layer of additional glazing improves the efficiency of a window, as dead air between panes prevents conduction of heat. Proper spacing of panes prevents convection loops from occurring between the window panes, further reducing heat loss. 
 
 
 N [ top ]
 
 Natural Fiber 
 Natural Fibers are organic fibers derived from organic agriculture such as cotton, bamboo and hemp. 
 
 Nonrenewable Energy 
 Sources of energy that cannot be replaced in a reasonable period of time. Fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas) are examples of nonrenewable energy sources. 
 
 
 O [ top ]
 
 Offsets 
 Greenhouse gas reduction activities undertaken to compensate for emissions elsewhere. 
 
 Organic Food Product 
 Organic food is produced by organic farming. Organic farming is an ecological farming system that promotes natural chemical and biological cycles that improve soil fertility and maintains a balanced and productive farming system. Any products introduced to this system for fertility or pest protection are of natural composition. It eliminates the use of harmful synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, growth stimulants or antibiotics. 
 
 
 P [ top ]
 
 Particulate 
 Fine solid particles of dust, spores, pollens, dander, skin flakes, mite allergens, cell debris, mold, mildew, mineral fibers, or solids escaping from combustion processes that are small enough to become suspended in the air, and in some cases, small enough o be inhaled. 
 
 Peak-hour demand 
 The maximum water usage, in gallons/hour, during the time of day when your family is likely to use the greatest amount of hot water. 
 
 Photovoltaic Cells 
 Solid-state devices (typically made from silicon) that directly convert sunlight to electricity. 
 
 Post-consumer Recycled Content 
 Post-consumer Recycled Content is a material that has served its intended use and instead of being disposed of it is being reused in a different product. If a product is labeled “recycled content,” the material might have come from excess or damaged items generated during normal manufacturing processes-not collected through a local recycling program. 
 
 Post-industrial Recycled Content 
 Post-industrial Recycled Content is a material that has been recovered from the manufacturing waste stream before it has served its intended purpose. (For example, Nylon 6,6 extrusion waste). 
 
 Programmable Thermostat 
 A thermostat with the ability to record different temperature settings for different times for your heating and/or cooling equipment. Programmable thermostats can be electronic, or mechanical. 
 
 
 R [ top ]
 
 R-Value 
 R-value is a measurement of heat resistance. It is the inverse of the U-value, so the higher the R-value the better the insulation resists heat transfer. Many factors can affect the R-value of insulation, including the type of insulation, and the age of the insulation. 
 
 Radiant barrier 
 Radiant barriers are thin sheets of highly reflective material, like aluminum, which reduce heat transfer from thermal radiation across the air space between the roof and the attic floor. Radiant barrier do nothing to prevent heat transfer by conduction or convection. 
 
 Radiation 
 Electromagnetic waves that directly transport ENERGY through space. Sunlight is a form of radiation that is radiated through space to our planet without the aid of fluids or solids. The energy travels through nothingness! Just think of it! The sun transfers heat through 93 million miles of space. Because there are no solids (like a huge spoon) touching the sun and our planet, conduction is not responsible for bringing heat to Earth. Since there are no fluids (like air and water) in space, convection is not responsible for transferring the heat. Thus, radiation brings heat to our planet. 
 
 Recovery efficiency 
 How efficiently heat from the heat source is transferred to the water in hot water tank. 
 
 Recyclable 
 A designation for products or materials that are capable of being recovered from, or otherwise diverted from waste streams for recycling. 
 
 Recycled Content 
 Recycled-content products are made from materials that would otherwise have been discarded. That means these products are made totally or partially from material contained in the products you recycle, like aluminum soda cans or newspaper. Recycled-content products also can be items that are rebuilt or re-manufactured from used products such as toner cartridges or computers. There are more than 4,500 recycled-content products available, and this number continues to grow. In fact, many of the products people regularly purchase contain recycled-content. 
 
 Recycling 
 The series of activities, including collection, separation, and processing, by which materials are recovered from the waste stream for use as raw materials in the manufacture of new products. 
 
 Renewable Energy 
 Energy derived from sources which are regenerative or recurring. Examples include wind energy, hydro, geothermal, or wave action.

See also "Biomass & Biogas", "Solar Energy", "Wind Power" and "Water Power".
 
 
 Renewable Resources 
 Renewable Resources are resources that can be replenished at a rate equal to, or greater than its rate of depletion. Examples of renewable resources include corn (for PLA products ), trees, soy-based products, etc. 
 
 Repurposing 
 To use or convert for use in another format or product: repurposed the book as a compact disk. 
 
 Rigid Boards  
 Rigid boards are fibrous materials or plastic foams pressed or extruded into board-like forms. These provide thermal and acoustical insulation, strength with low weight, and coverage with few heat loss paths. 
 
 Rockwool 
 Dirty grey, although the color can range through green and brown as well. Rockwool looks like old wool with dark flecks, and you can often find what looks like sand or small pebbles underneath the insulation. Rockwool is spun, like fiberglass, from the slag from refining metals. The debris that settles underneath the insulation is remnants of the slag, and condensed droplets of metal. 
 
 
 S [ top ]
 
 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio 
 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) measures the average cooling or heating efficiency, over the entire cooling season for your air conditioner or heat pump. 
 
 Sick Building Syndrome 
 Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a term used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and/or comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a particular building, but where no specific illness can be identified. Symptoms typically appear upon entering the building and disappear upon leaving the building in affected occupants. These buildings are also often defined as "problem buildings". 
 
 Solar Energy 
 Solar energy is the Sun’s radiant light and heat that has been harnessed by using a range of evolving technologies to produce energy. The most common technologies used are photovoltaic (creating electricity) and solar thermal (heating air and water). The energy captured by these technologies can be used to provide electricity to the grid, or to offset energy needs that would have otherwise been produced using other fuel sources. 
 
 Standby loss 
 Storage water heaters constantly loose heat by conduction through the walls of the tank, and through the first few feet of water pipes. To reduce standby losses, insulate the tank, the first two feet of the cold water inlet pipe, and the first three feet of the hot water outlet pipe. 
 
 Sustainability 
 Sustainability, in a broad sense, is the ability to maintain a certain process or state. It is now most frequently used in connection with biological and human systems. In an ecological context, sustainability can be defined as the ability of an ecosystem to maintain ecological processes, functions, biodiversity and productivity into the future. 
 
 
 T [ top ]
 
 Thermal break 
 A material that doesn't transmit heat well, such as plastic, sandwiched inside the metal parts of the frame. This reduces the heat being transferred through the frame. Thermal breaks can be used in the spacer between panes of glass in multi-pane windows as well as in the main body of the frame. 
 
 Tinted glazing  
 Tinted glass and tinted window films reduce the amount of the sun's heat entering the building. 
 
 
 U [ top ]
 
 U-Value 
 U-Value is a measurement of heat flow. The lower the U-value the more slowly the material transfers heat in and out of your home. 
 
 Upcycling 
 Upcycling is a component of sustainability in which waste materials are used to provide new products. It is generally a reinvestment in the environment. "Upcycling is the practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value. This process allows for the reduction of waste and use of virgin materials. 
 
 
 V [ top ]
 
 Volatile Organic Compounds 
 Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are compounds that evaporate from many housekeeping, maintenance and building products made with organic chemicals. These compounds may be released from the products both in use, and in storage. In sufficient quantities, VOCs can cause irritation and some are carcinogenic and are suspected of causing or exacerbating acute and chronic diseases. The health effects of VOCs at levels found typically in commercial indoor environments are still not completely known and continue to be a point of further study. 
 
 
 W [ top ]
 
 Waste-to-Energy 
 Waste-to-Energy (WtE) or Energy-from-Waste (EfW) is the process of creating energy in the form of electricity or heat from the incineration of waste source. WtE is a form of energy recovery. Most WtE processes produce electricity directly through combustion, or produce a combustible fuel commodity, such as methane, methanol, ethanol or synthetic fuels. 
 
 Water Heater Temperature 
 A water heater has a thermostat which controls the temperature of the water. Lowering the temperature of your water heater will save money and the environment. 
 
 Water Power 
 Water Power or hydroelectric power is typically produced by harnessing the force of falling or fl owing water to turn a turbine. Like wind power, it uses the friction created to generate electricity. Water power can also be used for peaking power, by storing water in reserves for later use. Hydroelectric power is the most widely used form of renewable energy. 
 
 Wind Power 
 On land or off shore, wind power is created by capturing the force of the wind and converting it into electricity, typically using technologies such as wind turbines. Friction caused by the wind’s forces spins the turbine and is converted to electricity. 
 
 

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