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It’s official. We live in a world that talks a LOT about sustainability. That means you hear terms like “microclimate” and “virgin materials” thrown around quite a bit, but what do they really mean? here’s an a-to-z guide of all things enviornmental.
biodegradable - waste material composed primarily of naturally-occurring constituent parts, able to be broken down and absorbed into the ecosystem. Wood, for example, is biodegradable, for example, while plastics are not.
carbon dioxide (cO2) - a naturally occurring greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, concentrations of which have increased (from 280 parts per million in preindustrial times to over 350 parts per million today) as a result of humans’ burning of coal, oil, natural gas and organic matter (e.g., wood and crop wastes).
clearcutting - a logging technique in which all trees are removed from an area, typically 20 acres or larger, with little regard for long-term forest health.
climate change - a regional change in temperature and weather patterns. current science indicates a discernible link between climate change over the last century and human activity, specifi cally the burning of fossil fuels.
compact fluorescents - fluorescent light bulbs small enough to fi t into standard light sockets, which are much more energy-efficient than standard incandescent bulbs.
compost - process whereby organic wastes, including food wastes, paper, and yard wastes, decompose naturally, resulting in a product rich in minerals and ideal for gardening and farming as a soil conditioners, mulch, resurfacing material, or landfill cover.
electric vehicles - vehicles which use electricity (usually derived from batteries recharged from electrical outlets) as their power source.
emissions cap - a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases that a company or country can legally emit.
energy conservation - using energy efficiently or prudently; saving energy.
energy efficiency - technologies and measures that reduce the amount of electricity and/or fuel required to do the same work, such as powering homes, offices and industries
equity - in the environmental sense, the planned dispersement of toxic or waste facilities in regions throughout the socioeconomic strata.
Ferrous Metals - magnetic metals derived from iron or steel; products made from ferrous metals include appliances, furniture, containers, and packaging like steel drums and barrels. Recycled products include processing tin/steel cans, strapping, and metals from appliances into new products.
flora - the total vegetation assemblage that inhabits an area.
forest certification - a process of labeling wood that has been harvested from a well-managed forest.
forests - lands on which trees are the principal plant life, usually conducive to wide biodiversity.
formaldehyde - a colorless, pungent, and irritating gas, CH20, used chiefly as a disinfectant and preservative and in synthesizing other compounds like resins.
fossil fuel - a fuel, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, produced by the decomposition of ancient (fossilized) plants and animals; compare to alternative energy.
FSC Certified – the Forest Stewardship Council logo guarantees that the wood is from a certified well-managed forest and is available across the world from a variety of mills, manufacturers, and distributors.
gas - natural gas, used as fuel
global warming - increase in the average temperature of the earth's surface.
Golden Carrot - an incentive program that is designed to transform the market to produce much greater energy efficiency. The term is a trademark of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency.
grassroots - local or person-to-person. A typical grassroots effort might include a door-to-door education and survey campaign.
grazing - the use of grasses and other plants to feed wild or domestic herbivores such as deer, sheep and cows.
green design - a design, usually architectural, conforming to environmentally sound principles of building, material and energy use. A green building, for example, might make use of solar panels, skylights, and recycled building materials.
greenhouse effect - the process that raises the temperature of air in the lower atmosphere due to heat trapped by greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone.
greenhouse gas - a gas involved in the greenhouse effect.
habitat - (1) the natural home of an animal or plant; (2) the sum of the environmental conditions that determine the existence of a community in a specific place.
haze - an atmospheric condition marked by a slight reduction in atmospheric visibility, resulting from the formation of photochemical smog, radiation of heat from the ground surface on hot days, or the development of a thin mist.
hazardous waste - by-products of society that can pose a substantial or potential hazard to human health or the environment when improperly managed. Possesses at least one of four characteristics (ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity), or appears on special EPA lists.
hydrocarbons (HC) - chemical compounds that consist entirely of carbon and hydrogen.
impermeable - not easily penetrated. The property of a material or soil that does not allow, or allows only with great difficulty, the movement or passage of water.
indoor air pollution - chemical, physical, or biological contaminants in indoor air.
indoor climate - temperature, humidity, lighting, air flow and noise levels in a habitable structure or conveyance. Indoor climate can affect indoor air pollution.
industrial process waste - residues produced during manufacturing operations.
landfills - 1. Sanitary landfills are disposal sites for non-hazardous solid wastes spread in layers, compacted to the smallest practical volume, and covered by material applied at the end of each operating day. 2. Secure chemical landfills are disposal sites for hazardous waste, selected and designed to minimize the chance of release of hazardous substances into the environment.
lifetime exposure - total amount of exposure to a substance that a human would receive in a lifetime (usually assumed to be 70 years).
mandatory recycling - programs which by law require consumers to separate trash so that some or all recyclable materials are recovered for recycling rather than going to landfills.
material type - classification of suspect material by its specific use or application; e.g., pipe insulation, fireproofing, and floor tile.
Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) - a facility that processes residentially collected mixed recyclables into new products available for market.
microclimate - 1. localized climate conditions within an urban area or neighborhood. 2. The climate around a tree or shrub or a stand of trees.
microenvironments - well-defined surroundings such as the home, office, or kitchen that can be treated as uniform in terms of stressor concentration.
miscellaneous materials - interior building materials on structural components, such as floor or ceiling tiles.
nitrate - a compound containing nitrogen that can exist in the atmosphere or as a dissolved gas in water and which can have harmful effects on humans and animals. Nitrates in water can cause severe illness in infants and domestic animals. A plant nutrient and inorganic fertilizer, nitrate is found in septic systems, animal feed lots, agricultural fertilizers, manure, industrial waste waters, sanitary landfills, and garbage dumps.
nitric oxide (NO) - a gas formed by combustion under high temperature and high pressure in an internal combustion engine; it is converted by sunlight and photochemical processes in ambient air to nitrogen oxide. NO is a precursor of ground-level ozone pollution, or smog.
ozone layer - the protective layer in the atmosphere, about 15 miles above the ground, that absorbs some of the sun's ultraviolet rays, thereby reducing the amount of potentially harmful radiation that reaches the earth's surface.
pesticide - substances or mixture there of intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. Also, any substance or mixture intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.
plastics - non-metallic chemoreactive compounds molded into rigid or pliable construction materials, fabrics, etc.
post-consumer materials/waste - recovered materials that are diverted from municipal solid waste for the purpose of collection, recycling, and disposition.
post-consumer recycling - use of materials generated from residential and consumer waste for new or similar purposes; e.g. converting wastepaper from offices into corrugated boxes or newsprint.
pre-consumer materials/waste - materials generated in manufacturing and converting processes such as manufacturing scrap and trimmings and cuttings. Includes print overruns, overissue publications, and obsolete inventories.
pressed wood products - materials used in building and furniture construction that are made from wood veneers, particles, or fibers bonded together with an adhesive under heat and pressure.
recycling mill - facility where recovered materials are remanufactured into new products.
reuse - using a product or component of municipal solid waste in its original form more than once; e.g., refilling a glass bottle that has been returned or using a coffee can to hold nuts and bolts.
rubbish - solid waste, excluding food waste and ashes, from homes, institutions, and workplaces.
scrap - materials discarded from manufacturing operations that may be suitable for reprocessing.
special waste -items such as household hazardous waste, bulky wastes (refrigerators, pieces of furniture, etc.) tires, and used oil.
teratogen - a substance capable of causing birth defects.
toxicity -the degree to which a substance or mixture of substances can harm humans or animals.
ultraviolet rays - radiation from the sun that can be useful or potentially harmful. UV rays from one part of the spectrum (UV-A) enhance plant life. UV rays from other parts of the spectrum (UV-B) can cause skin cancer or other tissue damage. The ozone layer in the atmosphere partly shields us from ultraviolet rays reaching the earth's surface.
virgin materials - resources extracted from nature in their raw form, such as timber or metal ore.
waste - 1. Unwanted materials left over from a manufacturing process. 2. Refuse from places of human or animal habitation.
waste exchange - arrangement in which companies exchange their wastes for the benefit of both parties.
waste reduction - using source reduction, recycling, or composting to prevent or reduce waste generation.
wood packaging - wood products such as pallets, crates, and barrels.
wood treatment facility - a industrial facility that treats lumber and other wood products for outdoor use. The process employs chromated copper arsenate, which is regulated as a hazardous material.