Green terminology and jargon buster

When I started in the IT industry over a decade ago, it was a confusing world of jargon and technical terms I’ve never heard or really bothered to understand before. Over time, these became part of my own everyday language and I used to forget that others didn’t know what I was talking about.

For every new industry or trend, words and terms become more common in our language – some existing terms made more popular and others are totally new. This is where a jargon buster can help people in familiarize themselves with terminology.

To get things rolling here’s a listing of some of the terminology and jargon associated with the world of green –  add some you know of that I’ve missed using the comments feature below!

In the world of green, this standard for Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

A material that breaks down with the assistance of microorganisms

Where  toxins taken up by plants and animals from their environment become concentrated in body tissues.

The scope of different living things within an area – the plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms and the ecosystems they are part of.

A material that breaks down through chemical reactions rather than through the activity of microorganisms

Water effluent containing fecal matter and urine – i.e. sewage

carbon footprint
the amount of carbon dioxide emissions created by a person or industry

Compact Fluorescent Lamp – an energy saving light bulb rapidly replacing traditional incandescent bulbs.

climate change
Most commonly means a rapid variation in the Earth’s global climate due to anthropogenic (human) activity induced global warming

chemical shorthand for carbon dioxide – the greenhouse gas that is contributing greatly to global warming

A material that breaks down to become what is effectively dirt. It contains no toxins and can support plant live

Someone who is environmentally aware

The physical and biological elements of an area co-existing to form a self supporting environment.

Usually used in reference to exhaust or greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide production as a byproduct of human activity.

flat pack
An increasingly popular way of producing goods that the end user assembles. The unfinished product takes up far less space, so more can be shipped – saving fuel and emissions.

fossil fuel
any hydrocarbon deposit used for fuel such as oil, coal and natural gas. These are called “fossil” fuels as it takes many years for them to be created in the natural environment.

free range
is a method of farming where the animals are permitted to roam freely instead rather than being confined in an enclosure

global warming
the increase in the average temperature of our planet’s air and ocean temperature largely due to human influences

GMO (or just GM)
A genetically modified organism. An organism whose genetic structure has been artificially altered through the introduction of genes not normally found in that organism.

anything considered environmentally friendly

greenhouse gas
Any of a number of atmospheric gases that contribute to the greenhouse (warming) effect of our atmosphere

Effluent from the shower, bath, sinks and washing machines. Does not contain sewage

heavy metal
A poisonous metal, including lead and mercury that builds up in the tissues of organisms

any chemical agent that kills or inhibits plant growth

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. An international organization established to investigate climate change, its potential impacts and options for reducing risk.

An area where household trash or industrial waste is buried in the ground.

Light Emitting Diode – becoming more common as a replacement for traditional incandescent lighting

Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability. Jargon that’s becoming unfashionable in favor of the word “green”

organic food
Plants grown without conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers or sewage and processed without food additives. Food products from animals have not been subjected to routine antibiotics or growth hormones.

Also shortened to PV. The use of solar cells to convert light from the sun into electricity

To extract and reuse useful substances found in items that may be otherwise considered as waste

renewable energy
The use of natural resources such as sunlight, wind, tides and geothermal (heath in the earth) to create another form of energy such as electricity

To take what may be otherwise a waste item and use it for another purpose – e.g a coffee jar becomes a jar for keeping nails

Texturized Vegetable Protein is a meat substitute made from defatted soy flour.

A person who only eats plant products and uses no products derived from animals, such as some types of soap and leather.

A person whose diet consists mainly or entirely of plant products

waste stream
Waste coming from different sectors – e.g municipal, commercial, industrial.

I know I’ve missed a *lot* of the jargon and terms bandied about regularly within the environmental movement, but it’s just to get things started; besides – the dinner bell is ringing!

Please feel free to add extra terminology and descriptions via the comment link below; from very simple to complex terms and I’ll add them to the list – or you can ask questions about green jargon you’ve heard used. We could build quite a list here!