Sustainable –  Glossary of Terms
courtesy of Milliken & Company


Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
Process by which a substance or particle is drawn into the structure of another.
Acid Rain
The precipitation of dilute solutions of strong mineral acids, formed by the mixing in the atmosphere of various industrial pollutants (primarily sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) with naturally occurring oxygen and water vapor.
Acute Exposure
A single exposure to a toxic substance that may result in severe biological harm or death. Acute exposures are usually characterized as lasting no longer than a day, as compared to longer, continuing exposure over a period of time.
Acute Toxicity
The ability of a substance to cause severe biological harm or death soon after a single exposure or dose. Also, any poisonous effect that results from a single short-term exposure to a toxic substance.
Adaptive Reuse
Renovation of a building or site to include elements that allow a particular use or uses to occupy a space that originally was intended for a different use.
Material that is capable of the binding and collection of substances or particles on its surface without chemically altering them.
Aerobic Treatment
Process by which microbes decompose complex organic compounds in the presence of oxygen and use the liberated energy for reproduction and growth.
Suspended droplets of liquid or liquid dispersions in air.
Air Changes Per Hour or ACH 
Number of times per hour a volume of air, equivalent to the volume of space, enters that space.
Air Exchange Rate
The rate at which outside air replaces indoor air in a given space. See Air Changes Per Hour.
Air Handling Unit
Equipment that includes a fan or blower, heating and/or cooling coils, regulator controls, condensate drain pans and air filters.
Air Plenum
Any space used to convey air in a building, furnace or structure. The space above a suspended ceiling is often used as an air plenum.
Air Pollutant
Any substance in air that could, in high enough concentration, harm man, other animals, vegetation or material. Pollutants may include almost any natural or artificial composition of matter capable of being airborne. They may be in the form of solid particles, liquid droplets, gases or any combination thereof. Air pollutants are often grouped in categories for ease in classification. Some of these categories are solids, sulfur compounds, volatile organic chemicals, particulate matter, nitrogen compounds, oxygen compounds, halogen compounds, radioactive compounds and odors.
Air Pollution
The presence of contaminants or pollutant substances in the air that interfere with human health or welfare, or produce other harmful environmental effects.
Air Toxics
Any air pollutant for which a National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) does not exist that may reasonably be anticipated to cause serious or irreversible chronic or acute health effects in humans.
Airborne Particulates
Total suspended particulate matter found in the atmosphere as solid particles or liquid droplets. Chemical composition of particulates varies widely, depending on location and time of year. Sources of airborne particulates include dust, emissions from industrial processes, combustion products from the burning of wood and coal, combustion products associated with motor vehicle or non-road engine exhausts, and reactions to gases in the atmosphere.
Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments (ASBE)
ASBE is an alliance of leading sustainable manufacturing companies committed to the education of the marketplace on sustainability.  Additionally, the Alliance is compiling a bundled offer of green products for use in the construction of high performance green buildings. Milliken & Company is a founding member.
Alternative Energy 
Energy from a source other than the conventional fossil-fuel sources of oil, natural gas and coal (i.e., wind, running water, the sun). Also referred to as “alternative fuel.” Milliken seeks renewable resources to meet its energy needs. See Methane.
Ambient Air
The surrounding air.
American National Standards Institute is a premier source for timely, relevant, actionable information on national, regional, international standards and conformity assessment issues.
An agent that prevents the growth of microbes.
American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers.
BACT – Best Available Control Technology
An emission limitation based on the maximum degree of emission reduction (considering energy, environmental and economic impacts) achievable through application of production processes and available methods, systems and techniques. BACT does not permit emissions in excess of those allowed under any applicable Clean Air Act provisions. Use of the BACT concept is allowable on a case-by-case basis for major new or modified emissions sources in attainment areas and applies to each regulated pollutant.
Process by which a building is heated in an attempt to accelerate VOC emissions from furniture and materials.
Benefit/Cost Analysis
An economic method for assessing the benefits and costs of achieving alternative health-based standards at given levels of health protection.
Substances that increase in concentration in living organisms as they take in contaminated air, water or food because the substances are very slowly metabolized or excreted.
An engineering material made from substances derived from living matter. Strictly the definition could include many common materials such as wood and leather, but it typically refers to materials that have undergone more extensive processing. Unprocessed materials may be called biotic materials. Bio-based materials are often, but not always biodegradable.
Product typically used to kill microorganisms.
Waste material composed primarily of constituent parts that occur naturally, are able to be decomposed by bacteria or fungi, and are absorbed into the ecosystem. Wood, for example, is biodegradable, while plastics are not.
A large number and wide range of species of animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms. Ecologically, wide biodiversity is conducive to the development of all species.
Biological Contamination
Contamination of a building environment caused by bacteria, molds and their spores, pollen, viruses, and other biological materials. It is often linked to poorly designed and maintained HVAC systems. People exposed to biologically contaminated environments may display allergic-type responses or physical symptoms such as coughing, muscle aches and respiratory congestion.
Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD)
A measure of the amount of oxygen consumed in the biological processes that break down organic matter in water. BOD is used as an indirect measure of the concentration of biologically degradable material present in organic wastes. It usually reflects the amount of oxygen consumed in five days by biological processes breaking down organic waste. BOD can also be used as an indicator of pollutant level, where the greater the BOD, the greater the degree of pollution. Also referred to as “biochemical oxygen demand.”
Plant matter such as trees, grasses, agricultural crops or other biological material. It can provide a renewable source of electrical power, fuel, or chemical feedstocks.
1. The part of the earth and its atmosphere in which living organisms
exist or that is capable of supporting life.
2. The ecosystem composed of the earth and the living organisms
inhabiting it.
Abandoned idled or underused industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.
Building Envelope
The exterior surface of a building’s construction – the walls, windows, roof and floor. Also referred to as “building shell.”
Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES)
Software program developed by the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology). It provides a way to balance the environmental and economic performance of building products. BEES measures the environmental performance of building products by using an environmental life-cycle assessment approach specified in the latest versions of ISO 14000 draft standards. All stages in the life of a product line are analyzed: raw material acquisition, manufacture, transportation, installation, use, and recycling and waste management. Environmental and economic performances are combined into an overall performance measure using the ASTM standard for Multi-Attribute Decision Analysis. BEES currently addresses categories of product choices and is not specific to a type of product.
Building-related Illness
Diagnosable illness whose cause and symptoms can be directly attributed to a specific pollutant source within a building (i.e., Legionnaire’s disease, hypersensitivity, pneumonitis). See Sick Building Syndrome.
Material, other than the principal product, generated as a consequence of an industrial process or as a breakdown product in a living system.
Carbon Credits
A key component of emissions trading implemented to mitigate greenhouse effect emissions on an industrial scale by capping total annual emissions and letting the market assign a monetary value to any shortfall through trading. Credits can be exchanged between businesses or bought and sold in international markets at the prevailing market price.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Odorless gas commonly sourced by respiration, and which has been used widely as a measure of the ventilation adequacy of a space. It is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. In the U.S. buildings are the largest source of carbon to the atmosphere.
Carbon Monoxide
A colorless, odorless and highly toxic gas commonly created during combustion.
Carbon Negative
Refers to a negative (less than zero) balance of sequestered or offset against carbon dioxide released.
Carbon Neutral
Refers to neutral (meaning zero) total carbon release, brought about by balancing the amount of carbon released with the amount sequestered or offset.
Carbon Offset
A financial instrument representing a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. One carbon offset represents the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide, or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases. There are two primary markets for carbon offsets. In the larger compliance market, companies, governments or other entities buy carbon offsets in order to comply with caps on the total amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit. In the much smaller voluntary market, individuals, companies, or governments purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity use, and other sources.
Carbon Sequestration
Carbon sequestration is the process through which carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is absorbed by trees, plants and crops through photosynthesis, and stored as carbon in biomass (tree trunks, branches, foliage and roots) and soils.
Carbon Sink
Carbon sink refers to forests, croplands, and grazing lands, and their ability to sequester carbon. Agriculture and forestry activities can also release CO2 to the atmosphere. Therefore, a carbon sink occurs when carbon sequestration is greater than carbon releases over some time period.
Carbon Tax
A charge on fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) based on their carbon content. When burned, the carbon in these fuels becomes carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a significant greenhouse gas.
Any substance capable of causing cancer.
Carpet America Recovery Efforts (CARE)
Carpet America Recovery Efforts (CARE) is a voluntary initiative of the carpet industry and government to prevent carpet from burdening landfills. CARE focuses on developing carpet reclamation and recycling methods and has established annual goals. Milliken participated in the founding MOU announcement and is represented on the board.
Carrying Capacity
1. In recreation management, the amount of use a recreation area can
sustain without loss of quality.
2. In wildlife management, the maximum number of animals an area
can support during a given period.
Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)
A measure of the oxygen required to oxidize all compounds, both organic and inorganic, in water.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Stable, artificially created chemical compounds containing carbon, chlorine, fluorine and sometimes hydrogen. Chlorofluorocarbons, used primarily to facilitate cooling in refrigerators and air conditioners, have been found to deplete the stratospheric ozone layer which protects the earth and its inhabitants from excessive ultraviolet radiation.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) provides lists of endangered species of timber and other natural products.
Climate Change
The term “climate change” is sometimes used to refer to all forms of climatic inconsistency, but because the earth’s climate is never static, the term is more properly used to imply a significant change from one climatic condition to another. In some cases, “climate change” has been used synonymously with the term “global warming”; scientists, however, tend to use the term in the wider sense to also include natural changes in climate. Also referred to as “global climate change.” Also see Global Warming.
Closed-loop Recycling
When a used product is recycled into a similar product; a recycling system in which a particular mass of material (possibly after upgrading) is remanufactured into the same product (e.g., glass bottles into glass bottles).
The simultaneous production of electrical or mechanical energy (power) and useful thermal energy from the same fuel/energy source such as oil, coal, gas, biomass or solar.
Materials that are intentionally, or incidentally, produced when making another product.
Process, frequently used with LEED® certification, by which the operating systems of a building are tested and adjusted prior to occupancy.
Comparative Risk Analysis
An environmental decision-making tool used to systematically measure, compare and rank environmental problems or issue areas. The process typically focuses on the risks a problem poses to human health, the natural environment and quality of life, and results in a list (or lists) of issue areas ranked in terms of relative risk.
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 conditioner, mulch, resurfacing material or landfill cover
Amount of a material per unit volume; i.e., milligrams per liter.
Conservation and Efficiency
Preserving and renewing, when possible, human and natural resources. The use, protection and improvement of natural resources according to principles that will ensure their highest economic or social benefits. For example, energy conservation means reduced use, while energy efficiency implies better or more effective use.
Any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substance or matter that has an adverse effect on air, water or soil.
Introduction into water, air and soil of micro-organisms, chemicals, toxic substances, wastes or wastewater in a concentration that makes the medium unfit for its next intended use. Also applies to surfaces of objects, buildings, and various household and agricultural use products.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
A concept that describes the aligning of an organization’s activities with the social, economic and environmental or sustainable expectations of all stakeholders.
A term used in life-cycle analysis to describe a material or product that is recycled into a new product at the end of its defined life.
A term used in life-cycle analysis to describe the entire life of a material or product up to the point of disposal. Also refers to a system that handles a product from creation through disposal.
Cubic ft./min. (CFM)
Cubic feet per minute, a common measure of airflow.
Decay Rate
Math function that reflects the declining emissions of a product over time.
A process to carefully dismantle or remove useable materials from structures, as an alternative to demolition. It maximizes the recovery of valuable building materials for reuse and recycling and minimizes the amount of waste land-filled. Deconstruction options may include: Reusing the entire building by remodeling, moving the structure to a new location or taking the building apart to reuse lumber, windows, doors, and other materials.
Deep-well Injection
Deposition of raw or treated, filtered hazardous waste by pumping it into deep wells, where it is contained in the pores of permeable subsurface rock.
Demand-side Waste Management
Process whereby consumers use purchasing decisions to communicate to product manufacturers that they prefer environmentally sound products packaged with the least amount of waste, made from recycled or recyclable materials, and containing no hazardous substances.
Design for the Environment (DfE)
Design for the environment (DFE) or ecodesign is an internationally recognized approach that examines a product’s entire lifecycle—raw materials, manufacturing, use, distribution and end of life—and proposes design changes to minimize environmental impacts. The U.S. EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) Program has reached more than 200,000 business facilities and approximately 2 million workers to reduce risk to people and the environment by preventing pollution.
Final placement or destruction of toxic, radioactive or other wastes; surplus or banned pesticides or other chemicals; polluted soils; and drums containing hazardous materials from removal actions or accidental releases. Disposal may be accomplished through use of approved secure landfills, surface impoundments, land farming, deep-well injection, ocean dumping or incineration.
Relationship between exposure levels and adverse effects.
Dynamic Environmental Chamber
Well-controlled system (including temperature, relative humidity (RH) and air quality/purity) that utilizes realistic air flows for the assessment of chemical emissions from products and materials.
Earth Day
April 22 each year in the northern hemisphere, including the U.S. since 1970. The United Nations celebrates Earth Day each year on the March equinox, starting in 1969.
Environmentally or Eco-Friendly
Environmentally friendly, eco-friendly, and nature friendly refer to goods and services considered to inflict minimal harm on the environment. The terms are not based on any standard and thus have no specific meaning.
A branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environment.
An interconnected and symbiotic grouping of animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms that sustains life through biological, geological and chemical activity.
Emission Controls
Any measure that reduces emissions into air, water or soil. The most effective emission controls involve the redesign of the process so less waste is produced at the source. Common emission controls are wastewater treatment plants, stack scrubbers and in-plant, solid waste reduction programs.
Emission Factor
Quantity of a substance or substances released from a given area or mass of a material at a set point in time; i.e., milligrams per square meter per hour.
The release of gases, liquids and/or solids from any process or industry. Liquid emissions are commonly referred to as effluents.
Environmental Footprint or Eco-Footprint
For an industrial setting, this is a company’s environmental impact determined by the amount of depletable raw materials and nonrenewable resources it consumes to make its products, and the quantity of wastes and emissions that are generated in the process. Traditionally, for a company to grow, the footprint had to get larger. Today, finding ways to reduce the environmental footprint is a priority for leading companies.
Environmental Impact
Any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from human activity, industry or natural disasters.
Environmental Protection Agency or EPA
The department of the U.S. government which regulates, protects and educates concerning the environment.
Environmental Restoration
The act of repairing damage to a site caused by human activity, industry or natural disasters. The ideal environmental restoration, though rarely achieved, is to restore the site as closely as possible to its natural condition before it was disturbed.
Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)
Secondhand tobacco smoke exposure.
Environmentally Preferable Product (EPP)
Products that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products that serve the same purpose. The product comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, or disposal.
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP)
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing is a United States federal-wide program (Executive Order 13101) that encourages and assists Executive agencies in the purchasing of Environmentally Preferable Products and services.
A bay or inlet, often at the mouth of a river, in which large quantities of freshwater and seawater mix together. These unique habitats are necessary nursery grounds for many marine fishes and shellfishes
Relating to cause, such as of disease or disorder.
Amount of radiation or pollutant present in a given environment that represents a potential health threat to living organisms.
Fly Ash
A fine, glass-powder recovered from the gases of burning coal during the production of electricity. These micron- sized earth elements consist primarily of silica, alumina and iron. When mixed with lime and water the fly ash forms a cementitious compound with properties very similar to that of Portland cement. Because of this similarity, fly ash can be used to replace a portion of cement in the concrete, providing some distinct quality advantages. The concrete is denser resulting in a tighter, smoother surface with less bleeding. Fly Ash concrete offers a distinct architectural benefit with improved textural consistency and sharper detail.  Fly ash with a low LOI (carbon content) is used as a substitute for Portland cement in concrete. Regulations vary from state to state; however, ASTM suggests that fly ash must not contain more than 6% unburned carbon to be used for its cementitious qualities. Otherwise, concrete companies use it as a fine aggregate in concrete block. Others use it for filling old coal mines, seaside docking areas and as a lining for hazardous waste dumps.
Fossil Fuel
A fuel, such as coal, crude oil and natural gas, produced by the decomposition of ancient (fossilized) plants and animals; compare to Alternative Energy.
Pesticides that are used to control, deter or destroy fungi.
Fungus (Fungi)
Molds, mildews, yeasts, mushrooms and puffballs; a group of organisms that are lacking in chlorophyll and usually non-mobile, filamentous and multicellular. Some grow in soil; others attach themselves to decaying trees and other plants to obtain nutrients. Some are pathogens; others stabilize sewage and digest composted waste.
Gas Chromatography
Analytical process by which chemical mixtures are separated into individual components for quantitative and perhaps qualitative analysis.
Global Warming
A process that raises the air temperature in the lower atmosphere due to heat trapped by greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, CFCs and ozone. It can occur as the result of natural influences, but the term is most often applied to the warming predicted to occur as a result of human activities (i.e., emissions of greenhouse gases).
Greenbuild Expo
Leading annual conference and expo for those concerned with green building products, impacts, standards, learning and networks.
Green Chemistry
Green chemistry, also known as sustainable chemistry, refers to chemicals and processes that result in: reduced waste, eliminating costly end-of-the-pipe treatments; safer products; and reduced use of energy and resources—all improving the competitiveness of chemical manufacturers and their customers.
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.
Greenguard Environmental Institute (GEI)
An industry-independent, non-profit organization that oversees the GREENGUARD Certification Program.  As an ANSI Authorized Standards Developer, GEI establishes acceptable indoor air standards for indoor products, environments, and buildings. GEI’s mission is to improve public health and quality of life through programs that improve indoor air.
Greenhouse Effect
1. The warming of earth’s surface and lower atmosphere as a result of carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere, which absorb and reradiate infrared radiation.
2. An intensification of this warming effect brought about by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.
Greenhouse Gases (GHG)
Gases produced by many natural and industrial processes which reduce the loss of heat into space and are essential to maintaining the temperature of the Earth. The term greenhouse gas is applied in order of relative abundance to water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and CFCs.
Green Supply Chain
Management of purchasing decisions to consider the sustainable impacts of raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, or disposal. See EPP.
Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image. Claims are regulated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and spotlighted by watchdog organizations.

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.
Healthy Building Network
The Healthy Building Network (HBN) is a national network of green building professionals, environmental and health activists, socially responsible investment advocates and others who are interested in promoting healthier building materials as a means of improving public health and preserving the global environment.
High Performance Green Buildings
A recognized green building reference which has helped introduce sustainable design and is often associated with LEED®.
Hydrocarbons (HC)
Chemical compounds that consist entirely of carbon and hydrogen.
Having a strong affinity for water; attracting, dissolving in or absorbing water.
Having a strong aversion to water; repelling water.
Exaggerated immune system response to an allergen.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
ASHRAE defines acceptable indoor air quality as air in which there are no known contaminants at harmful concentrations as determined by cognizant authorities and with which 80% or more people exposed do not express dissatisfaction.
Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
A reference to healthier interiors used by LEED® and Green Label Plus certifications.
Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability (MTS)
The organization brings together a powerful coalition of sustainable products manufacturers, environmental groups, and key state and local government leaders using market mechanisms increasing sales and market share of sustainable products. It has identified consensus protocols for sustainable products.
Integrated Waste Management
The complementary use of a variety of practices to handle solid waste safely and effectively. Techniques include source reduction, recycling, composting, combustion and landfilling.
International Design Center for the Environment (IDCE)
IDCE was formed in 2000 to advance sustainable designed products and their selection using life cycle based tool through technology and training. IDCE focuses on products used in all types of buildings as they create close to 50% of all environmental degradation caused by human activity.
International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
The world largest standards developing organization. The ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 families are among ISO’s best known standards and are implemented by over a million organizations in 161 countries.
The ISO 9000 family addresses “quality management”. This means what the organization does to fulfill: the customer’s quality requirements, and applicable regulatory requirements, while aiming to enhance customer satisfaction, and achieve continual improvement of its performance in pursuit of these objectives.
The ISO 14000 family addresses “environmental management”. This means what the organization does to: minimize harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities, and to achieve continual improvement of its environmental performance.
no definitions at this time
Kyoto Protocol
From December 1 through 11, 1997, more than 160 nations met in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate binding limitations on greenhouse gases for the developed nations, pursuant to the objectives of the Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992. The outcome of the meeting was the Kyoto Protocol, in which the developed nations agreed to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, relative to the levels emitted in 1990. The United States’ target is to reduce emissions from 1990 levels by 7 percent during the period 2008 to 2012.
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. As a renewable
energy source
Landfill Diversion
Waste diversion or landfill diversion is the process of diverting waste from landfill and is typically measured through weight. It can occur through recycling, regiving or biological treatment.
LEED® Rating System
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Rating System is a self assessing system designed for rating new and existing commercial, institutional, and high-rise residential buildings. It evaluates environmental performance from a “whole building” perspective over a building’s life cycle, providing a definitive standard for what constitutes a green building. This system developed by U.S. Green Building Council ( does not rate products, although product specification may contribute toward certification. Buildings are rated platinum, gold and silver using criteria for Existing Buildings (EB); New Construction (NC); Commercial Interiors (CI). Ratings for commercial, residential and community development are in development.
Leonardo Academy Inc.
A respected nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing issues affecting people and the environment on an interdisciplinary basis. Leonardo Academy’s mission includes addressing environmental issues, energy issues, and sustainability.
Life Cycle of a Product
All stages of a product’s development, from extraction of fuel for power to production, marketing, use and disposal.
Life Cycle Analysis or Assessment (LCA)
The assessment of a product’s full environmental costs, from raw material to final disposal, in terms of consumption of resources, energy and waste.
Life Cycle Inventory (LCI)
An accounting of the energy and waste associated with the creation of a new product through use and disposal.
Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level (LOAEL)
The lowest level of a stressor that causes statistically and biologically significant differences in test samples as compared to other samples subjected to no stressor.
Low Impact Living
In the United Kingdom, the Low-Impact Living Initiative (LILI) is an environmental organization (founded 2001) that helps people to understand the damage that human impact is causing the planet, to change aspects of their lives to lower their own impact, and at the same time save money and improve their quality of life. In the U.S. it is a generic term for living sustainably and a web site.
Mass Spectrum
Characteristic fingerprint of a substance, which makes its identification possible.
A colorless, nonpoisonous, flammable gas created by anaerobic decomposition of organic compounds.
Microbial Growth
The amplification or multiplication of microorganisms such as bacteria, algae, diatoms, plankton and fungi.
Microbiological Organism
Broad range of living organisms, which typically can be viewed only through a microscope.
A measure of length; one millionth of a meter.
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
Standards established by the EPA that apply to outdoor air throughout the country.
Nitric Oxide (NO)
A gas formed by combustion under high temperature and high pressure in an internal combustion engine, and then converted by sunlight and photochemical processes in ambient air to nitrogen oxide. Nitric oxide is a precursor of ground-level ozone pollution, or smog.
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)
The result of photochemical reactions of nitric oxide in ambient air. It is a major component of photochemical smog, a product of combustion from transportation and stationary sources, and a major contributor to the formation of ozone in the lower atmosphere and to acid deposition.
No Observable Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL)
An exposure level at which there are no statistically or biologically significant increases in the frequency or severity of adverse effects between the exposed population and its appropriate control; some effects may be produced at this level, but they are not considered as adverse, or as precursors to adverse effects. In an experiment with several NOAELs, the regulatory focus is primarily on the highest one, leading to the common usage of the term NOAEL as the highest exposure without adverse effects.
Nonrenewable Energy
Energy derived from depletable fuels (oil, gas, coal) created through lengthy geological processes and existing in limited quantities on the earth.
Nonrenewable Resource
A resource that cannot be replaced in the environment (i.e., fossil fuels) because it forms at a rate far slower than its consumption.
Odor Threshold
The minimum odor of a water or air sample that can just be detected after successive dilutions with odorless water. Also referred to as “threshold odor.”
Open-loop Recycling
A recycling system in which a product made from one type of material is recycled into a different type of product (e.g., used newspapers into toilet paper). The product receiving recycled material itself may or may not be recycled.
Organic Compound
Vast array of substances typically characterized as principally carbon and hydrogen, but that may also contain oxygen, nitrogen and a variety of other elements as structural building blocks.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Ozone Depletion
Destruction of the earth’s ozone layer, which can be caused by the photolytic breakdown of certain chlorine- and/or bromine-containing compounds (e.g., chlorofluorocarbons), which catalytically decompose ozone molecules. See CFC, Greenhouse Gas
Ozone Hole
A thinning break in the ozone layer. Designation of amount of such depletion as an “ozone hole” is made when the detected amount of depletion exceeds 50 percent. Seasonal ozone holes have been observed over the Antarctic and arctic regions, part of Canada and the extreme northeastern United States.
Ozone Layer
The protective layer in the atmosphere, about 12-15 miles above sea level, which absorbs some of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, thereby reducing the amount of potentially harmful radiation that reaches the earth’s surface.
Ozone (O3 )
A naturally occurring, highly reactive, irritating gas comprising triatomic oxygen formed by recombination of oxygen in the presence of ultraviolet radiation. This gas builds up in the lower atmosphere as smog pollution, while in the upper atmosphere it forms a protective layer that shields the earth and its inhabitants from excessive exposure to damaging ultraviolet radiation.
Particulate Pollution
Pollution made up of small liquid or solid particles suspended in the atmosphere or water supply.
1. Fine dust or particles (i.e., smoke).
2. Of or relating to minute discrete particles.
3. A particulate substance.
A concern related to IAQ in green building references.
Crude oil or any fraction thereof that is liquid under normal conditions of temperature and pressure. The term includes petroleum-based substances comprising a complex blend of hydrocarbons derived from crude oil through the process of separation, conversion, upgrading and finishing, such as motor fuel, jet oil, lubricants, petroleum solvents and used oil.
Photochemical Oxidants
Air pollutants formed by the action of sunlight on oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons.
Photochemical Smog
Air pollution caused by chemical reactions of various pollutants emitted in the presence of sunlight.
Generally, the presence of a substance in the environment that, because of its chemical composition or quantity, prevents the functioning of natural processes and produces undesirable environmental and health effects. Under the Clean Water Act, for example, the term has been defined as the man-made or man-induced alteration of the physical, biological, chemical and radiological integrity of water and other media.
Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC
Polyvinyl Chloride commonly abbreviated PVC, is a widely used thermoplastic polymer.  It is a controversial component due to potential impacts from phlates and dioxin on human health.
Pollution Prevention
1. Techniques that eliminate waste prior to treatment,
such as changing ingredients in a chemical
2. Identifying areas, processes and activities that
create excessive waste products or pollutants in
order to reduce or prevent them through alteration
or elimination of a process.
3. The EPA has initiated a number of voluntary
programs in which industrial or commercial
“partners” join with the EPA in promoting activities
that conserve energy, conserve and protect the
water supply, reduce emissions or find ways of
utilizing them as energy resources, and reduce the
waste stream.
4. At times, the term “pollution prevention” may refer to
source reduction. Source reduction involves efforts
to reduce hazardous waste and other materials by
modifying industrial production. Source reduction
methods involve changes in manufacturing
technology, raw material inputs, and product
Post-consumer Material
Any household or commercial product that has served its original, intended use.
Post-consumer Recycle Content
A product composition that contains some percentage of material that has been reclaimed from the same or another end use at the end of its former, useful life. It must be an output of the consumer market, not the manufacturing process.
Post-industrial Material
Industrial manufacturing scrap or waste; also called pre-consumer material.
Post-industrial Recycle Content or Pre-Consumer Recycle Content
A product composition that contains some percentage of manufacturing waste material that has been reclaimed from a process generating the same or a similar product. Also called pre-consumer recycle content.
Parts per billion.
Parts per million.
Decomposition of a chemical by extreme heat.
no definitions at this time
Restoration of materials found in the waste stream to a beneficial use that may be other than the original use.
Process by which materials that would otherwise become solid waste are collected, separated or processed and returned to the economic mainstream to be reused in the form of raw materials or finished goods.
Relative Humidity (RH)
Ratio of the amount of water vapor in air at a specific temperature to the maximum capacity of the air at that temperature.
Renewable Resources
A resource that can be replenished at a rate equal to or greater than its rate of depletion; i.e., solar, wind, geothermal and biomass resources.
Resource Conservation
Practices that protect, preserve, or renew natural resources in a manner that will ensure their highest economic or social benefits.
Particles or aerosols capable of being inhaled into the deep lung, < 3 microns in diameter.
Using a product or component of municipal solid waste in its original form more than once.
A measure of the probability of an adverse effect on a population under a well-defined exposure scenario.
Risk Factor
Characteristics (i.e., race, sex, age, obesity) or variables (i.e., smoking, occupational exposure level) associated with increased probability of a toxic effect.
Sanitary Sewers
Underground pipes that carry off only domestic or industrial waste, but not storm water.
Sanitary Survey
An on-site review of the water sources, facilities, equipment, operation and maintenance of a public water system to evaluate the adequacy of those elements for producing and distributing safe drinking water.
Sanitary Water
Water discharged from sinks, showers, kitchens or other non-industrial operations, but not from commodes. Also referred to as “gray water.”
Scientific Certification Systems (SCS)
An independent testing and certification organization who evaluates a wide variety of food safety and environmental claims. The company’s environmental division certifies a wide variety of claims related to environmental achievement in the product manufacturing and natural resource extraction sectors. Specific product attributes, such as recycled content and biodegradability, may be certified under the environmental claims certification program. SCS can also certify more holistic claims of environmental preferability considering the full product life-cycle.
Sick Building Syndrome
A building whose occupants experience acute health and/or comfort affects that appear to be linked to time spent therein, but where no specific illness or cause can be identified. Complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may spread throughout the building and may abate on leaving the building. Also see Building Related Illness.
Source Reduction
1. The design, manufacture, purchase or use of materials to reduce the amount or toxicity of waste in an effort to reduce pollution and conserve resources (i.e., reusing items, minimizing the use of products containing hazardous compounds, extending the useful life of a product and reducing unneeded packaging).
2. Practices that reduce the amount of any hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant entering any waste stream or otherwise being released into the environment. Such practices also reduce the risk to public health and the environment associated with such releases. Term includes equipment or technology modifications, substitution of raw materials, and improvements in housekeeping, maintenance, training or inventory control.
Stack Effect
Flow of air resulting from warm air rising, creating a positive pressure area at the top of a building and negative pressure area at the bottom. This effect can overpower the mechanical system and disrupt building ventilation and air circulation.
One of three groups of antimicrobials registered by the EPA for public health uses. The EPA considers an antimicrobial to be a sterilizer when it destroys or eliminates all forms of bacteria, viruses, and fungi and their spores. Because spores are considered the most difficult form of microorganism to destroy, the EPA considers the term “sporicide” to be synonymous with “sterilizer.”
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2 )
A heavy, smelly gas that can be condensed into a clear liquid; used to make sulfuric acid, bleaching agents, preservatives and refrigerants; a major source of air pollution in industrial areas.
Practices that would ensure the continued viability of a product or practice well into the future. The most commonly used definition comes from the 1983 United Nations Brundtland Commission. It defined sustainability as that “which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainable Development
An approach to progress that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Thermal Pollution
The addition of heat to a body of water that may change the ecological balance.
Third Party Certification
Refers to the confirmation of certain standards by products or organizations through rigorous review from an outside entity. See SCS and Leonardo Academy.
Threshold Limit Value (TLV)
The concentration of an airborne substance to which an average person can be repeatedly exposed without adverse effects. TLVs may be expressed in three ways:
1. TLV-TWA-Time-weighted average, based on an allowable exposure averaged over a normal 8-hour workday or 40-hour workweek.
2. TLV-STEL-Short-term exposure limit, or maximum concentration for a brief specified period of time, depending on a specific chemical (TWA must still be met).
3. TLV-C-Ceiling exposure limit, or maximum exposure concentration not to be exceeded under any circumstances  (TWA must still be met).
Tipping Fee
Charge for the unloading or dumping of waste at a recycling facility, composting facility, landfill, transfer station or waste-to-energy facility.
Total Environmental Impact (TEI)
The total change on the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, wholly or partially resulting from human activity, industry or natural disasters.
Total Environmental Impact (TEI) Index
A tool developed and used by INVISTA Antron. Much broader than the traditional industrial measures of raw material consumption and emissions, the Total Environmental Impact (TEI) Index includes value recovery of waste materials, and has a measure of societal impact: e.g., injuries and illnesses to employees and contractors; incidents like fires, explosions, accidental releases to the environment, and transportation incidents; global waste and emissions; and use of depletable raw materials and energy. The TEI Index was created using internal INVISTA studies in North America rationalized with published studies done by Boustead in Brussels and Potting & Blok in the Netherlands.
Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC)
The total mass, typically in milligrams per cubic meter, of the organic compounds collected in air.
Capable of having an adverse effect on an organism; poisonous; harmful or deadly.
Implies openness and accountability in sustainable business practices. Claims are substantiated by third party certification and information is made available on business practices.
Triple Bottom Line
Sustainability takes into account environmental, social and financial performance, which is referred to as the triple bottom line.
A term coined to describe the creation of a product with higher intrinsic value, manufactured from a material at the end of its service life, which had a lower initial end use value. It is important to note that the term as currently used, does not provide insight into environmental benefit (e.g. there may actually be less environmental benefit to upcycling if energy used to upcycle is more than recycling back to the same product).
USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council)
The United States foremost coalition of leaders from across the building industry working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy places to live and work.
Process by which outside air is conveyed to an indoor space.
Virgin Product
Term that refers to products that are made with 100 percent new raw materials and contain no recycled materials.
Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)
Organic substances capable of entering the gas phase from either a liquid or solid form. By eliminating VOCs,
Waste to Energy
Burning of industrial waste to provide steam, heat or electricity. Sometimes referred to as waste-to-fuel process.
Waste Hierarchy
Refers to the “3 Rs” reduce, reuse and recycle which classify waste management strategies according to rank in order of importance or impact on the environment. The aim of the waste hierarchy is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste. The tip of the hierarchy or pyramid is elimination, the ultimate minimalization.
Water Conservation
Reduced water consumption through measured water and energy use recognizing that the quantity used and the quality returned are important.
A voluntary public-private partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Its mission is to protect the future of our nation’s water supply by promoting and enhancing the market for water-efficient products and services.
no definitions at this time
no definitions at this time
Zero Waste Alliance (ZWA)
The Zero Waste Alliance is a non-profit partnership of universities, government, business and other organizations working to develop, promote and apply Zero Waste strategies. ext