A Green Dictionary – Terms you need to know about…

I have spoken here at some length about various “green” topics and I realized that there is probably some confusion about what the various terms used by manufacturers, advertisers, the news media and the government actually mean.

The terms we are talking about range from Energy Star to recycled content and to sustainably harvested. It is interesting to note that some terms have real legal definitions and some are just used for green washing a product or service.

In order to really determine if you are choosing a green product it is important to at least consider an analysis of the life cycle of the item in question.

Wikipedia on Life Cycle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_cycle_assessment

Urban Environmental Management: Life Cycle Analysis for Cities

I don’t advocate a detailed analysis for every major purchase, but it certainly helps to be familiar with process so you know what things to look for in the promotional literature.

In the April issue of Buildings Magazine there is a very good, if short article on some of the terms and some of the certifications that exist out there:

Buildings Magazine April 2008: It’s Green – Now find out what that really means

The article covers the terms – Recycled Content, Rapidly Renewable Material, Biodegradable, Low or No VOC’s, and Sustainably Harvested. These terms are especially important if you are thinking of pursuing one of the green building certifications out there as these items are all worth points in the various ranking systems. Unfortunately the article is far from comprehensive as it is really aimed at the commercial sector and those looking at the LEED programs.

There are a whole host of other terms that are often used in articles about this topic and sometimes to help define the terms above.

A fairly comprehensive dictionary of terms can be found here:

Planet Pals New Ecology Dictionary: http://www.planetpals.com/ecodictionary.html

This next site is a listing of all kinds of dictionary and glossary sites covering a large range of topics. However the link below takes you to the ecology section. I encourage you to explore the other areas as well.



Ecology.org’s dictionary section:


Lastly here is EnviroMedia’s Greewashing Index, a site to rate ads and to educate yourself on what the advertisers are really saying:


As always thank you for your interest and please let me know what you think of the content posted here or let me know if there are specific topics you would like covered. Send all notes to: askthefm@gmail.com

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. What is Green or Sustainable? « Askthefm’s Weblog  |  January 5, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    […] A Green Dictionary – Terms you need to know about… […]

  • 2. Aariz  |  July 17, 2010 at 12:35 am

    I totally agree with you..,Jul 17, 2010 3:35:45 PM

  • 3. novel network  |  January 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm

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  • 4. camps ados  |  January 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    great article. I add this blog on my bookmark.

  • 5. Marisa  |  March 18, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Great article – I work for a green cleaning company and this is a great list of references! Thanks and have a nice weekend, Marisa

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