Atmosphere – the layer of air that surrounds the Earth.
Carbon Dioxide – A gas that’s colorless, odorless and non-poisonous. It occurs naturally in the air but is also produced at ever-increasing levels by fossil fuel emissions.
Climate change – The slow developing changing characteristics of the climate in a given area. The changes usually take place over a long period of time and are virtually unnoticeable until they reach a particular level.
Carbon credits – Credits you can purchase and redeem when you use electricity or fuel. In exchange, a tree is planted to offset your emissions.
Close-loop recycling – A method of recycling that turns one recyclable product into a new product (i.e., newspaper gets recycled into toilet paper). The new product that’s produced may or may not be recyclable itself.
Composting – The natural decomposition of materials into organic matter ideally rich for use in gardens and on lawns.
Conservation – The long-term efforts to protect natural resources to affect long-lasting change and preservation.
Deforestation – The process of trees being felled for commercial reasons.
DDT – An insecticide banned in 1969 because it’s believed it could cause cancer. While it was banned from developed countries, it is still used in many developing countries.
Depletion – The resulting impact when non-renewable resources are removed from the environment faster than renewable resources can be produced or renewed.
Drought – A naturally occurring condition, resulting when precipitation is much less than normal, leaving water levels low and vegetation dry or dead.
Emission – One or more substances released into the environment, such as in the soil, water or air.
Energy Efficient – Products that have been certified to be more energy saving than other products of the same size and quality. Although they often cost more to purchase, they cost less over the lifetime of the product in energy cost saved, as the products (usually appliances) cost less to run.
Environment – The external factors that affect a community or organism and other atmospheric conditions. Environment occurs naturally, but can be expedited by practices like road, building, deforestation and farming.
Fossil Fuels – Petroleum, oil, coal and natural gas products (along with some other products) are called fossil fuels. The term is used because the products are made of carbon-rich, fossilized animal and plant remains.
Global Warming – This refers to the natural warming that occurs in the atmosphere (as well as natural cooling). These days, this term generally refers to the gradual increase in the Earth’s temperature from the gasses that have accumulated and are trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Graywater – The water that is saved from sinks, baths and showers for use in watering indoor plants and irrigating gardens. Graywater is not suitable for drinking or cooking, however.
Greenhouse Effect – The gentle warming of the Earth’s atmosphere that is caused by certain gasses in the air – carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor). The Greenhouse Effect is a naturally occurring phenomenon, and is what’s responsible for maintaining a perfect balance of temperatures that makes Earth habitable for humans. The increased concentrations of the gasses (through human causes) have substantially increased the Earth’s temperature and are what’s referred to as “enhanced Greenhouse Effect”.
Kyoto Protocol – The international effort – created by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – to encourage countries around the world to reduce their carbon emissions over a period of several years.
Methane – A gas that’s emitted from landfills and can be harmful to humans and to the atmosphere.
Organic – Food that is grown without pesticides and usually is certified by a local governing agency, but not always. Buying organic, locally grown produce reduces the amount of trucks hauling produce long distances and reduces the amount of pesticide residue found in our waters.
Pollution – The contamination, due to the activity by humans, of the natural ecosystem.
Recycling – The process of turning products into something new, of comparable value and quality. If something is recycled into a product that’s of lesser quality and value, the process is referred to as downcycling.
Renewable Energy – Energy derived from sources that are not depleted when used, therefore their use causes little environmental impact. Examples are wind power, hydroelectric energy and solar energy.
Solid waste – Products disposed of in landfills, or that are composed or incinerated.
Wastewater – Water that is contaminated and sent to a wastewater treatment facility. The water is treated before being returned to the applicable water system.