Guide to Green Terminology – General Terms

There is a significant amount of jargon thrown around in environmental circles that the average reader may not be accustomed to. Clear up the conversation with this guide to general environmental terms and common abbreviations:


Part one of our green terminology guide!

Image provided by flickr creative commons user ~Brenda-Starr~

  • DIY: This is an abbreviation for “do it yourself” as in fixing, repairing or making things without professional help. The DIY movement in environmentalism is associated with recycled crafts and cutting back on commercial consumption of goods when one can presumably make something oneself instead of buying it. It is also commonly thought of as a cost-saving measure.
  • EV: An electric vehicle (EV) is an automobile that uses one or multiple electric motors. They can either be powered directly from an external power source or they can use power stored from an external power source. A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is similar, but uses an internal combustion engine combined with an electric system. The purpose of electric vehicles is to perform with better fuel economy and to offer a more earth-friendly alternative to the traditional petroleum-based transportation industry.
  • EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency is a regulatory governmental department designed to protect the environment and public health through research and federal lawmaking. It also monitors the environmental impact of other governmental bodies. It was implemented by Richard Nixon in 1970. The first Earth Day was also in 1970.
  • Natural: The term “natural” or “all-natural” should identify products that are made with ingredients reaped from nature with little to no human processing or chemicals added (like sweeteners or hormones). However, in most parts of the U.S. there are no standards or enforcements for using “natural” on product labels. The consumer should be wary of products that say “natural” on the label, as companies sometimes spin ingredients as being “derived from natural ingredients” or “having at one point come from natural ingredients.”
  • Organic: The term “organic” should apply to produce that was grown and harvested without the use of synthetic processing, synthetic pesticides, chemical additives or food irradiation (exposing food to radiation, which has a preservative effect). Organic meat comes from animals that have not been subjected to regular antibiotic or hormone treatments. It is believed that eating organic foods can help prevent the consumer’s exposure to carcinogens. In the U.S., manufacturers are only allowed to label their products as “organic” if they have been certified by a USDA-approved certification body. However, on the information part of the label, non-certified manufacturers are allowed to list individual ingredients as “organic” and what percentage of the ingredients are organic.
  • Sustainable: To be “sustainable” is to have the ability to maintain and support without depleting resources. Sustainability is a movement that uses resource management and conservation. On a smaller level, the idea is applied to farms and initiatives. On a much larger ecological scale, sustainability is crucial for the Earth to be allowed to continue supporting human life.

There are many other terms to explore, so look forward to more “green terminology” posts!





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