- 3RsThe 3Rs (reduce, refine, replace) refers to the three main principles widely applied in efforts to reduce the numbers of animals used in testing; to replace testing on animals wherever possible with alternatives (for example in-vitro testing and computer modeling); and to refine testing conditions to cause as little pain and stress to the animals as possible.
- AcidificationAn increase in acidity of a substance, referring in this case to such adverse environmental effects as acid rain or soil acidification.
- AcuteOccurring over a short time [compare with chronic].
- Antagonistic effectA biologic response to exposure to multiple substances that is less than would be expected if the known effects of the individual substances were added together [compare with additive effect and synergistic effect].
- Background levelAn average or expected amount of a substance or radioactive material in a specific environment, or typical amounts of substances that occur naturally in an environment.
- Bio-based productA product (other than food or feed) that is produced from renewable, agricultural (plant, animal and marine), or forestry materials.
- BiodegradableProduct or material capable of decomposing in nature within a reasonably short period of time.
- BiodegradationDecomposition or breakdown of a substance through the action of microorganisms (such as bacteria or fungi) or other natural physical processes (such as sunlight).
- Biodiversitythe variability among organisms on Earth and within an ecosystem. Maintaining biodiversity is necessary to preserve the health and survival of an ecosystem.
- BiofuelsFuels derived from renewable raw materials, such as bark, black liquor or logging residuals.
- BiomassLiving or recently-dead organic material that can be used as an energy source, excludes organic material that has been transformed by geological processes (such as coal or petroleum).
- BiomimicryA design discipline that studies nature’s elements, processes and designs and uses these ideas to imitate or design new solutions to human problems sustainably.
- BiotaPlants and animals in an environment. Some of these plants and animals might be sources of food, clothing, or medicines for people.
- BiotopeHabitat. An area that is naturally distinct as a result of its local climate, soil conditions, flora and fauna.
- CancerAny one of a group of diseases that occur when cells in the body become abnormal and grow or multiply out of control.
- Cancer riskA theoretical risk for getting cancer if exposed to a substance every day for 70 years (a lifetime exposure). The true risk might be lower.
- Carbon footprintA Carbon Footprint is “a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases we produce. It is measured in units of carbon dioxide” (definition from www.carbonfootprint.com). In other words: the carbon footprint is simply the amount of kg “CO2 equivalent” emissions.
The system is highly commercialised, and widely spread in business to provide environmental information (in “company environmental reporting”).
LCA practitioners can use this information in case they need information on the production phase of a product or service.
- Carbon neutralThis term effectively means net zero carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Achieving carbon neutrality means measuring the carbon emissions for an identified product, service or company, then balancing those emissions with carbon reductions or carbon offsets to reach net zero carbon emissions.
- Carbon offsetAn emission reduction credit represents avoided or reduced emissions often measured in tons. ERCs are generated from projects or activities that reduce or avoid emissions. A carbon offset refers to a specific type of ERC that represents an activity that avoids or reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.
- Carbon sequestrationthe uptake and storage of carbon. Trees can be used for carbon sequestration because they absorb carbon dioxide, release the oxygen and store the carbon
- CarcinogenA substance that causes cancer.
- CAS registry numberA unique number assigned to a substance or mixture by the American Chemical Society Abstracts Service [external link].
- CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons)The first and probably most well known example of a group of chemical compounds that are responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer.
- ChlorophyllA group of green pigments or green granular matter found in the chloroplasts of plants and other photosynthetic organisms. Changing CO2 in energy and oxygen.
- ChronicOccurring over a long time [compare with acute].
- Climate changeRefers to a statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate or in its variability, persisting for an extended period. Climate change is a change in the “average weather” that a given region experiences. When we speak of climate change on a global scale, we are referring to changes in the climate of the Earth as a whole, including temperature increases (global warming) or decreases, and shifts in wind.
- Closed loop recyclingThe process of utilizing a recycled product in the manufacturing of a similar product or the remanufacturing of the same product.
- CO2 eq.CO2 equivalent; The quantity of a given greenhouse gas (GHG) multiplied by its global warming potential. Carbon dioxide equivalents are computed by multiplying the weight of the gas being measured (for example, methane) by its estimated global warming potential (which is 21 for methane). This is the standard unit for comparing the degree of harm which can be caused by emissions of different GHGs.
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA)CERCLA, also known as Superfund, is the federal law that concerns the removal or cleanup of hazardous substances in the environment and at hazardous waste sites. ATSDR, which was created by CERCLA, is responsible for assessing health issues and supporting public health activities related to hazardous waste sites or other environmental releases of hazardous substances. This law was later amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA).
- ConcentrationThe amount of a substance present in a certain amount of soil, water, air, food, blood, hair, urine, breath, or any other media.
- ContaminantA substance that is either present in an environment where it does not belong or is present at levels that might cause harmful (adverse) health effects.
- Cradle to CradleConcept developed by MBDC based on splitting up materials used in products in either the technical cycle (plastics, metals) which should be recycled or the organic cycle (organic materials as wood, plants) which should be used to feed and sustain the organic cycle. See tools
- De-forestationthe conversion of forested land to other non-forested uses by the removal and destruction of trees and habitat. Deforestation is cited as one of the major contributors to global warming.
- De-materializationThe reduction of mass in a product that does not diminish quality or intended service for the consumer.
- Delayed health effectA disease or an injury that happens as a result of exposures that might have occurred in the past.
- Dermal contactContact with (touching) the skin [see route of exposure].
- DesignAll activities leading to the definition of a (new) product,process, building etcetera. We include not only designers but also other disciplines like production, supply chain managers, marketeers can and should be part of a design process
- Design for SustainabilityA philosophy applied to the design process that advocates the reduction of environmental and human health impacts through materials selection and design strategies. Industries take environmental and social concerns as a key element in their long-term product innovation strategy. This implies that companies incorporate environmental
and social factors into product development throughout the life cycle of the product, throughout the supply chain, and with respect to their socio-economic surroundings (from the local community for a small company, to the global market for a transnational company (TNC))
- DfSDesign for Sustainability
- Dow Jones Sustainability IndexesLaunched in 1999, is a global index for tracking the financial performance of the leading (best 10%) sustainability-driven companies worldwide.
- Eco-costEco-costs is a single LCA-based monetary indicator for environmental burden. It is based on the concept of “marginal prevention costs” e.g. costs required to bring back the environmental burden to a sustainable level, by either end of pipe measures or by system integrated solutions.
This single indicator is the sum of the marginal prevention costs of:
- Toxic emissions, called the “Virtual Pollution Prevention Costs” (VPP) called eco-costs of emissions,
- Materials depletion, called the “eco-costs of materials depletion” and
- Energy consumption, called the “eco-costs of energy”
Developed by Joost Vogtlander and Delft University of Technology. See also under Tools
- Eco-efficiencyA management strategy which links financial and environmental performance to create more value with less ecological impact. Optimizing manufacturing processes, waste recycling and sharing resources are just three examples of eco-efficiency.
- Ecological FootprintThe Ecological Footprint is “an estimate of the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to regenerate (if possible) the resources a human population consumes, and to absorb and render harmless the corresponding waste, given prevailing technology”.
In other words: the ecological footprint is the land (and sea) which is needed to support the life of people in hectares per person.
The ecological footprint is calculated for countries (using statistical information of these countries) and for the inhabitants of that countries. The world average is approx. 1,8 ha/capita (US 9,6 ha/capita, Western Europe and Japan approx 3-5 ha/capita, China 1,6 ha/capita). Unfortunately these calculations are quite complex and not very well defined, so data varies.
The system is widely used by NGOs to make people aware of the impact of their consumption behaviour. The simple “footprint calculators” are giving rapid but far from accurate results.
The strength of the system is that it appeals to the imagination of people.
The importance to LCA is that it provides different (additional) information on sustainability: the issue of land-use in terms of occupation of land.
Integration of ecological footprint data and LCA data is hardly possible.
- EcosystemA place having unique physical features, encompassing air, water, and land, and habitats supporting plant and animal life, including humans.
- Embodied energyThe energy used during the entire life cycle of a commodity i.e. manufacture, transportation and disposal.
- Embodied waterThe water used during the entire life cycle of a commodity i.e. manufacture, transportation and disposal.
- Energy efficiencyUsing less energy to fulfill the same function or purpose; usually attributed to a technological fix rather than a change in behavior, examples include better insulation to reduce heating / cooling demand, compact fluorescent bulbs to replace incandescent, or proper tire inflation to improve gas mileage.
- Environmental mediaSoil, water, air, biota (plants and animals), or any other parts of the environment that can contain contaminants.
- EPAUnited States Environmental Protection Agency
- EutrophicationThe increase of nutrient levels (such as nitrogen and phosphorus ) in a body of water. This causes an increase in plant and algae growth which lowers its dissolved oxygen content and consequently its ability to support aquatic life.
- ExposureContact with a substance by swallowing, breathing, or touching the skin or eyes. Exposure may be short-term [acute exposure], of intermediate duration, or long-term [chronic exposure].
- Feasibility studyA study to check the feasibility of a project, product, business etcetera on aspects like finance, risk (environmental, financial), competition, strength/weaknesses. Performed to decide whether to go ahead or not.
- Fossil fuelAny petroleum-based fuel source such as gasoline, natural gas, fuel oil, etc.
- FSC Forest Stewardship Council – an international forest certification system.
- FTSE4Good indexThis European equivalent of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index in the United States is used extensively by investors worldwide to measure the performance of companies that meet globally recognized CSR standards. The FTSE4Good selection criteria cover areas of environmental sustainability, developing positive relationships with stakeholders and upholding and supporting universal human rights.
- Geothermal energyThis alternative energy source uses the heat of the earth for direct-use applications, geothermal heat pumps, and electrical power production. Geothermal technologies are beneficial, because they release little or no air emissions. In comparison to conventional energy technologies, geothermal power produces much lower air emissions.
- GHGGreenhouse Gas; see CO2 eq
- Green roofEcological roof gardens that involve large planted areas, specialized soil substitutes, and little or no reengineering on the existing roof. Green roofs improve the building’s thermal insulation , absorb less heat, produce oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, filter air pollution, provide wildlife habitat, and absorb up to 75 percent of rain falling from it, thus slowing stormwater runoff.
- Green-buildingA comprehensive process of design and construction that employs techniques to minimize adverse environmental impacts and reduce the energy consumption of a building, while contributing to the health and productivity of its occupants; common metrics for evaluating green buildings include the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and Australia’s Green Star program.
- Green-washingThe process by which a company publicly and misleadingly exaggerates or embellishes the environmental attributes of itself or its products, while participating in environmentally- or socially-irresponsible practices.
- GreenguardThe GREENGUARD Certification ProgramSM is an independent, third-party testing program for low-emitting products and materials. To qualify for certification, products and materials are regularly tested to ensure that their chemical and particle emissions meet acceptable indoor air quality (IAQ) pollutant guidelines and standards.
GREENGUARD Certification is a voluntary program available to all manufacturers and their suppliers.
- GroundwaterWater beneath the earth’s surface in the spaces between soil particles and between rock surfaces [compare with surface water].
- Half-life (t½)The time it takes for half the original amount of a substance to disappear. In the environment, the half-life is the time it takes for half the original amount of a substance to disappear when it is changed to another chemical by bacteria, fungi, sunlight, or other chemical processes. In the human body, the half-life is the time it takes for half the original amount of the substance to disappear, either by being changed to another substance or by leaving the body. In the case of radioactive material, the half life is the amount of time necessary for one half the initial number of radioactive atoms to change or transform into another atom (that is normally not radioactive). After two half lives, 25% of the original number of radioactive atoms remain.
- HazardA source of potential harm from past, current, or future exposures.
- Hazardous Substance Release and Health Effects Database (HazDat)The scientific and administrative database system developed by ATSDR to manage data collection, retrieval, and analysis of site-specific information on hazardous substances, community health concerns, and public health activities. Similar databases exist, as part of legislation, in the EU.
- Hazardous wastePotentially harmful substances that have been released or discarded into the environment.
- HCFCHydrochlorofluorocarbons used as a substitute for CFCs, this group of gases is now being phased-out of production as it has also been found to contribute to ozone depletion. They are, however, still very powerful greenhouse gases and they create various other undesirable environmental hazards.
- Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) HSE refers to policies, guidelines and practices that focus on (1) preventing harm to and promoting the health of its employees and other stakeholders; (2) preventing any injuries at work both for our own employees and our contractors; and (3) protecting the environment by preventing or minimizing the environmental impact of our activities and products through appropriate design, manufacturing, distribution, use and disposal practices.
- IngestionThe act of swallowing something through eating, drinking, or mouthing objects. A hazardous substance can enter the body this way [see route of exposure].
- InhalationThe act of breathing. A hazardous substance can enter the body this way [see route of exposure].
- Intermediate duration exposureContact with a substance that occurs for more than 14 days and less than a year [compare with acute exposure and chronic exposure].
- ISO 14001The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) specifies the international requirements for an environmental management system.
- LandfillEssentially a cavity in the ground in to which refuse is disposed of. Once full this is covered over and landscaped so as to appear as part of the surrounding area.
- LCC Life Cycle CostThe sum of all real life cost from cradle to grave. Includes the acquisition cost of the product, the cost of use and maintenance etcetera including the cost of damage to the environment.
- LCI Life Cycle InventoryThe list and sum of all in and outputs of a product during its life, ie from cradle to grave. It is a mass and activity balance of a product. Typically performed to do an LCA
- LEED®Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design; a certification program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council to recognize leadership in environmental design for commercial and residential construction and renovation. Source: www.usgbc.org.
- Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)A science-based tool for comparing the environmental performance of two or more scenarios. LCA quantifies the potential environmental impacts of products or systems throughout their life cycles, and can highlight a product’s impact areas to target strategic improvements. See tools
- MBDCMcDonough Braungart Design Chemistry; environmental consultants that developed the Cradle to CradleTM protocol to assess human and ecological impacts of chemicals and materials. Source: www.mbdc.com.
- MetabolismThe conversion or breakdown of a substance from one form to another by a living organism.
- MetaboliteAny product of metabolism.
- MigrationMoving from one location to another.
- MortalityDeath. Usually the cause (a specific disease, a condition, or an injury) is stated.
- MSDS Material Safety Data SheetA compilation of information required under the OSHA hazard communication standard, including a listing of hazardous chemicals, health and physical hazards, exposure limits, and handling precautions.
- MutagenA substance that causes mutations (genetic damage).
- MutationA change (damage) to the DNA, genes, or chromosomes of living organisms.
- National Priorities List for Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste Sites (National Priorities List or NPL)EPA’s list of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the United States. The NPL is updated on a regular basis.
- NitrogenAn element common as a gas in the atmosphere. Excessive concentrations of nitrogen compounds in water can lead to increased biological activity, through eutrophication. Nitrogen is added during the waste water treatment process to aid in the breakdown of soluble organics.
- NOx A collective term for the nitrogen oxides formed during combustion, which can contribute to the acidification of soil and water.
- OzoneA molecule of three oxygen atoms. It has adverse environmental effects at low altitudes as the substance commonly known as smog. It has positive environmental effects at higher altitudes as it creates the ozone layer that protects the earth from harmful ultra violet radiation.
- Photovoltaic Cells (PV cells)Also called Solar Cells, they convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV cells are made of semiconducting materials similar to those used in computer chips. When sunlight is absorbed by these materials, the solar energy knocks electrons loose from their atoms, allowing the electrons to flow through the material to produce electricity.
- PLA Polylactic AcidPLA is polylactic acid, a biopolymer made from renewable resources. It is thermoplastic and can be used to make fibers, packaging and other products as an alternative to petroleum based plastics. It is derived from bacterial fermentation of agricultural by-products such as corn, sugar, or wheat. PLA is not only made from renewable resources, but is also biodegradable. PLA is currently manufactured by Cargill, PURAC, Hycail, and several other companies.
- Post-consumer recycled contentMaterial that is recovered after its intended use as a consumer product, then reused as a component of another product. Examples of post-consumer waste that are recycled include carpet tiles (for new yarn and tile backing), aluminum cans, PET soda bottles, and office paper.
- Post-industrial recycled contentAlso known as Pre-Consumer Recycled Content, it is waste material from manufacturing processes that is reused as a component of another product. Post-industrial recycled content comes from material that would have otherwise been waste, and has undergone some physical recycling process. Examples of post-industrial waste that are recycled include yarn extrusion waste, metal scrap, and fiber in paper manufacturing.
- ppbParts per billion.
- ppmParts per million.
- PreventionActions that reduce exposure or other risks, keep people from getting sick, or keep disease from getting worse.
- RadioisotopeAn unstable or radioactive isotope (form) of an element that can change into another element by giving off radiation.
- RadionuclideAny radioactive isotope (form) of any element.
- Re-cyclableA designation for products or materials that are capable of being recovered from, or otherwise diverted from waste streams into an established recycling program. Meaning it must be identifiable as a specific material (plastics, alloys need to be coded) and separable.
- Re-cyclingThe series of activities, including collection, separation, and processing, by which materials are recovered from the waste stream for use as raw materials in the manufacture of new products.
- Re-newable resourceA resource that can be replenished at a rate equal to or greater than its rate of depletion. Examples of renewable resources include corn, trees, and soy-based products.
- REACHIs the system for Registration, Evaluation and Assessment of Chemicals being proposed under the EU Chemicals Policy.
- Recycled contentRefers to the amount of recycled materials in a product – typically expressed as a percentage.
- Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (1976, 1984) (RCRA)This Act regulates management and disposal of hazardous wastes currently generated, treated, stored, disposed of, or distributed.
- RFARCRA Facility Assessment. An assessment required by RCRA to identify potential and actual releases of hazardous chemicals.
- RiskThe probability that something will cause injury or harm.
- SFISustainable Forestry Initiative® program – a North American forest certification programme endorsed by PEFC.
- SO2Sulphur dioxide – a gas formed when fuels that contain sulphur, such as oil and coal, are burned. Sulphur dioxide contributes to the acidification of soil and water.
- SolventA liquid capable of dissolving or dispersing another substance (for example, acetone or mineral spirits).
- StakeholderAn individual or group potentially affected by the activities of a company or organization; in sustainable business models the term includes financial shareholders as well as those affected by environmental or social factors such as suppliers, consumers, employees, the local community, Non governmental organizations (like for instance GreenPeace) and the natural environment.
- StatisticsA branch of mathematics that deals with collecting, reviewing, summarizing, and interpreting data or information. Statistics are used to determine whether differences between study groups are meaningful.
- SubstanceA chemical.
- Surface waterWater on the surface of the earth, such as in lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and springs [compare with groundwater].
- SustainabilityMeasured in the 3 P’s. The status of the Planet (environment), People (community with emphasize on the weaker ones), Profit (of the company) is not only positive at present but also in the medium and long term. At Design-4-Sustainability.com we focus us on Planet and Profit. We assume that manufacturing in the whole supply chain will be done ethically with respect to the people and planet ie no child labour, pollution etcetera and the management of the company will continue to improve the situation in the supply chain. Making environmentally sound products will help to achieve results also in this area
- Sustainable developmentAccording to the Brundtland commission (United Nations 1983):
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
1. the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
2. the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”
- sustainable packagingAccording to www.pac.ca, the packaging association;
A. Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle;
B. Meets market criteria for performance and cost;
C. Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy;
D. Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials;
E. Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices;
F. Is made from materials healthy in all probable end-of-life scenarios;
G. Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy;
H. Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles.
We can add to it that, according to the technical University Delft PhD study of R. Wever the most environmental benefits are received by size, so that more products fit in a truck/container
- TeratogenA substance that causes defects in development between conception and birth. A teratogen is a substance that causes a structural or functional birth defect.
- Toxic agentChemical or physical (for example, radiation, heat, cold, microwaves) agents that, under certain circumstances of exposure, can cause harmful effects to living organisms.
- ToxicologyThe study of the harmful effects of substances on humans or animals.
- Triple bottomlineAn expanded baseline for measuring performance, adding social and environmental dimensions to the traditional monetary benchmark.
- TumorAn abnormal mass of tissue that results from excessive cell division that is uncontrolled and progressive. Tumors perform no useful body function. Tumors can be either benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
- United Nations Global CompactThe Global Compact is an international initiative of the Secretary General of the United Nations designed to bring companies together with UN agencies, labor and civil society in support of universal environmental and social principles.
- Up-cyclingReusing a material in a fashion that does not downgrade its quality
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)Organic compounds that evaporate readily into the air. VOCs include substances such as benzene, toluene, methylene chloride, and methyl chloroform.
- Waste-to-energyThe burning of waste in a controlled-environment incinerator to generate steam, heat, or electricity.
- World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)A coalition of international companies united by a shared commitment to sustainable development via the three pillars of economic growth, ecological balance and social progress.