Green Glossary

Air Pollutants

Chemicals, particulate matter or biological material introduced into the atmosphere that may cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damage the natural environment.


A biodegradable material is capable of being completely broken down under the action of microorganisms into carbon dioxide, water and biomass. It may take a very long time for some material to biodegrade depending on its environment (e.g. wood in an arid area versus paper in water), but it ultimately breaks down completely.


A by-product is a secondary or incidental product deriving from a manufacturing process, a chemical reaction or a biochemical pathway, and is not the primary product or service being produced. A by-product can be useful and marketable, or it can have negative ecological impact.


Cancer-causing substances that can cause permanent disability and/or death.


A compostable material biodegrades substantially under specific composting conditions. It is metabolized by microorganisms, being incorporated into the organisms or converted into humus.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

A form of corporate self-regulation in which public interest is deliberately incorporated into decision making and a corporation honors the triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profit.


To separate or break down something into its components; to disintegrate


Recycling of a material to a lower grade of physical or commercial value

Okala Guide

Ecological Impact

Effect on living organism and their non-living (abiotic) environment due to human activity or natural phenomenon. Ecological impact can include global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain, water eutrophication, habitat alteration, and ecotoxicity

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Gases released into the atmosphere that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range. Common greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons.

Life Cycle Assesment (LCA)

An internationally accepted method to perform assessments of the environmental impacts of materials, processes or products.

Living Wage

A wage sufficient for a worker and family to subsist comfortably

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

An MSDS is a form containing data regarding the properties of a particular substance. An important component of product stewardship and workplace safety, it is intended to provide workers and emergency personnel with procedures for handling or working with that substance in a safe manner, and includes information such as physical data (melting point, boiling point, flash point, etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill handling procedures.


Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.

Ozone-Depleting Substances

A substance that contributes to the decline of the total volume of ozone in Earth’s stratosphere (ozone layer). Chlorofluorocarbon compounds (CFC’s) are an example of an Ozone Depleting Substance. The EPA maintains a list of all known Ozone Depleting Substances on it’s website:

Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR)

A material that is recycled after having served its original intended use (recycled soda bottles, for example)

Post-Industrial Recycled (PIR) also known as Pre-Consumer Recycled

A material that is recycled without having served its original intended use (industrial manufacturing scrap, trimmings, overruns, as examples)


A material that is diverted from the waste stream and reused in it’s original form, with minimal processing (wooden beams from demolished buildings for example)


The act of processing used or abandoned materials for use in creating new products

Recycling (closed loop)

Recycling a material back to the same type or grade of product as the original

Recycling (in-house)

Many manufacturing processes inherently produce their own waste material, such as offcuts, trimmings, excess plastic, or rejected products. When a manufacturer returns these “waste” materials to the beginning of the process, it is in-house recycling (also known as post-industrial recycling or pre-consumer recycling)

Recycling (outsourced)

Many manufacturing processes inherently produce their own waste material, such as offcuts, trimmings, excess plastic, or rejected products. If a manufacturer ships these materials to another facility to recycled them, this is considered outsourced recycling.

Renewable Resource

A natural resource is a renewable resource if it is replaced by natural processes at a rate comparable or faster than its rate of consumption by humans. Wood, water and leather are all examples of renewable resources if harvesting/collecting is performed in a sustainable manner. Gasoline, coal and diesel are non-renewable.

Take-Back Program

A Take-Back Program is one in which manufacturers accept responsibility for their products at the end of their useful life. Manufacturers will collect the product and recycle, reclaim, or compost it’s components. (disposable cameras are a good example)

Toxic Substances

Any substance that can cause illness, damage or death to humans or other organisms.

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)

Any compound of carbon, excluding carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonic acid, metallic carbides or carbonates, and ammonium carbonate, which participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions.

Wastewater Recycling

Water that has been adversely affected in the process of manufacturing a material, but is treated and cycled back to be reused in the same manufacturing facility.

Wastewater Treatment

Water that has been adversely affected in the process of manufacturing a material, but is returned to a state in which natural systems (plants, fish, etc.) can function properly when the water is returned to nature. Water is treated in a variety of ways, including aeration, microbial denitrification, and many more.

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