Sustainability A to Z

A list of sustainability terms with a brief definition. Click on the term for a more extensive definition as well as links to learn more about the subject, find local and regional resources as well as related terms for further exploration.

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TermDefinition
Alternative EnergyEnergy derived from non-fossil fuel-burning sources
BiodieselRenewable biofuel from seed oils, reclaimed fats or algae
BiodiversityBiological diversity - the wide variation among living organisms on Earth
BiofuelEnergy sources derived from living things or their waste
Bottle BillLegislation requiring refundable deposits on beverage containers to incentivize recycling
Carbon OffsettingPurchase of carbon credits by businesses to offset carbon emissions
Climate ChangeThe effect on climate caused by the warming of the planet
Community GardeningRenting or sharing small plots of land to local residents for gardening
CompostThe process of turning organic matter such as food waste into soil which can be used as fertilizer
Dead ZoneAn area in a body of water with no life
eCyclingRecycling of electronic waste (TVs, cell phones, etc.)
EthanolAlcohol made from grains, sugar or cellulose for gasoline additive
EutrophicationExcessive algae growth in bodies of water
Fair Trade
Movement that aims to pay producers a reasonable wage for their labor
Food BanksOrganizations that distrbute food for little or no cost
Fossil FuelNon-renewable energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas that are formed from the decomposition of plants and animals over millions of years
Fracking (Hydraulic Fracturing)The process of fracturing the shale rocks in which natural gas is stored
Greenhouse GasGases that trap heat from the sun's radiation
Hazardous Waste RecyclingRecycling of hazardous materials such as paint, chemicals
HydroponicsGrowing plants in water with fertilizers
IncinerationThe disposal of waste through combustion
Indoor Air PollutionPollution created by gases or particles released in an indoor space
LandfillStorage sites for waste that can release pollutants
LEEDBuilding certification program for sustainable building strategies
Natural GasA fossil fuel used for generation of electricty
Passive Solar EnergyEnergy from the sun captured through sustainable building design elements
Peak OilPoint of maximum extraction rate of crude oil
RecyclingThe process of turning any type of waste into new products that can be used again
Renewable EnergyEnergy derived from a non-depleting resource
Solar PowerGenerating electricity from the sunlight that strikes the Earth
Sustainable DesignBuilding design optimized to reduce impact on environment
Urban GardeningGrowing in urban environments
Urban Heat IslandsDeveloped urban areas that are hotter than their surrounding rural areas