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Key Green Definitions

  • Acute Toxicity – Capable of producing illness from a single dose or minimal exposure.
  • Energy efficient products or facilities - uses less energy than typical products or facilities to provide a given energy service (heating, lighting..) or level of activity.
  • Bio-Based product – Commercial or industrial products (other than food or feed) that utilize agricultural crops or residues but does not include products made from forestry materials.
  • Biodegradable - The ability of a substance to decompose in the natural environment into harmless raw materials.  To be truly biodegradable, a substance or material should break down into carbon dioxide (a nutrient for plants), water, and naturally occurring minerals that also do not cause harm to the ecosystem.  In terms of environmental benefits, a product should take months or years, and not centuries, to biodegrade.
  • Chlorine Free – Manufactured without chlorine or chlorine derivatives.
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) -  Any group of compounds that contain carbon, chlorine, fluorine, and sometimes hydrogen and have been used as refrigerants, cleaning solvents, aerosol propellants and in the manufacture of plastic foams.  The use of CFCs are being phased out because they destroy the planet’s stratospheric ozone protection layer.
  • Chronic toxicity – Capable of producing illness from repeated exposure.
  • Compostable – A product that can be placed into a composition of decaying biodegradable materials and eventually turn into a nutrient-rich material.  It is synonymous with “biodegradable,” except it is limited to solid materials.  (Liquid products are not considered compostable).
  • Consumer Union – Evaluates the growing number of environmental labels against objective criteria to measure the validity of the label and the independence of the standard setting and certification organizations that are developing them.
  • Durable – A product that remains useful and usable for a long time without noticeable deterioration in performance.
  • Energy efficient product – A product that is in the upper 25% of energy efficiency for all similar products, or that is at least 10% more efficient than the minimum level meeting US federal government standards.
  • EnerGuide – Establishes energy efficiency guidelines for hundreds of consumer products.
  • Energy Star – The U.S. EPA’s energy efficiency product labeling program for more than 35 categories.
  • Environmental Choice – Establishes environmental standards and awards its eco-label to products meeting its standards; currently has more than 120 standard and hundreds of certified products.
  • Forest Stewardship Certification – Sets standards for “forest friendly” practices and, through independent verifiers, certifies forests that are managed consistent with its standards.  Forest-based products that originate from FSC-certified forests are also eligible for FSC-certification.
  • Greenhouse Gases – Any of several dozen heat-trapping trace gases in the earth’s atmosphere that absorb infrared radiation.  The two major greenhouse gases are water vapor and carbon dioxide; lesser greenhouse gases include methane, ozone (03), CFCs, and nitrogen oxides.
  • Green Seal – Establishes environmental standards and awards its “green seal of approval” to products meeting its standards.  Green Seal has created environmental standards for more than 30 product categories and regularly publishes its “Choose Green Reports,” which evaluate s the environmental impact of products and recommends products that appear to meet its standards.
  • LEED Rating System – A self-assessment system developed by the US Green Building Council for rating the environmental preferability of new and existing commercial, institutional, and high-rise residential buildings.
  • Life Cycle Cost  - The amortized annual cost of a product, including capital costs, installation costs, operating costs, maintenance costs, and disposal costs discounted over the lifetime of the product. (Compare with Product Life cycle).
  • Post-consumer Consumer Recycled Content - Percentage of a product made from materials and byproducts recovered or diverted from the solid waste stream after having completed their usefulness as consumer items and used in place of raw or virgin material.  Post-consumer recycled content includes materials (such as paper, bottles, and cans) collected for recycling.
  • PowerSmart – Identifies energy-efficiency products and strategies to reduce energy consumption.
  • Practical and Practicable  - Whenever possible and compatible with local, state and federal law, without reducing safety, quality, or effectiveness and where the product or service is available at a reasonable cost in a reasonable period of time.
  • Pre-consumer Materials - Recovered material or that were production finished materials, products or byproducts that did not reach the consumer for whose use they were intended and have been diverted from the solid waste stream for the purposes of collection, recycling and disposition.
  • Price Preference – A percentage by which offered prices for recycled products are reduced for purposes of bid evaluation. 
  • Recovered Material - Fragments of products or finished products of a manufacturing process, which has converted a resource into a commodity of real economic value, and includes pre-consumer and post-consumer material but does not include excess resources of the manufacturing process.
  • Recycled Materials - Material and byproducts that have been recovered or diverted from solid waste and have been utilized in place of raw or virgin material in manufacturing a product.  It is derived from post-consumer recycled materials, manufacturing waste, industrial scrap, agricultural waste, and other waste material, but does not include material or byproducts generated from, and commonly reused within, an original manufacturing process.
  • Refurbished Product – A product that has been completely disassembled and restored to its original working order while maximizing the reuse of its original materials.
  • Remanufactured Product - Any product diverted from the supply of discarded materials by refurbishing and marketing said product without substantial change to its original form.
  • Renewable Materials – Materials made from plant-based feedstock capable of regenerating in less than 200 years such as trees and agricultural products.  Rapidly renewable resources, such as grain-based feed-stocks, regenerate in less than two years.
  • Scientific Certification Systems – Provides independent verification of environmental claims.
  • Source Reduction – Refers to products that result in a net reduction in the generation of waste compared to their previous or alternate version and includes durable, reusable and remanufactured products; products with no, or reduced, toxic constituents; and products marketed with no, or reduced packaging.
  • Sustainable – An action is sustainable if it satisfies present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
  • Upgradeable Product – The ability to increase a product’s performance or features without replacing the product.
  • U.S. EPA Guidelines - The Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for federal agency purchases as of May 2002 and subsequent versions adopted.
  • Virgin Material - Any material occurring in its natural form.  Virgin Material is used in the form of raw material in the manufacture of new products.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) – Chemicals that readily evaporate and contribute to the formation of air pollution when released into the atmosphere.  Many VOC’s are classified as toxic and carcinogenic.
  • Water-efficient Products - Those products that are in the upper 25% of water conservation for all similar products, or at least 10% more water-conserving than the minimum level that meets the Federal standards.
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