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Green Words for the 21st Century


H2O: Water vapor is the primary gas responsible for the greenhouse effect. As the planet warms more moisture is released into the atmosphere.
Habitat:  The environment an organism inhabits. Climate, moisture, soil, sunlight, elevation and so on.
Habitat Destruction: When one habitat-type is destroyed and replaced with another habitat-type. In the process animals and plants which previously used the site are displaced or destroyed.
Hadley Cell: a major Earth atmospheric circulation pattern that consists of rising air at or near the Equator and sinking air at or near 30 degress north or south of the Equator.
Halocarbons: are chemicals that have been used for a variety of applications, such as refrigerants and fire retardants (such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs))  They are potent greenhouse gases. CFCs also damage the ozone layer. The production of most CFCs is now banned, so their concentrations are starting to decline.
Hazardous waste:  Any  waste material that, if improperly managed or disposed of, could pose a threat to human health or the environment. A waste is deamed hazardous if it exhibits one or more of the following characteristics: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, or toxicity.
waste treatment technologies, for example, physical treatment, chemical treatment, biological treatment, incineration, and solidification or stabilization treatment.
Heat Island Effect: Describes urban and suburban communities where temperatures are 2 to 10°F warmer than nearby rural areas due to the condensed heat absorbing properties of asphalt, cement, tar, etc...
Heating degree day (HDD): An index reflecting demand for energy to heat homes and businesses that is set against a median of 65F. One heating degree day is counted for each degree the daily mean temperature is below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Herbivores: Organisms that eat autotrophs (plants).
Heterotrophs:  Are organisms that cannot produce their own food; i.e., bacteria.
Hubbert Curve: A bell curve, the peak oil production being when half of an area's oil reserves have been extracted, then the curve falls exponentially.
Humus:  Decomposing natural woodland matter.
Hybrid Vehicle: A vehicle with both an internal combustion engine powered by a fossil fuel or biofuel; and an electric motor.
Hydroelectric Plant: A plant that generates electric power from water flow.  Two types are: (1) Hydrostatic- A dam holding back and releasing water from a reservoir (2) Hydrodynamic- run-of-the-river units that tap the energy of flowing of water.
Hydrofracking:  A drilling technique of pumping large amounts of water and often chemicals at high pressure deep underground to break up rock and open up veins.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell: Fuel cells that produce electricity via chemical reactions in the fuel cell, rather than through internal combustion. A hydrogen fuel cell uses hydrogen and air to produce an electrical current leaving water as the only by-product. Currently fuel cells are two to three times more efficient than a conventional internal combustion engine.
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs): Synthetically produced as a substitute for chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). HFCs are primarily used in refrigeration and semi-conductor manufacturing. The weighty atmospheric effects of HFCs is decades to centuries.
Hydrokinetics: The act of harnessing the motion of water to generate electricity.
Hydroponics: The growing of plants in nutrient-feed water solutions.
Hyperaccumulators: Plants that are capable of sequestering excess heavy metals in the environment.
Hypermiling: Driving in ways that get higher miles per gallon than EPA estimates.


Integrated Pest Management:  Pest management which uses natural controls such as the use of pest prevention, natural enemies, pest life cycle disturbances and monitoring as first line defense.
Indicator Species: A plant or animal whose health and productivity indicates the health of its habitat.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme. The IPCC is responsible for providing the scientific and technical foundation for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Intermediate water: Is moderately deep ocean water that lies above the deepest bottom waters and is the result of sinking water that does not have sufficient density to make it all the way to the bottom .


Jatropha:  A non-edible evergreen shrub whose seeds contain a high proportion of oil which makes it a good crop for biodiesel production.
Joule: (J) is an extremely small unit of energy in the International System of Units. One joule is equal to one Watt per second. 3,600,000 joules make up one kilowatt hour.


Kilogram: 2.205 pounds.
Kilojoule (10 joules): A standard measurement of energy, slightly less than one British Thermal Unit (Btu).
Kilowatt (KW):  One thousand Watts.  A measure of instantaneous electric power consumption or production.
Kilowatt-Hour: (kWh)  One kilowatt hour is the amount of energy that is needed to power 1 kilowatt for 1 hour. Averaged out a typical U.S. home consumes about 300 kWh per month.
Krill: Tiny shrimp-like marine creatures that depend on sea ice for survival.
Kuroshio Current: The world's second-largest ocean current, after the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. It begins in the western Pacific Ocean near the Philippines and flows northeast along the east side of Japan.
Kyoto Mechanisms:  The fexible mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol. There are three-Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs), International Emission Trading and Joint Implementation. They are in place to help Kyoto Protocol signatories deal with their greenhouse gas emission quotas.
Kyoto Protocol: The international agreement reached in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. The Protocol sets binding emission targets for committed countries to reduce their emissions an average 5 percent below 1990 levels.


Lactovegetarians: Eat plant foods plus cheese and dairy products, but do not eat red meat, poultry, fish and eggs.
Land Ethic: Aldo Leopold's concept of community extending beyond the human to the whole living ecosystem.
La Niña - The alternate of El Nino- a period of cool 'surface' ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific. This cooling of South America's coastal waters has great effect on climatic patterns throughout the globe.
Leaching: The loss of dissolved nutrients with water as it percolates downward through the soil.
Leapfrogging: When a developing country leaps over old technology and embraces brand new technologies.
Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs): A semiconductor device that converts energy directly into light thereby consuming 80 percent less energy than heat-generating conventional, incandescent bulbs.
Lifecycle: The life span of an organism/project/good from its creation to its final disposition.
Lignocellulose: A technical term for biomass. All plant matter is composed of tightly bound celluloses and lignin, when these bonds are broken, biomass can be turned into useful energy products.
Little Ice Age:  A world-wide cold period that lasted from roughly 1250–1850 AD when average temperatures were 1C below normal.
Local Extinction: When a species ceases to exist in one particular locale, but still exists elsewhere.
Locally Grown:  Usually means grown within 100 miles, but some stores label food coming from as far away as a 7 hours drive local.
Locavores:  People who only eat food grown within 150 miles of where they live.
Low-Input Agriculture: Farming methods that reduce the 'input' of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.


Madden-Julian Oscillation: Tropical rain fluctuations that have long reaching planetary effects. They significantly affect the wintertime jet stream of North America.
Megacities:  Urban areas with populations over 10 million.
Megajoule: (MJ)  One million Joules.
Megawatt: (MW)  One million Watts.
Metabolism: The continual biological breakdown of chemicals.
Methane (CH4): A hydrocarbon and one of the six greenhouse gases to be curbed under the Kyoto Protocol. Methane is produced naturally but human activities, such as coal, oil and natural gas production, landfills and livestock rearing add significant amounts of methane to the atmosphere.
Methanol (CH3): A liquid alcohol fuel formed by catalytically combining carbon monoxide (CO) with hydrogen in a 1 to 2 ratio under high temperature and pressure. As an alternative fuel it is primarily produced from natural gas.
Methyl Cyanide (Acetonitrile): Used as a general purpose solvent for many compounds. Used in the production of fabric fibers, synthetic rubbers, resins and plastics. Banned in cosmetic products in the EU since March 2000.
Methyl Tertiary Butyl: (MTBE)  used as an additive to gasoline to increase octane and reduce knocking. Polluting to soil and water supplies. Many known health concerns.  Some US states have banned its use.
MFC- Microbial Fuel Cell: Fuel cell where bacteria are used as a catalyst to convert substrate into electronic charges.  
Microbials: Natural agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mammal and bird antigens which when inhaled might cause diverse health issues such as respiratory problems, allergic reactions, hypersensitivity, and infectious diseases.
Microdiesel:  Biodiesel fuel produced using micro-organisms instead of toxic methanol. This new process expands the range of cellulosic fibers that can be employed in biofuel production.
Microinvesting: Loaning small amounts to small businesses. Oft times in developing nations this small sum is enough to help pull a family out of poverty.
Microorganism: Living organisms of microscopic size, such as bacteria.
Milankovitch Theory:  Earth changes attributed to Earth's tilt, wobble and orbital eccentricity.
Millennials:  Children of the Baby Boomers. Those born between 1980 into the mid 90s.
Mulitple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS): A condition in which a person experiences sensitivity or intolerance to chemicals at very low concentrations.


Nanofood: A food that has been touched by nanoparticles or produced by nanotechnology during its cultivation, production, processing or packaging.
Nanomaterial (aka nano-scale ingredients): An ingredient with a size less than 100 nanometers.
Also known as micronized in the cosmetic industry. This small size increases penetration into the skin and potentially the blood and brain.
Nanotechnology:  The science and technology that deals with materials 100 nanometers or smaller. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter or one-millionth of a millimetre.
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS): Ambient standards for air pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act. These pollutants include ozone, CO, NO2, lead, PM, and SOx. And now CO2 as well.
Nature Deficit Disorder: A deficit of being out in, and communicative with, nature.
Nebula: A cloudy region of dust and gases in space, the Eagle nebula is 57 trillion miles long.
Net Metering Laws: Allow homeowners to sell energy they produce back to their utility at retail prices. Currently at least 41 states require utilities to offer net metering.
Netroots:  A grassroots movement formed over the internet.
Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries:  (Ni-MH batteries) A non-toxic high energy density battery, suitable for electric and hybrid vehicles. Can power an electric vehicle for 250 miles and recharge in 15 minutes.
Nitrogen Oxides: (NOx=knocks) Oxides of nitrogen are released during combustion which then react in the air to produce ozone and smog.
Nitrous Oxide (N2O):  One of the six greenhouse gases to be curbed under the Kyoto Protocol. Nitrous oxide is released during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during fossil fuel combustion and biomass burning. The Global Warming Potential of N2O is 296 times that of CO2..
Non-Annex I: Developing countries without Kyoto targets.
Non-Attainment Area: A region, determined by population density, where air pollution levels persistently exceed the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for one or more "criteria pollutants".
Noncarbon Dioxide Gases: Examples are methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and a number of high global warming potential (high-GWP) or fluorinated gases.
Nuclear Fission: When energy is released from the nucleus of a 'large atom' by splitting it into two or more pieces. Neutrons are birthed during the reaction and water is used to slow the neutrons and cool the reactor.
Nuclear Fusion: When energy is released from the nucleus of a 'small atom' by fusing it together with the nucleus of another small atom.
Nuclear plant:  Currently the fission of a fuel (uranium) which releases heat and thereby generates electricity.  New plans for 4th Generation Nuclear Power plants are on the table, one the IFR runs fast and burns uranium completely or can burn existing nuclear waste, solving our nuclear waste problem. The other, the LFTR (Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactor) uses thorium as fuel within a chemically-stable fluoride salt medium where the nuclear reactions take place. Both prototypes would be much safer than our existing plant (LWR) technology.


Obesogens:  Obesity triggers. Foreign chemicals that disrupt and confuse the functioning of hormones which consequently results in fat accumulation due to the altering of the metabolism and unregulated feelings of hunger and satiety.
Obsolescence:  The state of being pushed away, rejected and replaced. When something declines in cultural popularity even though it might still be serviceable.
Ocean Conveyor Belt
(aka thermohaline circulation): The global circulation of water masses driven by density differences that have a large affect on world climate. Water density depends on temperature (thermo) and salinity (haline). These differences in water density create world-wide water circulations redistributing salt and temperature.
Oikos:  Greek word for house and its management. The root source of prefix eco-, as Eco is a derivation of oikos.
OLEDs: Are thin, organic materials sandwiched between two electrodes, which efficiently light up when an electrical charge is applied.
Oligopoly: A market where producers/sellers are few.
Organic: Generally refers to compounds formed by living organisms. As it relates to food, organic food is grown or raised without synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics and is not genetically modified or irradiated.
To receive the USDA Organic Seal at least 95% of a products ingredients (excluding water and salt), must be organic. The remaining 5% can only be natural or synthetic ingredients that are not available organically, and must come from a pre-approved USDA list.
Products may say “Made With Organic Ingredients” if at least 70% of its ingredients are organic. The product may not use the “USDA Organic” seal on its label.
Organic Compounds: Chemicals that contain carbon, life's building blocks.
Organisms: An independent living entity. It can be either/both a producer and/or consumer in terms of energy flow through an ecosystem.
Oscillations: A see-sawing of pressure patterns. The measure and comparison of the pressure systems is called an oscillation index.
Ovonics: Inventions of Stan Ovshinsky. His flexible solar thin film, rewritable optical storage for computers and NiMH battery being his best known inventions.
Oxygenated Fuel: Fuels containing an added oxygenate such as ethanol or MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether). The increased oxygen promotes more complete combustion, thereby reducing carbon monoxide emissions.
Ozone: (O3) Is a kind of oxygen that has three oxygen atoms per molecule instead of two. There are two different types of ozone. Stratospheric ozone, which is produced naturally in the stratosphere (the layer 6 to 30 miles above the Earth's surface) and Tropospheric ozone (or ground-level ozone) which is a noxious pollutant. Stratospheric ozone forms a shield that prevents the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays from reaching the earth's surface.. It has been found that CFCs, HCFCs, and halons deplete the ozone in the stratosphere, causing seasonal holes over the poles, especially the South Pole.
Tropospheric ozone (or ground-level ozone) creates smog, it is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs), oxygen and nitrogen oxides react in the presence of sunlight. Though ozone is beneficial in the stratosphere, ground-level ozone is a respiratory irritant and air pollutant.


Paleoclimatology: The study of past climatic conditions from geological evidence, ice-cores, tree ring data and other ancient sources.
Palmer Drought Severity Index:  An index that compares the actual amount of precipitation received during a specified period in a specific area with the normal or average amount expected during that same period.
Particulates: Also known as particulate matter or aerosols. A general term for very small solid particles suspended or liquid aerosols floating in air. They are classified by size, and range from less than 1 microns (microscopic) to more than 100 micrometres (visible) in diameter. Examples are diesel soot, wood smoke, black carbon, ash and sulfate aerosols that are suspended as particles in the air. When breathed in these particles can lodge deep within the lungs.
PBDEs: (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are chemical fire retardants that build up in the blood and tissues.
PCBs:  See Polychlorinated Biphenyls.
Peak Load: The maximum demand for electricity from an electrical system during a given time period.
Perchloroethylene: (perc) A toxic solvent used in conventional dry cleaning. Is a known carcinogen. Perc accumulates in body fat and is associated with many types of cancer, reproductive disorders, damage to the liver and kidneys and brain and nervous system.
Perfluorocarbons (PFCs): Synthetic chemicals that are one of the six types of greenhouse gases to be curbed under the Kyoto Protocol. Emission sources include aluminum smelting, semiconductor manufacturing and uranium enrichment.
Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA or C-8): The main compound in Teflon. Is used on cooking equipment, stain resistant fabric and in food packaging. Known to get into the human bloodstream. Is indefinitely persistent. PFOA is categorized a likely human carcinogen by the EPA.
Perihelion:  The point at which a planet is closest to the sun on its elliptical orbit. Earth is closest to the sun in the month of January.
Permaculture: A contraction of permanent agriculture. A sustainable agricultural/architectural method that incorporates perennial plants, natural cycles and organic ways of farming with community building- with the goal of enriching the ecosystem, rather than depleting it.
Permissible Exposure Limits: (PELs) Standards set by the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration.
Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxins:  Chemicals which breakdown slowly, accumulate in fatty tissue and concentrate as they move up the food chain.
Persistent Organic Pollutants: (POPs) Organic chemical pollutants that take many years to break down (persist in the environment) and are easily taken in by, and accumulate within the fatty tissue of living organisms. Examples include dioxins, DDT and PCBs.
pH: A measure of acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale ranges from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline), with 7 being neutral.
Phenology:  The study of periodic natural occurrences and their relation to climate, i.e., migration, budding, flowering.
Photodegrade: The breaking down of a substance into smaller and smaller pieces due to its exposure to sunlight. If what is being broken down is an unnatural substance (plastic) oft times these tiny bits are then taken for natural substances and are accidentally ingested and enter the food web.
Photogrammetry:  The use of aerial photographs to make accurate measurements.
Photovoltaic cell: (PV) photo =light; voltaic =electricity. A semiconductor that converts light directly into electricity.
Phthalates: Agents added to plastics to improve their flexibility and also as an ingredient in hair and nail care products, etc. Known to be absorbed into the body, phthalates have been linked to birth defects and have many other health risks. Classified a probable carcinogen.
Phyto-plankton:  (=tiny plants) Are responsible for 50% of the Earth's photosynthesis.
Phytoremediation: The use of plants to remove heavy metals or pollutants from soil or water.
Phytotechnology: phyto=plant.  Technologies that use living plants.
Phytotoxicant::  A chemical that can damage or kill plants.
PicoCurie: (pCi) A unit for measuring radioactivity (picoCuries per liter of air pCi/L).
Pico Hydro:  Hydro power up to 5 kW.
Plankton:  Microscopic free-floating marine organisms.
Plant Succession: The natural and gradual replacement of one plant community by another. The maturing of a plant eco-system from bare soil to dense forest.
Plumpy Nut:  A concoction of peanut paste, powdered milk, multi-vitamins and sugar successfully being used to combat malnutrition.
Poleward Shifts:  Migration routes and species distributions that are being pushed north in the Northern Hemisphere and south in the Southern Hemisphere.
Pollutant Standards Index (PSI): A scale developed by the EPA to inform the public of current air quality. It monitors the air pollutants ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulates.
Polluter Pays Principle (PPP): A principle that states the polluter should pay non-polluters for the effects of their pollution.
Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs): Chemical fire retardants that accumulate in the blood and tissues. Studies have shown PBDEs to be 10 to 100 times higher in the breast milk of American women than women in Europe.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): A synthetic stable and persistent chemical once widely used as a coolant and lubricant due to its fire-retardant properties. Early on it was labeled 'objectionably toxic' and PCB production was banned in the U.S. in 1979 and in 2001 by the Stockholm Convention. The only North American producer was Monsanto who produced over 600,000 tons between 1930 and 1977. PCBs are persistent in the environment to this day and accumulate in animal tissue. General Electric released up to 1,300,000 pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River between 1947 and 1977. Any substance containing more than 50 parts per million of PCBs are subject to regulation under the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Polynya:  An open body of water surrounded by ice.
Polypharmacy: The taking of multiple drugs which may synergistically interact in harmful ways.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE):  Another chemical in non-stick pans that makes them water-repellent. When PTFE is heated to over 500 degrees, it becomes a toxic fume that's deadly to birds and in humans causes flu-like symptoms.
Population Bottleneck (genetic bottleneck): When the genetic pool is decreased due to a population reduction of at least 50%.
Post-Consumer Waste (PCW): A material that has served its original intended purpose and is now deemed waste, but hopefully will live on to be recycled into a new material.
Prescribed Burn (or fire): The controlled use of fire to achieve forest management objectives.
Primary Pollutants:  Pollutants released directly into the atmosphere.
Precautionary Principle:  When one is aware of danger (even if it is not backed by certainty) one still proceeds with caution. The principle holds that precaution is an ethical and legal responsibility of government or corporate bodies and maintains that scientific uncertainty is not an excuse for recklessness.
Punctuated Equalibrium: A theory that evolutionary change is mostly static but for occasional bursts of change.
Pyranometer: A sensor that measures solar radiation.
Pyrolysis:   A process whereby biomass (organic material) is exposed to high temperatures, usually under pressure, in the absence of oxygen, causing a chemical decomposition into gases, liquid, and solid residues containing carbon and ash.





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