Knowing your green terms

August 16, 2007

If you read my blog or spend some time on Saffron Rouge you'll find plenty of green words that get tossed around left and right (including the word 'green' itself). Some of these words, like 'organic' seem simple enough until you realize the complexities involved. Others, like carcinogens and phthalates, seem like they need someone with a doctorate degree to figure them out. So I've compiled a mini-dictionary of common terms you'll run across. 

Alternative Fuels - Transportation fuels other than gasoline or diesel. They include natural gas, methanol, and electricity.

Biodegradable - A material or substance which, when left exposed to nature, will decompose without harmful effects to the environment. For example, paper is biodegradable while plastics are not.

Biodynamic - Even more involved than organic, it refers to a growing process where farmers not only avoid chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers, but they adhere to using the phases of the moon to help cultivate plants. The ultimate goal is to help nurture and protect the earth.

Carcinogens - Cancer causing substances that include asbestos and cigarette smoke.

Fair Trade - Often seen on products ranging from coffee to cocoa, it's a certification that tells consumers that cooperative farm workers have been paid a living wage and have safe working conditions. A fair trade premium is used by the workers' collective to provide education, health care, and pension benefits.

Fossil Fuels - Fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas extracted from beneath the Earth’s surface, often with significant environmental and political cost. These fuels are a limited resource and are nonrenewable.

Green (products) - A truly green product is durable, repairable, energy efficient, made with recycled materials, and eventually recyclable. Also, the manufacturing, use and disposal would have minimal impact on the environment.

Parabens - They're used in personal grooming products like deodorant and have been linked to breast cancer. A couple of examples include methylparaben and propylparaben.

Phthalates - A group of chemical compounds used to soften plastics. Also used in grooming products and have been shown in studies to cause damage to the liver, kidneys and lungs.

Renewable Energy - A socially conscious way to use energy as it's created from sources that are not depleted when used, typically causing very low environmental impact. A few widely used examples include solar energy, hydroelectric power and wind power.

Sustainable Farming - Developed in the 1980’s, this type of farming utilizes predatory insects to control pests, less plowing and rotating crops to replenish soil nutrients. It advocates family farms, greater crop diversity, better farm labor conditions and healthier rural economies.