Air quality:  

the measure of the condition of air

Airborne release:  

the release of pollutants into the air

Alternative fuel:  

any material or substance that can be used as fuel, other than conventional fossil fuels

ANSI:   American National Standards Institute

a private non-profit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel in the United States


a substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms


a procedure for testing a specific chemical, microbe or effect


the process of a body of water cleansing itself of pollutants

BEES:   Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability

software developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology that serves as a system for selecting cost-effective, environmentally preferable building products based on consensus standards


the act of comparing aspects of a business to standards of excellence


substances in contaminated air, water, or food that increase in concentration in living organisms exposed to them because the substances are only slowly metabolized or excreted


a manufacturing ingredient or material made from substances derived from living matter


a bio-based material or substance that will decompose quickly and without harmful effects to the environment when left exposed to nature


a vegetable oil- or animal fat-based diesel fuel typically made by chemically reacting lipids with an alcohol


the range of life forms within a given ecosystem


organic material made from plants and animals (microorganisms)


the part of the earth and its atmosphere in which living organisms exist or that is capable of supporting life


a closed vessel in which a fluid is heated

BREEAM:   Building Research Establishment's Environmental Assessment Method

The United Kingdom’s LEED; BREEAM sets the standard for best practice in sustainable design

BTU:   British Thermal Unit

a unit of heat representing the heat required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit at one atmospheric pressure


an incidental product resulting from a manufacturing process or chemical reaction

Cap and trade:  

emissions trading system where an authority sets a limit (or cap) on emissions to control pollution and enables entities to trade credits to meet their obligations

CARB:   California Air Resources Board

the clean air agency of the state of California


an abundant nonmetallic element occurring in three allotropic forms: amorphous carbon and graphite and diamond; occurs in all organic compounds

Carbon dioxide:  

a colorless, odorless noncombustible gas that is present in the atmosphere; a greenhouse gas, meaning that it can absorb infrared light, which allows it to trap energy from the sun and warm the earth; carbon dioxide contains one molecule of carbon and two molecules of oxygen, and is regularly formed during respiration and by the decomposition of organic substances

Carbon footprint:  

a measure of the environmental impact of a given entity in units of carbon dioxide

Carbon monoxide:  

a colorless, odorless and tasteless poisonous gas produced by incomplete fossil fuel combustion; highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities; carbon monoxide has one carbon atom and one oxygen atom

Carbon negative:  

referring to a process or product that removes more carbon than it adds

Carbon neutral:  

referring to a process or product that removes as much carbon from the atmosphere as it emits; often achieved by implementing renewable energy projects that offset carbon dioxide emissions, such as planting trees which absorb carbon dioxide

Carbon offsets:  

a credit that an individual or organization can purchase to negate a carbon footprint


a substance that is capable of causing cancer in humans or animals

CARE:   The Carpet America Recovery Effort

a joint industry-government entity with a mission to reduce carpet volume to landfills and to foster a viable carpet reclamation network


a substance that initiates or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected; as a metaphor, something that initiates or causes an important event to happen


guaranteed as meeting a standard

Chain of custody:  

the chronological documentation that tracks material through the production process in all successive stages of processing, transformation, manufacturing and distribution


a long chain polymer, made up of repeating units of glucose, a simple sugar; the basic material of plant matter

Cellulosic enzyme:  

an enzyme that turns all forms of cellulose into an appropriate form to be derived into fuel

CHPS:   The Collaborative for High Performance Schools

a California based green building rating program designed for K-12 institutions

Climate change:  

changes in the Earth’s climate beyond natural cycles like the seasons, El Nino, etc.

Climate registry:  

a nonprofit collaboration among North American states, provinces, territories and native sovereign nations that sets consistent and transparent standards to calculate, verify and publicly report greenhouse gas emissions into a single registry

Closed loop recycling:  

a production system which reincorporates its own waste in the making of its product; includes recycling of waste water and post-consumer material

Coal fly ash:  

fly ash generated from the burning of pulverized coal


the simultaneous generation of electricity and heat in the form of steam; a common form of energy efficient production


the act of preserving, guarding, managing or protecting the environment and natural resources


a substance that spoils the purity of another substance


a substance that is also formed along with the substance being manufactured

Cradle to cradle:  

recycling waste materials and manufactured products into new products rather than disposing of them

Cradle to gate:  

a partial lifecycle assessment of the environmental impact of a product from its manufacture to the moment it leaves the factory gate

Cradle to grave:  

an environmental assessment of the impact of a product through its entire lifecycle, from manufacture through disposal


scrap glass that is turned into usable products


a process of reducing the amount of material to make a given product, thereby reducing both cost and environmental footprint

Designed for reuse:  

referring to the philosophy of designing products not just for their performance but also for the ease with which they can be reclaimed and recycled


recycling a material into a product of lesser quality than the product in which the material was originally used


where an independent agency or an industry consortium tests or verifies that a sustainable practice has been followed in the production of a given good or service


doing more with less; creating more goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste


not damaging to the environment


referring to the realm of living organisms and their ecosystems

Ecological impact:  

the impact that something has on the environment


the interaction among the living resources, habitats, and residents of an area


wastewater, treated or untreated, discharged from entities ranging from industrial manufacturers to residences


dividing fine particles into size fractions

Embodied energy:  

energy used to extract materials, produce the product and transport it


the release of a substance into the atmosphere


a suspension of two or more unblendable liquids; latex, for instance, is applied to the back of carpets in the form of an emulsion

End user:  

the ultimate user for which something is intended

Energy efficient:  

producing a high level of output relative to the amount of energy used

Energy intensity:  

ratio of energy consumption to physical output

Energy recovery:  

to capture energy from waste

Environmental footprint:  

a measure of an item’s overall impact on the environment

Environmental stewardship:  

the concept that humanity is entrusted with the care and protection of the planet

Environmental sustainability:  

practices to ensure that our natural resources remain intact


a protein that increase the rate of a chemical reaction

EPA:   Environmental Protection Agency

EPD:   Environmental Product Declaration

a comprehensive description of all the impacts and aspects of a product or process across its entire life, from raw material extraction to end-of-life scenarios

EPP:   Environmentally Preferable Product

a product that meets the requirements of a multi-attribute standard as a product with reduced environmental impact


a compound formed by the reaction between an acid and an alcohol with elimination of water


an increase in the nutrient concentration of a body of water, stimulating excessive plant growth and leading to oxygen depletion


strands of woven fiber


a measure of a process’s environmental impact on the earth


a colorless gas used in synthesizing other compounds; poisonous above specific thresholds

Fossil fuel:  

a fuel derived from the decomposed remains of natural organisms


a pesticide used to eliminate or control fungus


conversion of solid, carbonaceous material into gas for use as a fuel


utilization of the earth’s heat to warm buildings

Global warming:  

an increase in the earth’s average temperature, both in the surface air and oceans

Greenhouse gas emissions:  

the release of gases that contribute to global warming


pertaining to the environment and protection of natural resources

Green building:  

creating structures that are environmentally responsible and make efficient use of resources and energy

Green design:  

the designing of structures using environmentally sustainable processes and materials


portraying something as more sustainable than it really is

Grey water:  

wastewater that does not contain sewage; this can be filtered and used for irrigation


fresh water located beneath the ground surface, which supplies springs and wells


the time required for a pollutant in decay to lose half its potency; also refers to the decay of radioactive materials

Hazardous chemical:  

the EPA’s designation for any chemical that may cause fires or pose a physical or health hazard

Health assessment:  

the evaluation of potential risks posed by a Superfund site, a polluted location requiring long-term clean-up

Heavy metals:  

metallic elements with high atomic weights (like mercury, cadmium and lead) that can cause damage to living things; can also be called toxic metals


an organic compound that is composed entirely of hydrogen and carbon


a molecule with a high affinity for water


a molecule with an aversion to water


a material that is not easily penetrated


the combustion of organic substances

Indoor air quality:  

the air quality within buildings, as it affects the health of occupants

In situ:  

an element or material unmoved from its natural and original location

ISO:   International Standards Organization

an international standard setting entity for industrial and commercial standards


a site for disposal of waste, hazardous and nonhazardous, organic and manmade


a natural or synthetic material that is used in the production of rubber

LCA:   lifecycle analysis or lifecycle assessment

methods of determining and quantifying the environmental footprint of products and processes based on a comprehensive analysis of everything from cradle to grave

LEED:   Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design

a series of certification programs for commercial and residential interiors, buildings and communities developed under the auspices of the U.S. Green Building Council


the cradle to grave story of a product

Lifecycle analysis/lifecycle assessment:  

the process of evaluating a product’s lifecycle

Local materials:  

materials that are extracted and manufactured close to the job site, reducing the environmental impacts resulting from transportation; also called regional materials

Manual separation:  

the act of hand-sorting recyclable or compostable materials from trash


an idea or thing that can be measured or quantified

Mechanical separation:  

the act of using mechanical means to separate recyclable or compostable materials from trash

Methane gas:  

a flammable gas created from the decomposition of organic compounds


taking steps to reduce a product’s negative impact on the earth


a process or material spontaneously occurring without human intervention


a substance that poses no danger to a living organism


The Sustainability Assessment for Carpet Standard, developed by NSF International and accredited by ANSI


The Sustainability Assessment for Resilient Floor Coverings, developed by NSF International and accredited by ANSI

Nylon 6:  

a polymer used as a carpet yarn

Nylon 6,6:  

a polymer used as a carpet yarn; has a higher melting point than nylon 6, generally considered to be a higher performing fiber


the release of gas that was previously encapsulated in another material


a system within which emissions from one process are balanced by reduced emissions from another


the monomer used to create polyolefin


matter derived from living or once-living organisms

PCR:   Product Category Rules

rules developed in compliance with ISO standards and based on lifecycle analysis in order to enable the valid comparison of different materials


the length of time a manufacturing ingredient or compound remains in the environment in its current form

PET:   Polyethylene terephthalate

a thermoplastic material commonly referred to as polyester, used as a face fiber in residential carpet, and often reclaimed from plastic bottles


a chemical derived from crude oil or natural gas, including feedstocks for plastics, resins and adhesives

Polyethylene terephthalate:  

a thermoplastic material also known as PET and commonly referred to as polyester, used as a face fiber in residential carpet, and often reclaimed from plastic bottles

Petroleum-based polymer:  

a synthetic material with a complex molecular structure derived from crude oil or natural gas, including plastics, synthetic rubber and latex


a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, ranging from 0 for most acidic through 7 for neutral solutions to 14 for the most alkaline solutions


a process largely in green plants whereby carbohydrates are derived from water and carbon dioxide using the energy from light, with oxygen as a byproduct


esters of phthalic acid mainly used as plasticizers to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC); some phthalates may be linked to endocrine disruption


a substance added to plastics to soften, increase flexibility, stretch and pliability, and prevent brittleness


a class of synthetic polymers formed by ester linkages between monomers; in the flooring industry, polyesters usually refer to PET or polyethylene terephthalate.


a large and complex molecule made of natural or synthetic compounds


a polymer produced from combining olefin monomers; a common polyolefin in flooring is polypropylene


a thermoplastic material commonly used in primary carpet backing and as a residential face fiber, among other uses


a synthetic resin derived from urethane, a petroleum based chemical; used extensively in flooring both as a backing and as a top coat

Polyvinyl butyrate:  

another thermoplastic vinyl, like PVC, and also known as PVB; one major source of post-consumer PVB is from automotive safety glass

Polyvinyl chloride:  

a thermoplastic polymer commonly known as PVC and often referred to as vinyl, though PVC is in fact one of many vinyls; the third most widely produced plastic, after polyethylene and polypropylene; PVC is 43% petroleum based and 57% chlorine based, derived from salt


referring to material recovered from waste destined for disposal after having served its purpose as part of a consumer item


referring to material recovered from waste generated in the manufacture of items, rather than from finished goods; also known as pre-consumer


referring to material recovered from waste generated in the manufacture of items, rather than from finished goods; also known as post-industrial

PTT:   polytrimethylene terephthalate

also known as triexta, a synthetic material used as carpet face fiber, and also available through DuPont with 37% bio-based content

Rapidly renewable resource:  

organic material that is regenerated in a short time period, like corn, bamboo and cork; for many environmental standards, material that regenerates within ten years is classified as rapidly renewable

Raw material:  

substances in their natural state used to create finished goods


materials salvaged from the waste stream for reuse in a range of functions


use of reclaimed materials in the manufacture of new products

Recycled content:  

the amount of recycled material used in the generation of new materials, generally expressed as a percentage of the total product weight


the process of removing toxic or hazardous materials from an environment


referring to resources for use as matter or energy that are naturally replenished over time, like plant and animal matter, sunlight, and wind

Renewable energy:  

energy that comes from naturally replenished resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, biomass and geothermal heat


the chemical process of using recovered monomers to produce new polymers


the use of a reclaimed material to create a product different from the original product for which the material was used, e.g. turning reclaimed nylon carpet fiber into automotive components

Resource recovery:  

the use of recovered materials as energy or raw materials


the process of recapturing waste material and reusing it for its original purpose, e.g. turning nylon 6 face fiber back into nylon 6 face fiber

SBR:   Styrene butadiene rubber

also known as synthetic rubber


a part of the environment where specific materials tend to collect, e.g. carpet is a sink for allergens and dust

Solid waste:  

any kind of waste matter that is not a liquid or gas and is not water-soluble


a substance, generally liquid, into which another substance is dissolved, forming a solution


any individual or organization, including a governmental entity, that can be impacted by the environmental system being addressed


accepted norms for designating environmental systems or attributes


elements that have adverse effects on ecosystems or human health, including biological, chemical and physical entities

Sustainable design:  

the creation of economically viable products designed to eliminate negative ecological impact and promote social equity


a philosophy that protects ecosystems and promotes social equity in an economically viable manner

Sustainably harvested:  

the use of renewable resources in a manner that enables their continued regeneration without environmental degradation

Thermal pollution:  

the discharge of heated water into aquatic systems that endangers or destabilizes ecosystems


a polymer characteristic that enables the remelting of the material without destroying the molecular structure; thermoplastics with higher molecular weights, like nylon and PVC, can be remelted with less degradation than those with lower molecular weights, like PET.


a polymer characteristic that does not enable the material to be remelted without a breakdown of the polymer; synthetic rubber is a thermoset

Third party certification:  

certification from an unbiased party that has no ability to benefit from the decision rendered


the level of exposure to a chemical below which there are no significant adverse effects


the quality of a substance that can harm flora, fauna and ecosystems


the degree to which a substance is able to damage an exposed organism


a synthetic material, polytrimethylene terephthalate, used in the flooring industry as carpet face fiber, also available through DuPont with 37% bio-based content

Triple Bottom Line:  

a business philosophy based on the three pillars of sustainability: ecological, economical and social


the recycling of a material in the creation of a product of greater value than the product from which the reclaimed material was derived

Urea formaldehyde:  

a thermoset resin created by condensing urea with formaldehyde, often used for the adhesion of manufactured products, with potentially carcinogenic emissions above certain thresholds


a chemical compound used to create polyurethane

USGBC:   U.S. Green Building Council


a term commonly referring to polyvinyl chloride (PVC), though technically incorrect; PVC is one of many possible vinyls and is by far the most widely used

VOC:   Volatile organic compounds

emissions of potentially dangerous vapor

Volatile organic compound:  

an organic compound that emits vapor that is potentially detrimental to health and the environment

Waste reduction:  

using a range of processes including source reduction and recycling to reduce waste generation

Waste to energy:  

the process of creating energy in the form of electricity or heat from the incineration of a waste source


spent or used water discharged by entities ranging from manufacturers to residences, containing the presence of enough material to require purification