Eco-Glossary

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

Antimicrobial:  

a substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms

Assay:  

a procedure for testing a specific chemical, microbe or effect

Assimilation:  

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

Benchmarking:  

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

Bioaccumulants:  

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

Bio-based:  

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

Biodegradable:  

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

Biodiesel:  

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

Biodiversity:  

the range of life forms within a given ecosystem

Biomass:  

organic material made from plants and animals (microorganisms)

Biosphere:  

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

Boiler:  

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

Byproduct:  

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

Carbon:  

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

Carcinogen:  

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

Catalyst:  

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

Certified:  

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

Cellulose:  

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

Cogeneration:  

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

Conservation:  

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

Contaminant:  

a substance that spoils the purity of another substance

Co-product:  

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

Cullet:  

scrap glass that is turned into usable products

Dematerialization:  

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

Downcycle:  

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

Eco-certification:  

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

Eco-efficiency:  

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

Eco-friendly:  

not damaging to the environment

Ecological:  

referring to the realm of living organisms and their ecosystems

Ecological impact:  

the impact that something has on the environment

Ecosystem:  

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

Effluent:  

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

Elutriation:  

dividing fine particles into size fractions

Embodied energy:  

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

Emissions:  

the release of a substance into the atmosphere

Emulsion:  

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

Enzyme:  

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

Ester:  

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

Eutrophication:  

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

Filament:  

strands of woven fiber

Footprint:  

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

Formaldehyde:  

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

Fossil fuel:  

a fuel derived from the decomposed remains of natural organisms

Fungicide:  

a pesticide used to eliminate or control fungus

Gasification:  

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

Geothermal:  

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

Green:  

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

Greenwashing:  

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

Groundwater:  

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

Half-life:  

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

Hydrocarbons:  

an organic compound that is composed entirely of hydrogen and carbon

Hydrophilic:  

a molecule with a high affinity for water

Hydrophobic:  

a molecule with an aversion to water

Impermeable:  

a material that is not easily penetrated

Incineration:  

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

Landfill:  

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

Latex:  

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

Lifecycle:  

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

Measurable:  

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

Mitigation:  

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

Natural:  

a process or material spontaneously occurring without human intervention

Non-toxic:  

a substance that poses no danger to a living organism

NSF-140:  

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

NSF-332:  

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

Off-gassing:  

the release of gas that was previously encapsulated in another material

Offsets:  

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

Olefin:  

the monomer used to create polyolefin

Organic:  

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

Persistence:  

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

Petrochemical:  

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

pH:  

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

Photosynthesis:  

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

Phthalates:  

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

Plasticizer:  

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

Polyester:  

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

Polymer:  

a large and complex molecule made of natural or synthetic compounds

Polyolefin:  

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

Polypropylene:  

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

Polyurethane:  

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

Post-consumer:  

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

Post-industrial:  

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

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

Reclamation:  

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

Recycle:  

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

Remediation:  

the process of removing toxic or hazardous materials from an environment

Renewable:  

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

Repolymerize:  

the chemical process of using recovered monomers to produce new polymers

Repurpose:  

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

Reuse:  

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

Sink:  

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

Solvent:  

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

Stakeholder:  

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

Standards:  

accepted norms for designating environmental systems or attributes

Stressors:  

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

Sustainability:  

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

Thermoplastic:  

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.

Thermoset:  

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

Threshold:  

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

Toxic:  

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

Toxicity:  

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

Triexta:  

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

Upcycle:  

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

Urethane:  

a chemical compound used to create polyurethane

USGBC:   U.S. Green Building Council

Vinyl:  

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

Wastewater:  

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