The process of removing stands of trees from natural forests and converting the lands to non-forest uses like farms, ranches, and urban development.
Designed to be used once and then discarded.
Generally, the use of fuels to power human activity; fuels are either combusted to produce heat to provide power directly or heat to generate electricity which provides power; non-renewable fuels are used most commonly (oil, gas, coal, uranium, etc.) with renewable fuels playing a significant minor role in the worldwide energy markets (solar, wind, geothermal, methane, etc.); the United States Energy Information Agency calculated that oil and coal supplied 60% of worldwide energy consumption in 2008, while renewable sources supplied 13%; high rates of fossil fuel consumption contribute to global warming.
An increase in the concentration of nutrients in a body of water as they are added by natural processes or human activity, typically leading to excessive growth of algae (See “toxic blooms.”), depletion of oxygen in the water, and death of higher organisms like fish.
A measure of the net impact on natural resources required to support a given population, system, or activity; an “ecological footprint” or “environmental footprint” represents the amount of biologically productive land and ocean that are required to support human activities; a “carbon footprint” represents the net amount of carbon-based air pollution emitted by human activities, which the ecosystem must absorb; a “water footprint” represents the amount of fresh water required by human activities; humanity’s worldwide Ecological Footprint is recalculated annually from data collected by the UN, and was last estimated at 1.5 planet Earths (2007), meaning humanity is consuming natural resources approximately 1.5 times faster than the Earth can renew them.
The trend of rising temperatures in the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans since the 19th century and projected into the future; recognized by the national science academies of all major industrialized nations as deriving mostly from increased concentrations of greenhouse gasses produced by human activities such as deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels.
Chemical compounds in the Earth’s atmosphere that absorb heat from the sun and then re-radiate that heat in all directions, causing a net increase in atmospheric temperature.
A disinformation campaign by a company, industry, government, political party, politician or non-government organization to deceive current and potential customers that an organization, leader, policy, practice, or product is more environmentally responsible than it actually is; a coordinated effort to hide unpleasant facts about environmental impacts by spending more time and money on advertising and marketing than actually implementing green practices; derives from “whitewashing.”
The process of displacing or destroying organisms in an ecosystem, rendering the location unable to support the species that had lived there historically.
A solid waste management practice that converts waste materials into ash (including particulate air pollution), flue gas (including gaseous air pollution), and heat; pollution controls on modern incinerators have evolved to the point that for the same amount of energy produced, incineration plants emit less air pollution than coal-fired plants, but more than natural-gas-fired plants.
Solid waste management facilities that take the majority of US waste materials and bury them; facilities designed to isolate wastes from the surrounding environment (especially from groundwater) by burying them on top of plastic liners and under layers of dirt, thus inhibiting decomposition.
For products, a thorough assessment of the burdens placed on the environment by an item through all stages of its existence: 1) research, design, and development, 2) manufacturing, 3) sales and delivery, 4) use, operation, or consumption, and 5) recycling or disposal; quantification of the raw materials and energy used, and the solid, liquid and gaseous waste generated at each stage of a product's existence; helpful in the formulation of environmental legislation, the design of products and manufacturing processes, and consumer choices.
See “Pollution, land / soil”
Ocean garbage patches
Accumulations of sludge and debris amassed by circular ocean currents, largely composed of small plastic fragments floating in surface waters that span thousands of square miles at an approximate concentration in 2001 of 3.27 pounds of plastic per square mile.
In ecosystems, a state in which natural resources are used at rates that outpace the ability of natural systems to replenish them; prolonged patterns of overconsumption lead to environmental degradation and the loss of resource bases. The average rate of resource consumption in industrialized areas like North America, Western Europe, Japan, and Australia is about 32 times higher than it is in the developing world. Worldwide data collected by the UN in 2007 demonstrate that humanity is consuming natural resources approximately 1.5 times faster than the Earth can renew them. (See also “Footprint.”).
Foreign substances introduced into natural environments that harm the health of ecosystems; can take the form of toxic or non-toxic substances, or the form of energy, such as noise, heat, or light.
Foreign substances introduced into the atmosphere in the form of solid particles, liquid vapors, and gases; contributing to global warming, acid rain, and health hazards such as heart disease and lung disease.
Pollution, land / soil
Foreign substances introduced into the land by the leeching of waste from landfills, the corrosion of underground storage tanks and pipes, the application of fertilizers, the dumping of industrial wastes, and other human activities; contributing to decreases in agricultural productivity, destruction of natural ecosystems, and health hazards that vary greatly, ranging from skin rashes to cancers and birth defects.
Foreign substances introduced into lakes, rivers, oceans, and groundwater by discharges from sewage treatment plants, factory discharges, run-off from cities through storm drains, and other human activity; causing damage to individual organisms and ecosystems, and a leading cause of death and disease worldwide.
Capable of being reprocessed after use for the purpose of using again instead of wasting; capable of producing fresh material from previously used material that was discarded after use; some materials (paper, for example) can only be recycled a few times before they degrade too far to be useful; some products (plastic-coated paper for example) cannot be recycled because the component materials are too expensive to separate.
Reprocessing products and materials after they have been discarded so that the component materials can be used again instead of being wasted.
Capable of being replenished by natural processes with the passage of time; bio-based materials are renewable; energy drawn from solar radiation, tides, winds, geothermal heat, and biomass is renewable.
Use or consumption of a resource at a level that allows the base stock of the resource to replenish itself; use or consumption at a level that avoids depleting or permanently damaging the base stock of a resource.
Sustainable products / materials
Products and materials that are produced by processes that avoid depleting or destroying the base stocks of source materials used.
Also known as “harmful algae blooms,” the rapid increase of a toxic algae species in bodies of water to concentrations ranging from hundreds to millions of cells per milliliter; producing some of the most potent natural toxins known to humanity and poisoning humans after those toxins travel up the food web; resulting from the introduction of excess nutrients into water, sometimes by human activity.