glossary of terms
Biodegradable refers to a product that will decompose and completely restore itself into the environment.
Blue Angel is a German certification program created in 1977 for products and services that have environmentally friendly aspects. It was adopted from the United Nations Environment Program which was created in 1972. As the first worldwide environmental label, their goal is to inform consumers about environmentally friendly products. The label consists of three elements: (1) the logo; (2) the surrounding text which describes the main environmental properties of the product and (3) the product's central protection goal which is either protects health, protects the climate, protects water or protects resources.
BREEAM (Buildings Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is an environmental assessment method for buildings that was established in the UK. The results of the assessment describe a building's environmental performance. (www.breeam.org)
Carbon Footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions caused by an organization, event, product, person or family.
Carbon Neutral refers to the act of balancing to zero the total amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels by producing a similar amount of energy with renewable energy.
Carbon Offsetting is the act of calculating the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by an individual or a company and buying an equivalent amount of carbon credits. Carbon credits may be purchased from companies who invest in projects that prevent future greenhouse gas emissions through renewable energy. It is important to check the reliability of these renewable energy projects as this is a new industry.
Carbon Trading is the act of finding a market price for carbon. Governments will regulate how much carbon can be emitted within their countries. If a business produces less carbon than their allowable limit, they can sell what they don't use (labeled as carbon emission credits). If a business needs to use more carbon than their allowable limit they can buy these carbon emission credits. It is this balance between supply and demand that creates the market price.
CFC- Free refers to a product that is free of chlorofluorocarbons. Chlorofluorocarbons are ozone depleting.
Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) is a treatment composed primarily of chromium and arsenic and used in wood (commonly referred to as pressure treated wood). The CCA treatment has been found to leach into surrounding soil.
The Competition Bureau is an independent Canadian law enforcement agency of the Federal government that investigates consumer complaints with respect to the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, the Textile Labelling Act and the Precious Metals Marking Act. They will not act on a consumer's behalf to settle a dispute between two parties or act to obtain a reimbursement. (www.competitionbureau.gc.ca)
Compost is decomposed organic material that can be used as fertilizer for plants.
The Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) is a group of Canadian and American efficiency program administrators who work together with each other, other industries, trade associations and government agencies to exchange information on effective practices and leverage their funding dollars to improve common approaches to energy efficiency. (www.cee1.org)
Cradle to Cradle certifies that a product has achieved either Basic, Silver, Gold or Platinum status based on the environmentally friendly chemicals used to manufacture the product and the product's ability to be perpetually recycled at the end of its useful life. (www.mbdc.com)
EcoLogo (Environmental Choice) was established in Canada in 1988 by the Government of Canada. The program certifies that products and services bearing this logo have met strict standards with respect to environmental leadership. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) defines the EcoLogo program as a Type I eco-label meaning that it compares products and services with others in the same category, it develops specific scientific and rigorous criteria that reflect the entire lifecycle of the product and awards the logo to those products and services that have met the before mentioned criteria through independent third party testing. The EcoLogo program has met the ISO 14024 standard through a successful audit by the Global EcoLabelling Network (GEN). (www.ecologo.org).
EcologyAction is a non-profit environmental consultancy based out of California. Their focus is to develop initiatives that assist individuals, businesses and governments to maximize environmental quality and community well being through education services, technical assistance and program implementation. Their mission statement is, "Achieving community and environmental excellence through partnership and innovation since Earth Day 1970." (www.ecoact.org)
Ecological & Toxilogical Association of Dyes & Organic Manufactures (ETAD) ETAD was established in 1974 and is based out of Basel, Switzerland. They are an international industry body that focuses on protecting people's health and the environment "from unacceptable risks in the manufacture, transport, use and disposal of dyestuffs". Their testing is scientifically based and complies with all members' national and international chemical regulations. ETAD maintains a data base and guidelines for use, as well as offering educational and training materials. They continuously work internationally with governments, other industries and organized labour, media and public interest groups, academia, researching, testing and consulting organizations. All members must also adhere to ETAD's Code of Ethics. (www.etad.com)
Efficient Windows Collaborative (EWC) is a U.S. group comprised of window, door, skylight, component manufacturers, research organizations, federal, state, local agencies and others who work together to expand the market for high-efficiency fenestration products through a commitment toward manufacturing and promoting energy efficient windows. (www.efficientwindows.org)
EMF (electromagnetic fields) are two distinct invisible components of electricity that surround electrical equipment, power cords and wires that carry electricity. Electric fields form when an electrical cord is plugged into an outlet, even if the appliance is not turned on. Magnetic fields form when the electrical device is turned on and an electric current is flowing within the device or along a wire. The strength of electric and magnetic fields is greater the closer one is to the source.
EnerGuide is a score sheet devised by the federal government whereby homes, cars and appliances are given a rating ranging from 1 to 100 based on their energy or fuel consumption.
Energy Factor (EF) is a label used to describe the efficiency of new water heaters. More efficient water heaters have higher Energy Factor scores.
Energy Star is currently a joint labeling program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that identifies and promotes energy efficient products. Originally, the program was initiated in 1992 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who then partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy in 1996. The Energy Star label can now be found on major appliances, office equipment, lighting, home electronics, new homes, commercial and industrial buildings and more. (www.energystar.gov)
Envirodesic Certification identifies cleaner products, healthier buildings and expert services that promote "Maximum Indoor Air Quality" and sustainability. The certification is granted to qualified builders, manufacturers and service providers whose buildings, products and services meet Envirodesic's strict criteria for healthy indoor environments.
EnviroHome is an initiative that was established in 1994 by the Canadian Home Builders' Association and TD Canada Trust. Designated EnviroHomes offer the consumer homes that are, "better for you, better for your community and better for the environment." In order for a home to be considered for the EnviroHome designation, the home must be at a minimum an R-2000 home with commercially available features to enhance indoor air quality and environmental protection. EnviroHomes are one of the most energy efficient and environmentally responsible homes available. (www.chba.ca/envirohome.aspx)
EPA's (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) mission is "to protect human health and the environment". They achieve this through various initiatives such as developing and enforcing regulations; giving grants to state environmental programs, non-profit groups and educational institutions; studying environmental issues; sponsoring partnerships with businesses, non-profit organizations and state and local governments; teaching programs about the environment and publishing information to inform the public about EPA's activities. (www.epa.gov)
EPA WaterSense is a U.S. EPA partnership program that was launched in 2006. It is a water labeling system that helps consumers to identify products and services that use less water and are able to perform as well or better than conventional products and services. (www.epa.gov/watersense)
Fair Trade is an alternative approach to conventional trade in that it is designed to be a partnership between producers and consumers through standards that are set up to address the imbalance of power in trading relationships, unstable markets and the exploitations that occur in conventional trade.
Fire Rating is a specified length of time that it takes for a particular material to become combustible. For fire rating definitions, test methods and acceptance criteria for specific materials, please refer to CAN/ULC-S101 "Standard Methods of Fire Endurance Tests of Building Construction and Materials" for Canadian applications and ANSI/UL 263 "Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials" for US applications. (database.ul.com)
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) was founded in 1993 in Toronto, Canada. It is an international, membership-based, non-profit organization whose mission is to "promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the word's forests." The FSC has designed a set of strict environmental and social standards for forests to be certified against with the result that fiber from certified forests is tracked through a chain of custody certification system to the consumer. Only products that are able to certify that every company involved in the production, manufacturing, trading and labeling process are FSC certified are allowed to carry the FSC label. (www.fsccanada.org)
Greenguard is a certification standard for products that improve indoor air quality by emitting low volatile organic compound (VOCs).
GreenHouse Certified Construction is a home labeling program by the EnerQuality Corporation. The program aims at delivering homes that outperform the specifications set out by ENERGY STAR. The GreenHouse Certified Construction program aims to address the four areas of environmentally friendly building of: energy efficiency, resource management, indoor air quality and water conservation. Certified GreenHouse homes use approximately 25% less energy, 25% less water, improved indoor air quality, less materials used during construction and an approximate reduction by three tones in the home's greenhouse gas production. (www.greenhousecertified.ca)
Green Label was launched in 1992 by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) to test carpets, cushions and adhesives against a set of criteria to help consumers identify products that have low VOC emissions. The Green Label Plus program was launched more recently and sets higher indoor air quality standards for carpets and adhesives. Products carrying this label assure customers that they have the lowest emitting products available in the marketplace.
Green Seal was founded in 1989 and works with manufacturers, industry sectors, purchasing groups and governments to make their production and purchasing chains more environmentally friendly. Products are permitted to display the Green Seal logo only after they have undergone rigorous testing and evaluation. (www.greenseal.org)
The Green Suppliers Network was established by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within its office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances in the EPA's Pollution Prevention Division. The Green Suppliers Network was established to support small and medium sized manufacturers to reduce their environmental impact while remaining competitive and profitable. They also work with large manufacturers to involve their small and medium sized suppliers in technical reviews which focus on eliminating waste and improving the manufacturing process (www.epa.gov/lean). The Green Suppliers Network works together with the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program . They also consult with manufacturers on by-product reduction, hazardous chemicals, climate, energy, green building, innovation, product stewardship and transportation.
Green Star is a national rating system used in Australia to evaluate the environmental design and construction of a building. (www.gbca.org.au/)
Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) are air pollutants that are known or can be reasonably anticipated to have a negative impact on human health and the environment. Originally, 188 specific pollutants and chemical groups were identified and more have been added over time.
HCFC Free means that a product does not contain hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC). HCFC is being phased out by the Montreal Protocol due to the fact that it contributes to ozone depletion.
HFC or Hydrofluorocarbons are used in refrigeration systems as a more environmentally friendly alternative to HCFC. It is also used in blowing agents for foam, in solvents and in aerosol propellants. While it does not damage the ozone layer, it does produce powerful greenhouse gases and has a long atmospheric lifetime which poses a significant greenhouse gas problem for the future.
High-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic is a type of plastic that has a number "2" in a triangle as its recycling symbol. It has many uses, some of which are in everyday items such as laundry detergent bottles, milk jugs, plastic bags, watering cans and folding lawn furniture.
IE Europeen Union Standards the EU has established some of the highest environmental standards in the world. These standards have been developed since the 1970's on a wide range of issues. Currently their focus is fighting climate change, preserving biodiversity, reducing healthy problems from pollution and better using natural resources. "European environmental policy based on Article 174 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, aims to ensure the sustainable development of the European model of society." (www.europa.eu/pol/env/index_en.htm)
Institute for BAU-BIOLOGIE & ECOLOGY (IBE) is a non-profit education organization that provides public education programs, professional training programs, professional certification, testing protocols, building standards, advocacy, networking & information sharing and professional membership. Their membership is worldwide with over 300 certified Environmental Assessors and Consultants in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Australia which include architects, engineers, electricians, builders, medical practitioners, home inspectors and many others. "IBE brings together the technical expertise, biological understanding and ecological sensitivity to guide both the environmentally concerned public and working professionals in creating healthier homes and workplaces." (www.buildingbiology.net)
ISO 14000 is comprised of a series of standards that address different aspects of environmental management. ISO 14004:2004 provides guidelines on the various elements of an environmental management system and its implementation. It also discusses the principal issues involved. ISO 14001: 2004 specifies the requirements for an environmental management system. To objectively prove that an environmental management system is operating effectively and conforming to the standard, it must provide evidence resulting from an audit. The other standards and guidelines in the ISO 14000 family address specific environmental aspects such as labeling, performance evaluation, life cycle analysis, communication and auditing. (www.iso.org)
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is a type of plastic that is flexible and has a number "4" in a triangle as its recycling symbol.
Master Painters Institute (MPI) was formed in 1996 and is an institute committed to high standards in the paint industry. They offer education and training courses for painting professionals in addition to ensuring standards through painting inspection, performance-based standards and lab testing. (www.mpi.net)
Methylene Chloride is a toxic, colourless liquid with an ether-like odour. It can be found in solvent, degreasing agents, in paint remover, in aerosol products, as a blowing agent in foams and in refrigerant. It is also used in one method of decaffeinating coffee and tea. According to Health Canada, Methylene chloride is a possible cancer hazard based on animal information.
Microgeneration is when heat and power are generated on a small scale by individuals, small businesses and/or communities to meet their own needs through alternative off grid technologies, such as wind, hydroelectric, and solar power. The term is being used more widely referring to eco-conscious approaches to zero carbon or low carbon emissions technologies.
Microgeneration Certification Scheme MCS they are an independent scheme that certifies microgeneration products and installers in accordance with a strict criteria. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme's main purpose is to raise industry standards, educate and protect consumers. "MCS is the only certification scheme that covers all microgeneration products and services, and has support from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, industry and non-governmental groups as a prime method for making a substantial contribution to cutting the UK's dependency on fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions." (www.microgenerationcertification.org)
National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) is a non-profit organization that provides a uniform and independent rating and coding system for windows, doors, skylights and attachment products so that comparisons between products can be easily achieved. This labeling system also helps to determine whether products meet local codes and helps with the establishment of product performance requirements and standards by government and utility run energy efficiency programs. (www.nfrc.org)
National Research Council of Canada (NRC) has been active since 1916 and is a federal organization for research and development. The NRC has many responsibilities including scientific and industrial research; managing the national science library; distributing scientific and technical information; investigating measurement methods and standards; standardizing and certifying scientific and technical apparatus, instruments and materials; managing astronomical observatories; providing research and industrial communities with scientific and technological services and administering grants and contributions. (www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca)
National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) is an international, public health and safety, not for profit, non-governmental organization that was founded in 1944 and has its world headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. It is committed to the protection of the environment in addition to public health and safety; with its main focus being food, water, indoor air and the environment. NSF develops national standards, provides learning opportunities and provides third party assessment services to determine conformity. (www.nsf.org)
Neurotoxin is a toxic substance that damages nerves or nerve tissue.
Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries are better for the environment due to the fact that they use less toxic materials (no cadmium mercury or lead). They have a variety of applications such as handheld electric appliances (electric razors and toothbrushes), cameras, camcorders, mobile phones, pagers and automotive batteries. Unfortunately, NiMH batteries have a shortcoming in that they have a high discharge rate meaning that they don't hold their charge as long as other batteries and continue to lose their charge when they are being stored.
The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is a reliable product label that was introduced by the Austrian Textile Research Institute and the German Research Institute Hohenstein in response to public demand for textiles that did not pose a risk to human health. The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is an international uniform standard for products that sets comprehensive criteria for testing textiles for harmful substances. Textile articles that have met the strict criteria for all of their components are awarded the "Confidence in Textiles" label. Some of the standards exceed legal requirements offering consumers the greatest possible peace of mind when they see a product bearing this label. The Oeko-Tex Standard 1000 has also been developed to examine production sites and facilities to determine their environmental compatibility of textile production along the entire manufacturing chain. Products that satisfy the Oeko-Tex 100 Standard and are produced in facilities that meet Oeko-Tex 1000 Standards may carry the 100 plus mark.
Off-gassing is the release or evaporation of volatile chemicals into the air from non-metallic materials.
Parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics and are also used as ingredients in fragrances. Unfortunately, if parabens are used in a fragrance, it will not be listed as an ingredient as fragrances are considered trade secrets and their ingredients do not need to be listed on the product label. Parabens are easily absorbed by the skin and have been found to interfere with hormone function. Parabens can mimic estrogen and have been detected in human breast tissues suggesting a possible association between parabens found in cosmetics and cancer. Parabens may also interfere with the reproductive functions in males. Currently, there are no restrictions for the use of parabens in cosmetics in Canada however the European Union restricts the amount of parabens permitted in cosmetics.
Phthalates are divided into various types. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is mostly used as a solvent for dyes in nail products and also as a plasticizer so that the nail polish doesn't become too brittle. Phthalates can also be used as an ingredient in cosmetic fragrances. When used in fragrances, they are considered trade secrets, and don't need to be listed on the label. DBP is also used as an ingredient in polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC) in order to render the plastic more flexible. The health effect of DBP is that it is absorbed through the skin and enhances the capacity of other chemicals to cause genetic mutations. In studies, DBP has been found to cause developmental defects, changes in testes and prostate and reduced sperm counts. Health Canada has also found evidence of kidney and liver damage caused to young children after they have sucked or chewed on toys containing DBP over extended periods of time. Health Canada has now banned six types of phthalates including DBP in soft vinyl children's toys and childcare articles but not restricted its use in cosmetics. The European Union however bans DBP in cosmetics and in children's toys and childcare articles. Diethyl phthalates (DEP) is also used as a fragrance ingredient in cosmetics. There is some speculation that it may interfere with hormone function resulting in reproductive and developmental problems. As fragrances are considered trade secrets, their ingredients do not need to be listed on the product label.
Polypropylene is considered one of the safest plastics and has a "5" in a triangle as its recycling symbol. It is found in products such as bottle caps, carpeting, food containers (such as yogurt and margarine), bags and food wraps.
Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA) is a synthetic resin that is a film-forming ingredient in latex (water based) paints.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) has a "3" in a triangle as its recycling symbol and is made with the carcinogen vinyl chloride which emits dioxins both during manufacturing and incineration. It also contains phthalates to render it more flexible which has been found to negatively affect one's health (please see phthalates in the glossary for a full description).
QUL is the certificate of the Quality Association for Environmentally Friendly Latex Mattresses. This certificate can only be awarded to products produced by members of the association and for products that have undergone chemical testing and ware flow controls. Chemical testing is used to determine whether a product contains residues or substances that could endanger one's health and ware flow controls are used to ensure that the certificate is only used on those materials that have been tested.
Rainforest Alliance is a program with members from companies, cooperatives and landowners who have agreed to meet rigorous standards with the objective of conserving biodiversity and providing sustainable livelihoods through the transformation of land-use practices, business practices and consumer behaviour. The Rainforest Alliance is working in more than 70 countries worldwide to implement standards that are socially and environmentally responsible while at the same time being economically viable. (www.rainforest-alliance.org).
RoHS stands for the Restriction of Hazardous Substances. RoHS restricts the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment. RoHS was developed in the European Union and all electrical and electronic equipment sold in the EU after July 1, 2006 must be RoHS compliant. There are six substances that are banned under RoHS. Those are lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), hexavalent chromium (CrVI), polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). These substances are hazardous to the environment, pollute landfills, and are dangerous to those individuals who are exposed to them during the manufacturing and recycling processes. (WEEE regulates the disposal of this same equipment. See WEEE for definition.)
Rugmark International (RMI) is an international non-governmental organization that works to end illegal child labour in the handmade rug industry and works to offer educational opportunities to children living in India and Nepal. (www.rugmark.net)
R value is an insulation rating that indicates an insulation's ability to resist heat flow. The higher the R value, the more effective is the insulation.
Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) is an internationally recognized leader in providing independent certification and verification of environmental, sustainability, stewardship, food quality and food purity claims. SCS develops internationally recognized standards and certification programs in order to achieve the highest level of environmental performance and social accountability and has been doing so for more than 25 years. (www.scscertified.com)
SmartWay is the US Environmental Protection Plan's program that has member companies reducing their transportation related emissions through incentives to improve supply chain fuel efficiencies. (www.epa.gov/smartway/)
SmartWood was launched in 1989 by the Rainforest Alliance as the world's first program dedicated to forestry certification and verification. The services provided under the SmartWood program are: 1) Forest Management and Controlled Wood, 2) FSC Chain-of-Custody Certification and Generic Chain-of-Custody Certification, 3) Verification of Legal Origin and Legal Compliance, 4) Forest Carbon Validation and Verification, 5) SmartLogging, 6) High Conservation Value Forest Verification, and 7) Rediscovered Wood and Underwater Salvage. (www.rainforest-alliance.org)
Sustainable is something that can continue over a long period of time causing little or no damage to the environment.
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is an independent, non-profit organization that was initiated in 1994 by the U.S. forest sector and whose mandate is to maintain, oversee and improve upon an internationally recognized forestry certification program. Consumers can feel reassured that they are buying wood or paper from responsible sources when they see the SFI label on a product. (www.sfiprogram.org)
Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) System according to The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) was first released in 1996 and is the leading standard in Canada with respect to forest certification and is the first national SFM standard in the world. In order for a forest to be certified to the CSA SFM standard, it must provide independent third party proof of meeting strict biological, environmental and social criteria. (www.csasfmforests.ca)
Thermoplastic is a type of plastic made from polymer resins that is recyclable because it becomes a liquid when heated, hard when cooled and becomes glass-like when frozen.
TUV Rheinland is a neutral and independent international service group that tests the safety and quality of new and existing products, systems and services. They test and certify everything from children's toys to state-of-the-art computer equipment and heavy industrial machinery nationally and internationally. "We observe and assure innovations in harmony with humanity, technology and the environment." (www.tuv.com)
Volatile Organic Compounds evaporate easily from solids and liquids and are chemical compounds that contain carbon and hydrogen. Some examples of VOCs are methylene chloride, benzene and perchloroethylene. These compound can be found in sealants, paint, paint thinners, dry cleaning products, pesticides, air fresheners, tobacco smoke, permanent markers, car exhaust and correction fluid. Exposure to VOCs has been linked to cancer and kidney and liver damage as well as dizziness, nausea and headaches.
WEEE stands for Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment. WEEE was developed by the European Union and regulates the treatment, recovery and recycling of electric and electronic equipment. All electronic and electrical equipment sold in the EU after August 13, 2006 must be WEEE compliant and have the "Wheelie Bin" sticker attached. (See RoHS for details regarding electrical and electronic equipment.)