The buzzwords of the sustainability movement

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  • Please enjoy your go-to glossary of the environmental language

    The world of sustainability and its buzzwords evolves so quickly that it can be a little hard to keep up with. From carbon footprint to upcycling and bioplastic, we’ve compiled a simple glossary of sustainability buzzwords for your viewing pleasure. Thank us later.


    Of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.


    Of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertiliser of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilisers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides.


    To make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.


    Able to decay naturally and in a way that is not harmful or capable of being broken down especially into innocuous products by the action of living things (such as microorganisms).

    Carbon footprint

    The amount of greenhouse gases and specifically carbon dioxide emitted by something (such as a person’s activities or a product’s manufacture and transport) during a given period.

    Greenhouse effect

    Warming of the surface and lower atmosphere of a planet (such as Earth or Venus) that is caused by conversion of solar radiation into heat in a process involving selective transmission of shortwave solar radiation by the atmosphere, its absorption by the planet’s surface, and reradiation as infrared which is absorbed and partly reradiated back to the surface by atmospheric gases.

    sustainability buzzwords

    Increasing rates of global warming have accelerated Greenland’s ice mass loss (Unsplash)

    Waste Management

    The collection, transportation, and disposal of garbage, sewage, and other waste products.


    Not environmentally harmful

    Energy efficient

    Used to describe things that use only as much energy as is needed without wasting any.

    Triple bottom line

    A framework or theory that recommends that companies commit to focus on social and environmental concerns just as they do on profits.


    To pass again through a series of changes or treatments: such as to process (something, such as liquid body waste, glass, or cans) in order to regain material for human use.


    Using an object or resource material again for either the same purpose or another purpose without changing the object’s structure in a significant way. It is to be differentiated from recycling based on this.

    Renewable energy

    An energy resource that is replaced rapidly by a natural process such as power generated from the sun or from the wind.


    To recycle (something) in such a way that the resulting product is of a higher value than the original item: to create an object of greater value from (a discarded object of lesser value).


    A mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilising and conditioning land.


    The introduction of harmful materials into the environment. These harmful materials are called pollutants.

    Carbon neutral

    The state of an entity (such as a company, service, product or event), where the carbon emissions caused by them have been balanced out by funding an equivalent amount of carbon savings elsewhere in the world.

    Climate change

    A significant change in the measures of climate, such as temperature, rainfall, or wind, lasting for an extended period – decades or longer.

    sustainability buzzwords climate change

    The rising global surface temperatures are a concern (Unsplash)

    Zero waste

    The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.


    Made from organic biomass sources, unlike conventional plastics which are made from petroleum. Bioplastics are made through a number of different processes. Some use a microorganism to process base materials, such as vegetable oils, cellulose, starches, acids and alcohols.

    And there you have it. Your most up-to-date- sustainability buzzwords relating to the environment.

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