Jun 17 2010


There are some catchy terms being thrown around, including an overwhelming use of the word “green”.  Some of these terms have meaning in everyday English and can be confusing in the context of environmental management and sustainable business practices.  The following definitions are taken directly or paraphrased from Wiktionary.org; some of these terms are evolving and some come with controversy.  This site is intended to be a starting place, not the final word.

What footprint are you making?Footprint – Generally speaking, a footprint is the impression left by one’s presence.  Footprints in the sand show where a person walked along the beach.  Footprints in the snow tell a similar story.  A building footprint is literally the outline (perimeter) of the building; how much land it uses.  A sky-scraper has a lower footprint per square foot than a one-story shopping mall.  For our purposes, the Wiktionary definition is just perfect: The ecological impact of a human activity…

Ecological – From the term “ecology”, which is the study of the relationships of organisms with their environment and each other.

EnvironmentalPertaining to one’s environment, which for our purposes is the surroundings of, and influences on, a particular item and the natural world or ecosystem.

EcosystemThe interconnectedness of organisms (plants, animals, microbes) with each other and their environment.

SustainabilityA means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society, its members and its economies are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals for future generations

ProcessA series of steps (events) to produce a result

AspectThe way something appears from a particular direction (perspective); in our case, we are viewing the process from the perspective of the environment. An aspect is a output of your process that you can touch (and possibly measure) that will affect the environment

ImpactAn effect on (change in) something due to something else

Organic – Anything with carbon in it is an organic compound.  Strictly speaking, all food is organic; the proper designation should be “organically grown” or “produced organically”.  An artist or architect might talk about an “organic design”, meaning that the shapes, colors, and textures appear to come from the surroundings, placed there by nature.  ”Organic growth” in marketing refers to an increase from word-of-mouth and repeat business; an “organic internet search result” occurs when a website, such as Wikipedia, is so popular it rises to the top without paying for it.

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