The number of people becoming aware of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and opting for more sustainable living options has increased greatly in the last few years. This has led to an increase in green and sustainability buzzwords, a marketing tool used by companies to promote their products to appeal to anyone who is looking to reduce their environmental impact. I’m not going to lie, there’s lots of jargon!
As someone who is familiar with greenwashing, I’ve seen so many bold statements by companies aligning their products as using recyclable materials, highlighting a reduction in carbon footprint and promoting their corporate social responsibility. It’s hard to decipher whether these companies have changed their practices and their claims are sincere or whether they’re just interested in selling their product, regardless of whether they share our environmental concerns.
The World Health Organization (WHO) are working hard to highlight the effects of global warming and reduce the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are using their voice to make significant change and allow the ability of future generations to be self-sufficient.
You’ll come across words like; zero waste, carbon neutral, circular economy, fast fashion and so much more but what on earth do any of these mean?
Fear not, I’ve got you covered.
This is a term used to describe materials that break down naturally to their original state over a period of time. This process takes places using nature’s micro-organisms which will eventually decompose the material. A great example of this is food scraps. During the composting process, the food scraps break down by insects and bacteria and become compost again which can be used in your garden. Something I have noticed is that you need to be a little wary when something says biodegradable, some products are made with harmful chemicals which will leach into the environment as they break down.
This is a measure of the variety and variability of all life on Earth. This pertains to different species of plants, animals, insects, fungi and microorganisms and how they interact with the ecosystem as a whole. Biodiversity will vary around the world due to the different climates.
These are fuels that are derived from plant matter, instead of fossil fuels, with the intention of being carbon neutral, which is believed to be less harmful to the environment.
These are referred to a type of plastic that, in cases, has been made from natural resources such as vegetable oils and fats, recycled food waste, straw and other organic materials instead of creating these products using fossil fuels.
This is often referred to as a process of trapping and removing, mainly from industrial processes, carbon dioxide in their supply chain and storing it in a way so it isn’t released into the atmosphere.
I’m sure you’ve heard of this one before. This is a measure of carbon emissions products by a person, a company or a product. Everything on Earth has a carbon footprint including your home, anything you consume, your car. The United Nations (UN) have provided some guidelines on how to reduce your carbon footprint that will benefit not only yourself but the planet too. One of the suggestions outlined is Walk, bike or take public transport where you can. Something I do is regularly delete unwanted emails and unsubscribe to newsletters you no longer want.
This term means having a balance between carbon emissions from a company’s activities and their carbon absorption from the atmosphere. It’s done by reducing the greenhouse gas from somewhere else within the business (carbon offsets).
This is an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Essentially, it’s offsetting carbon from one area to another. There are many companies that buy ‘carbon credits’, usually businesses and organisations, in order to ‘cancel out’ their emissions.
This term is mainly used within the fashion industry as fast fashion and it’s manufacturing process has a massive impact on the natural environment. The concept is to keep materials and products in circulation, thus eliminating the need to manufacture new products and raw materials. The key is to produce products that last much longer and made from better materials that can be reused. A few great examples of a circular system is second-hand shopping like charity shops or apps like Vinted, and upcycling.
This refers to the long-term changes in global temperatures and weather patterns. Scientists have seen record of this throughout the Earth’s history, this is a natural process, but since 1800s, human activities has accelerated this process and is seen as the main driver of climate change. Mainly from burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, increasing the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere.
It’s a situation where urgent action is needed globally to slow down the effects of climate change and to avoid irreversible environmental damage which could be catastrophic to all life on Earth.
This term is used to describe a product that can breakdown into natural elements which are non-toxic to the environment. A great example of this would be food scraps which require microorganisms to break them down into organic matter and return them to the earth as healthy soil. Some items can be composted at home.
This is referred to something that is not harmful to the environment and generally refers to a product.
This term is referred to the use of less energy in order to perform the same task or the ability to produce the same result. This can mean a product or activity. An example many would be familiar with is an energy-efficient lightbulb; it does the same job as a regular lightbulb but uses less energy to do so.
Ethical comes from the Greek ethos “moral character” and describes a person, company or their behaviour as right in the moral sense – truthful, fair, and honest. It can be used to describe someone who follows a set of moral standards.
This is a trend, from the fashion industry, which replicates fashion trends incredibly quickly and cheaply to meet consumer demand. The goal is to get the newest trends from the catwalk to high-street shops as fast as possible leading to overproduction, overconsumption and the use of synthetic materials, which is difficult to recycle. Many fast fashion brands have come under fire for not paying their workers fair wages and environmental groups are calling for these brands to encourage slow fashion.
This occurs when greenhouse gasses in the planet’s atmosphere trap the heat from the sun, cause the temperature of the planet to rise. The main greenhouse gasses that are rising are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
As one of the biggest sustainability buzzwords, this refers to when a company (and/or their product) claim they are doing more to protect the environment than they actually are. This is a powerful tool used by some marketing agencies to help a company promote an ethical product, when in reality, it may not be.
This is the process of integration and interaction between people, business, corporations and governments on a worldwide scale, usually referring to increased trade and cultural exchange between nations allowing them to be interconnected and interdependent.
This is defined as cotton which has been organically grown without the use of any synthetic chemicals like pesticides and fertilisers.
This is often referred to food or a diet consisting largely or solely of vegetables, grains, pulses, or other foods derived from plants. Avoiding any food products from animals.
This is a process of converting waste material from things we no longer need into new objects and materials. It’s materials that can be used over and over again through an industrial process.
This is energy from a source that is self-replenishing and won’t run out. Unlike fossil fuels, which is a finite resource, energy like solar and wind are infinite sources of energy also known as a renewable energy source.
This usually refers to an object or product that can be used over and over again.
This is often referred to a product or a way of life that cause little to no damage to the environment and allows it to continue for future generations and allowing them to reap the long-term environmental benefits previous generations have enjoyed.
Development that does not leave a degraded environment for future generations to come. The aim is to meet goals for human development while preserving natural resources to meet the needs of humans without compromising the planet.
This is referred to as a critical threshold that causes a particular system to change from one state to another, if it is crossed. When discussing climate change, this could lead to large and potentially irreversible change in the climate system. If these tipping points are crossed, they are likely to have severe impacts to all life on Earth, not just humans.
This is referred to a person who doesn’t eat any food that is derived from animals and someone who doesn’t use animal products in their lives; clothing, medicine, skincare.
This is a set of principles based on the prevention of waste and encourages for items to be reused, recycled or repurposed. The end goal is to avoid sending rubbish to landfill or anywhere else in the environment. You’ll see zero waste shops where food items are in dispensers and the customer is able. to purchase only what they need into their own containers, avoiding plastic waste.
And there you have it, a list of sustainability buzzwords. If there are any you would like me to include, let me know in the comments.