Eco jargon glossary

Understanding Eco Jargon & Terminology!

Keen to understand more about sustainability? Want to be more eco-friendly? Interested in the ocean? All of these things are great goals and fully in line with what we believe. However, we know it’s easy to get bogged down in unfamiliar terminology and eco jargon. So, we wanted to pull together this glossary to help you understand some of the eco jargon and common terms used to help you along on your journey.

Let the eco jargon busting commence…

Biodegradable

Something that will eventually decay into smaller and smaller pieces by natural processes. However, the term is not regulated when it comes to plastic. So consumers are not told of the time frame required or about any possible toxic impacts of the degradation.

Biodiversity

The variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat. A high level of diversity is important and desirable. There are 3 main types:

  • Genetic diversity – diversity within species
  • Species diversity – diversity between species
  • Ecosystem diversity – diversity between ecosystems

Bioplastics

Products made from organic materials rather than petroleum. Designed to be industrially composted by microbes in a controlled environment. There are several types, so bioplastic has become an umbrella term. It can be:

  • biobased and biodegradable,
  • biobased and not biodegradable
  • petroleum based and biodegradable.

BPA

This term is commonly used when discussing BPA free plastic. It is a chemical used to make plastics such as bottles and food containers. There is the risk that this harmful chemical could leach into the food or contents of these containers.

Carbon Emissions (see Greenhouse Gas also)

Is the release of Carbon dioxide (CO2), thought to be harmful to the environment, into the atmosphere. Produced by planes, cars, factories, etc.

Carbon Footprint

The total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation, or product.

Eco jargon busting of carbon footprint
Globally the current average is 4 tons!

Carbon Neutral

Refers to achieving net zero CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere. Usually achieved in one of two ways:

  • Balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal (e.g. carbon offsetting)
  • Reducing/eliminating carbon emissions from the beginning

Carbon Offsetting

Is compensating for CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions created by participating in schemes designed to make equivalent reductions of gasses in the atmosphere. For example, a person could buy credits (usually an investment into an environmental project working on clean energy or to plant trees etc.) to offset the CO2 generated by their holiday flights.

Circular Economy

An economy that aims to eliminate waste and promote the continual use of resources.

Climate Change

A long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s climates

Climate Emergency

This is a term that gained popularity in 2019 and is now the preferred term to over climate change. It aims to place more emphasis on the problem. Highlighting that urgent action is required to reduce climate change and avoid irreversible environmental damage. It is something governments around the world are declaring, but we’ll have to wait to see if this spurs more urgency!

Climate Justice

A term that frames climate change as an ethical and political issue beyond purely environmental concerns. An important component of this is that those who are least responsible for climate change suffer the greatest consequences.

Compostable

Means that a product/material is able to break down into natural elements in a compost environment and within a specific time frame, leaving no toxicity in the soil.  Note that compostable products like bio-plastics usually need the higher temperatures of an industrial facility over a home compost

Coral Bleaching

This is when corals turn completely white. When corals are stressed by changes in conditions (e.g. temperature, light, nutrients) they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues. These algae usually provide the colour, so without them then you only see the white skeleton.

Eco jargon busting of coral bleaching

Eco Friendly / Environmentally Friendly / or just Eco

Something that is not harmful to the environment.

Ecosystems

A community of interacting living organisms (e.g. plants, animals, microbes) and their physical non-living environments (e.g. temperature, oxygen).

Ecotourism

Tourism with the aim to protect or support conservation efforts and local communities. Officially it’s the ‘Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education’

Environmentalism

A movement concerned about the environment and taking action aimed at protecting it

Fair Trade

When producers (usually in developing countries) are paid a fair price for their work by companies (usually in developed countries). More than just fair pricing (prices that never drop below market value) it is about local sustainability and decent working conditions too.

Fast Fashion

A relatively new term. Defined as the production of clothes to feed a new trend (from the catwalk or celebrities) cheaply and quickly. It allows consumers to buy into the most recent trends at cheap prices, encouraging more purchases and a throw away culture. We learned a lot from the Stacey Dooley documentary ‘Fashion’s dirty secrets‘, and while it isn’t available currently this BBC article is worth a read as a good summary

Global Warming

Is the ongoing increase in the average global temperature. Primarily due to fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere.

Green

Obviously a lovely colour! But, also concerns for environmental conservation and improved health of the environment.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG)

Are basically gases in Earth’s atmosphere that trap heat. Any gas that has the property of absorbing infrared radiation (net heat energy) emitted from Earth’s surface and reradiating it back to Earth’s surface. Carbon dioxide, methane, Nitrous oxide, ozone and water vapour (the most important) are the main greenhouse gases.

Greenwashing

Is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally friendly than they actually are. An unsubstantiated claim used to deceive consumers into believing that a company and/or their products are eco friendly.

Intersectional Environmentalism

This is an inclusive form of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies ways in which injustices happening to marginalised communities and the earth are connected. Bringing injustices done to the most vulnerable communities and the earth to the forefront and does not minimise or silence social inequality. It advocates for justice for people & the planet

Ocean Acidification

The ongoing reduction in the pH of our oceans, primarily caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Higher acidity has been linked with reproductive problems in fish and has been shown to hinder shell growth.

Ocean Warrior

Someone who is passionate about and active in defending the oceans. Fighting for causes that protect our oceans whether that be big or small!

Organic

Products derived from living matter without the use of artificial chemicals

Plasticarian

A person who avoids using plastic. Especially single use plastic, either for health or environmental reasons.

Linear Economy

The traditional way of doing things it is based on take, make, and dispose model of production.

Microbeads

Tiny pieces of plastic included in beauty products and toiletries (e.g. face wash, toothpaste and exfoliators). In 2018 many countries introduced a ban on microbeads!

Microfibres

A plastic-based thread that is thinner than a human hair (finer than one denier). Certain products shed microfibres during their lifetime. For example, they wash out of our synthetic clothes and sheets or they shed from our carpets.

Read: The Problem with Microfibres for more info

Microplastics

Any type of plastic fragment that is less than 5mm in length. There are 2 categories:

  • Primary – fragments that are smaller than 5mm when entering the environment (e.g. nurdles, microfibres, microbeads)
  • Secondary – created by the degradation and breakdown of larger plastics once they have entered the environment

Read: Why should YOU care about Microplastics to learn more about their prevalence.

Eco jargon busting of Microplastics
From in our food and drink to in the most remote places on earth!

Nurdles

Very small pellets of plastic. They are the raw material in the manufacture of plastic products.

Read: The Hurdles of the Nurdles to learn all about them!

Recycle

The process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. It is the breaking down of used items to make raw materials for the manufacture of new products.

Read: The Ocean Mimic Recycling Center to learn more about what we’re doing in this space

Recyclable

An item that can be recycled.

Read: Recycling Plastic and the Science Behind it for more details on the intricacies involved

Reduce

Make or consume a lesser amount of something.

Renewable

Can be replaced or has an endless supply (i.e. it can’t be used up). For example, renewable sources of energy don’t run out (e.g. wind, solar)

Reef Safe

Means that the ingredients in a product (most commonly sunscreen) are not toxic to coral or any marine life in the coral reef ecosystem. Note that there are currently no official, approved tests or certification for reef-safe or ocean-safe products! So there is no standardisation for what a product has to be or not include to be completely ‘reef safe’

Reuse

Is the action of using a product again, either for its original use or to fulfil a different function

Sustainable or Sustainability

Something that can be maintained at a certain level or rate for as long as desired. In more specific environmental terms: something that causes little or no harm to the environment, so is able to continue for a long time.

Read: How We Make Sustainable Swimwear for what we’re doing in this space

Throwaway Culture

Includes anything designed to be discarded after use. It is the excessive production of short-lived / single use items over durable / long lasting goods. Essentially if something breaks, just throw it away and buy another one!

Upcycling

The reuse and/or redesign of old, waste or unwanted items in such a way as to create a new product of a higher quality or value.

Zero Waste

The aim to send nothing to landfill, incinerators or into the ocean. This is a great one to end on! Refuse single use items. Reduce what you need/buy. Reuse as much as you can. Recycle what you must. Compost what’s left.

We hope you found this eco jargon glossary useful! This is not an exhaustive list by any means and we will continue to add to it. Please let us know if you want us to add any specific eco jargon terms.

Sources

@laurainwaterland

Intersectional Environmentalist

NOAA

Greenpeace

youmatter

NASA

Fairtrade

The International Ecotourism Society

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Guardian

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