By Christina Lalor
There may be a lot of jargon you aren’t familiar with surrounding “green” initiatives and environmental sustainability. Today’s Green Living Blog post is here to break it all down for you. The more you know, the more likely you are to take action! We don’t want it to feel like drinking from a fire house with all these new terms and info, you just have to take it step by step. From understanding the difference between biodegradable and compostable to knowing how to find your carbon footprint and what impact it has, Élay’s Green Living Blog is here to help.
Any time I get involved in something new- it’s like walking into a world of unfamiliar terms and words, concepts I have not grasped yet, and practices I am unfamiliar with. When I started rock climbing, I felt like everyone was speaking a different language around me. I wasn’t familiar with all the lingo, climbing slang, safety terms, jargon for identifying different rocks, etc. I felt out of place and a little embarrassed. But then I remembered that everyone had to start somewhere and this is my start. So I started asking questions, googling words I had never heard about and immersed myself in the community. Does this sound a bit familiar to you? Many people just getting started on their journey to living a more eco-conscious life may feel the same; overwhelmed and intimidated by all the terminology surrounding green practices and initiatives. Not to worry, we’re here to break it all down for you. Consider this your go-to glossary for all things Green Living related. Below are some important definitions and terms to help get you started on understanding the eco-conscious “green” lifestyle. If you know some terms and definitions, feel free to add them in our comments section!
The act of using waste products in order to generate energy, heat, steam such as burning biomass for heat generation. This is the process of converging non-recycle waste into usable electricity or fuel. Often through the process of gasification, combustion, landfill gas recovery or anaerobic digestion! The process is also commonly known as waste to energy!
Ability of materials to naturally decompose by bacteria and other living organisms and return to nature. To qualify as biodegradable, a material must completely break down and decompose into natural elements within a short time after disposal (a year or less).
All of Élay’s tableware is biodegradable, as there are zero added toxins, chemicals or dyes. They fully biodegrade within 60 - 90 days of being composted. Our tableware is still a leaf sheath, it has just been customized into a mold. So it will naturally fall from the Areca Palm Tree and it will return to the Earth to decompose!
Composting is the process of decomposing organic materials into simpler organic and inorganic compounds by the microorganisms. It’s a way to recycle organic materials which may otherwise end up in landfills! A solid compost is rich in plant nutrients and beneficial organisms!
Some benefits include reducing landfill waste, creating nutrient rich soil, reducing greenhouse gases, neutralizes soil, increases biodiversity, reduces erosion, and averts garden pests along with many others.
So what’s the difference between compostable and biodegradable? They sound pretty similar, we know. All compostable material is biodegradable, not all biodegradable material is compostable! Although something may be able to biodegrade, it may leave behind metal residue while compostable items return to the earth with an added benefit of releasing valuable nutrients and aiding the growth of plants.
Every person has a carbon footprint! One’s carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases generated in order to support their life. Specifically, it is the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by one person or group. So when I go to the store, I don’t just consider my transportation there and back. I consider the greenhouse gases used for the farming, packaging, transporting of all my grocery items.
Calculate your carbon footprint here! Knowing what your carbon footprint is can help you reduce it- look at some of the main contributors in your life.
This brought me back to the AP Biology days. CFCs are organic compounds that have only 3 ingredients 1) carbon 2) fluorine and 3) chlorine. CFCs are non-toxic, nonflammable chemicals and are used for manufacturing aerosol sprays, packing materials, or solvents.
CFCs not only endanger our ozone level on a global level, but they can also cause a variety of health issues affecting one’s heart, lungs, liver, nervous system, and kidneys.
This is not to be confused with biodegradable- degradable refers to a material that breaks down through chemical reactions rather than from microorganisms. Chemical additives are used from plastics to make the material crumble more than it would naturally. These take quite a bit longer to break down than biodegradable items and are not compostable!
This refers to the concept of doing more with less- something we at Elay think about quite a bit. This requires reducing the amount of materials used for specific functions such as printing- so much can now be done virtually and online that printing paper is not a necessity.
You are probably familiar with “greenhouse gas emissions” or “carbon emissions,” what do those mean? Emissions are a byproduct of human activity, so no you don’t want a lot of this. More specifically, it is the gases and particles one puts into the air, something that can be released into the open. There’s tons and tons of types of emissions - exhaust, perfect combustion, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, the list can go on and go. Be mindful of your emissions and find ways to reduce these and live more naturally.
Fair Trade is an arrangement designed to help products in developing countries achieve sustainable and equitable trade relationships. Since the Industrial Revolution and globalization, it has become easy for superpower countries to cheaply outsource labor and materials without abiding by the work laws their country has.
Our manufacturers and producers in India are members of the fair trade movement, adding payment of higher prices to exporters to help improve social and environmental standards. Growers and producers deserve fair prices and opportunities for their products and goods.
A fossil fuel is any hydrocarbon deposit used for fuel like oil, coal or natural gas. They are called “fossil” fuels because they take many many years to be created in the natural environment. They are formed by natural processes
The four main fossil fuels are petroleum, coal, natural gas and orimulsion- none of which would be considered “green.” They are made from fossilized and buried remains of plants and animals lived millions of years ago meaning fossil fuels have a very high carbon content!
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
GMOs are organisms (plants, animals, microorganisms) in which their genetic material, their DNA, has been altered in a way that is not natural like mating or natural recombination. Instead their DNA is spliced with that of another living organism, virus or bacteria in hopes of creating better crops, livestock, or disease resistance. When thinking about the food we eat, I would prefer to eat something that has not been artificially altered by introducing genes not natural to the food life I am eating.
Greenhouse gasses refer to all the gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect (climate change). They trap the sun’s UV rays and heat in our atmosphere and prevent the warmth from leaving the atmosphere back into space. We need them to keep Earth warm, but with industrialization and the current way we are moving, we have far too many greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gasses include carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, nitrous oxide, CFCs, HFCs, and PFCs and well as sulfur hexafluoride!
Global Climate Change
Refers to the gradual but imminent increase in the Earth’s average temperature, caused largely by Greenhouse Gasses- a result of excess levels of pollutants in the atmosphere. Earth’s increase in temperature is due to anthropogenic (human) activity. Global climate change is also referred to as global warming.
Unfortunately, this happens a lot with businesses in the current world. Organizations and businesses try to look like they are environmentally conscious citizens who are taking responsible action, but they are in fact, not! I bet if businesses put as much time, energy and money into appearing green as they would to adopting green policies, they’d actually save quite a bit!
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a certification to recognize and encourage building practices and strategies to be more sustainable and respect the environment. Between residential and commercial, there are different levels of being LEED certified. Many are government regulated, but every building should work to be as green and efficient as possible!
This energy is derived from sources that are not depleted when energy is used. Power, wind, solar energy are all renewable sources- by using them we do not diminish their life.
ewable resource because we do not cut down any trees in our production process. Unlike bamboo, that has to cut down their trees and leaves; our products will continue to produce as long as our trees live. So we want to keep them growing healthy and hearty for as long as possible. They naturally shed 4-6 times a year, our farmers collect the leaf sheaths and bam- that’s how we use a renewable resource to spread sustainable practices!
One of our favorite concepts here at Elay! Sustainability is a simple concept, our current generation needs to meet its demands without compromising the world for future generations. Its impact is widespread from finding ways to replenish consumed foods on a daily basis around the world to making sure you carry around your water bottle with you!
Sustainability can be as big or small of a concept as you want it to be in your life- you can have a sustainable diet, a sustainable workout routine, a sustainable relationship with your roommates or you can go all out and live a zero waste, sustainable life! It means reducing our human-made impact on the planet to allow future generations to enjoy this beautiful Earth!
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
You may have heard about VOCs before, but if not no worries! That’s what we are here for. They are organic, carbon-based compounds that easily transform into vapor or gas. Tons of products emit VOCs when used- oils, paints, natural gasses, glues, etc. VOCs impact air quality, inside and outside, most air quality alerts are due to smog from VOCs. There are numerous health effects as well as environmental consequences to emittings VOCs into our ozone layer.
Now that you are equipped with some definitions to start you out, here comes the fun part! Keep learning, educating oneself goes beyond just memorizing a few definitions or some fancy words. The most important part is taking what you have learned and applying it to your life!