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Green 101: Definitions

This glossary includes key responsible purchasing terms and may be used as a companion to the Responsible Purchasing Guides.

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#1 plastic
see "polyethylene terephthalate"
#2 plastic
see "high density polyethylene" 
#3 plastic
see "vinyl/polyvinyl chloride"
#4 Plastic
see "low density polyethylene"
#5 plastic
see "polypropylene"
#6 plastic
see "polystyrene"
#7 plastic
plastic other than the six most common, often used in bottles and bags
Acid rain
acidic compounds caused by pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (Nox) that collect in the atmosphere, are absorbed by clouds, and create acidic rainfall
Acute toxicity
capable of producing illness from a single dose or minimal exposure
Advanced hybrid
a hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV) that uses advanced energy recovery technologies (e.g., regenerative braking) and is capable of driving in all-electric mode, see also hybrid-electric vehicle and hollow hybrid
Architectural paint
coatings intended for, but not restricted to, on-site application to interior and exterior surfaces of residential, commercial, institutional or industrial buildings
B20
biofuel composed of 20% biodiesel and 80% gasoline, see also biodiesel
Ballast
device used with an electric discharge lamp to obtain necessary circuit conditions to start and operate it
Baseline
basic information gathered before a program begins that is used later to provide a comparison for assessing program impact
Bioaccumulate
process whereby harmful substances concentrate or magnify as they move up the food chain
Biobased
products composed in whole or in significant part of biological products, forestry materials, or renewable domestic agricultural materials, including plant, animal, or marine materials, generally safer for the environment than petroleum-based counterparts, and usually biodegradable or recyclable
Biodegradable
ability of a substance to decompose in the natural environment into harmless materials
Biodiesel
a substitute for petroleum based diesel fuel that is produced from agricultural crops such as soybeans 
Brominated flame retardants
hormone disrupting chemicals such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) that are added to computers and office electronics to reduce the risk of fire; see also polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). 
Cadmium
toxic metal included in electronic equipment
Car-sharing
a system providing simple, regular access to vehicles without personal ownership; typically run by a for-profit company such as FlexCar and ZipCar
Cellulosic ethanol
a high-energy yielding ethanol fuel produced from cellulose, a naturally occuring carbohydrate commonly found in plant cell walls; cellulosic ethanol has a better lifecycle energy and emissions profile than corn ethanol but is currently more expensive to produce. See also ethanol
CFL
see "compact fluorescent lamp"
Chlorine free
manufactured without chlorine or chlorine derivatives
CNG
compressed natural gas; used as vehicle fuel, see also NGV
Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL)
fluorescent light bulb designed to substitute incandescent light bulbs, see also "incandescent" and "fluorescent lighting"
Cost-per-copy contract
contract where an organization purchases copy services rather than copying equipment; the contractor is responsible for providing office electronics, supplies, maintenance, training, and more, depending on the terms of the contract.
Daylighting
utilizing sunlight to illuminate indoor space
Dioxins
chemical compounds classified as persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBTs) by the EPA
Diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
persistent and bioaccumulating chemicals used as flame retardants in plastics and polymer resins, see also polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs)
E85
vehicle fuel type composed of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, see also "ethanol" and "flex-fuel"
EcoLogo
multi-attribute environmental certification managed by the Government of Canada
Endocrine disruptor
chemical that interferes with the normal function of a living organism's endrocrine system
End-of-life management
process by which products are disposed of after their term of useful service expires
Energy efficient
product that performs more work per unit of energy as compared to all similar products
ENERGY STAR
energy efficiency certification manged jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy
Environmentally preferable
products and services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared to other products and services that serve the same purpose.
Ethanol
fuel type made by fermenting plant sugars; nearly all ethanol produced in the U.S. today are from corn sugars. See also "cellulosic ethanol", "E85", and "flex-fuel"
Flashpoint
minimum temperature at which a liquid gives off a vapor in significant concentration to ignite
Flex-fuel
passenger vehicle with specially designed engine capable of running on E85 or pure gasoline, see also "ethanol" and "E85"
Fluorescent lighting
gas-discharge lamps that require ballasts and use electricity to excite mercury vapor in argon or neon gas, producing ultraviolet light that causes a phosphor to fluoresce, producing visible light
Fuel economy
fuel efficiency; a measure of fuel needed per unit of distance traveled, e.g. miles per gallon
Furans
chemical compounds classified as persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBTs) by the EPA
GREENGUARD
independent ANSI authorized standards developer focused on indoor air quality
Greenhouse gas
heat-trapping gas in the Earth's atmosphere responsible for global warming; category includes water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, CFCs, and nitrogen oxides
Hazardous substance
1. material posing a threat to human health and/or the environment, that can be toxic, corrosive, ignitable, explosive, or chemically reactive 2. substance that must be reported to the EPA if released into the environment.
Hazardous waste
hazardous by-products that can pose a hazard to human health or the environment when improperly managed
HEV
hybrid-electric vehicle, see also "hybrid-electric"
Hexavalent chromium
positive-6 valence chromium, considered a potential occupational carcinogen
High density polyethylene (HDPE)
plastic labeled number 2, used in milk jugs, trashbags, cleaners containers, and vehicle fuel tanks
Hollow-hybrid
vehicle marketed as an HEV but lacking advanced fuel economy features such as regenerative braking and all-electric drive mode, see also hybrid-electric vehicle and advanced hybrid
Hybrid-electric vehicle
fuel efficient vehicle type that combines an internal combustion engine with a battery-powered electric motor and other energy efficiency features
Idling
leaving the engine on while a vehicle is not in use
Incandescent
inefficient technology that produces light by passing an electrical current through a thin filament
Industrial paint
surface coatings including but not limited to, special purpose, factory-applied, automotive, marine, and traffic marking paint
Lead
metal used in electronic equipment that can damage the nervous system and cause blood and brain disorders
LED
light-emitting diode; high efficiency lighting that uses semiconductor technology; aka solid state lighting
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
a building rating system developed by the US Green Building Council, includes standards for several types of buildings
Life cycle cost
adjusted annual cost of a product that accounts for capital, installation, operating, maintenance and disposal costs
Low density polyethylene (LDPE)
plastic labeled number 4, used in bags and food wrap
Mercury
material used in electronic equipment that causes short term and chronic nervous system impairment to exposed individuals
Multifunction machines
type of office equipment that is able to perform multiple functions such as copying, printing, and faxing
Natural paint
paints made from non-toxic and non-petroleum-derived ingredients like soy, milk, and silicate
NGV
natural gas vehicle; i.e. vehicle fueled by natural gas, see also "CNG"
Ozone
1. ground level pollutant that causes respiratory damange, 2. component of upper atmosphere that prevents ultraviolet sunlight from reaching the earth's surface
Particulates
small particles and liquid droplets that can be inhaled and cause respiratory and heart disease
PBTs
see "persistent, bioaccumulative toxins"
PCBs
see "polychlorinated biphenyls"
Persistent, bioaccumulative, toxins (PBTs)
toxic chemicals that persist in the environment and increase in concentration through the food chain; transferred easily through air, water and land ; EPA list includes 4 chemical groups and 16 chemicals
PHEV
see "plug-in hybrid"
Plug-in hybrid
vehicle type similar to HEV, but with smaller gasoline engine and larger battery pac that can be charged using a standard electrical outlet and provide an all-electric driving range of between 20 and 60 miles; see also hybrid-electric vehicle
Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs)
a class of flame retardant chemicals added to plastics that can enter the environment but do not degrade quickly or easily, see also diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
a class of flame retardant chemicals added to plastics that can enter the environment but do not degrade quickly or easily
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
mixtures of up to 209 individual chlorinated compounds (known as congeners)
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
plastic labeled number 1, used in fibers, beverage bottles and liquid containers
Polypropylene (PP)
plastic labeled #5, used in molded parts, packaging and fibers
Polystyrene (PS)
plastic labeled #6 and used in Styrofoam, CD jewel cases, plastic cutlery
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
a substance made from vinyl chloride (a known carcinogen) and used in some plastics, see also "vinyl/polyvinyl chloride"
Post-consumer recycled content
material recovered from a consumer product at the end of its life, diverted from waste destined for disposal
Post-industrial recycled content
material generated in manufacturing and converting processes, recovered or diverted from solid waste
Recovered materials
waste materials and by-products that have been diverted from the solid waste stream
Smog
air pollution formed when sunlight reacts with oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons
Source reduction
a net reduction in the generation of waste compared to alternatives
Sprawl
the unplanned spread of cities into rural land
Surface coating
a mixture of film-forming materials plus pigments, solvents, and other additives, which includes architectural and industrial paints, stains, varnishes and coatings.
Take-back
policy whereby equipment can be returned to a manufacturer, distributor or recycler at the end of useful life 
Toxic substance
a chemical or mixture that may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment
Vinyl/polyvinyl chloride (V)
plastic labeled number 3, used in blister wrap, food wrap, and construction and maintenance materials
VOC
see "volatile organic compounds"
Volatile organic compound (VOC)
organic compound that typically vaporizes at room temperature and participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions

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