An energy source derived from organic matter such as plant material or agricultural waste.


The term for the components of the earth and atmosphere that support life.

Black water

Wastewater containing biological or bodily wastes.

Carrying capacity

A finite quantity (measured in K) of organisms that a given environment can support in equilibrium.

Chain of custody

The successive path taken by raw materials and products from the forest to the end user. This includes processing, transformation, manufacturing and distribution.

Cradle to Cradle

A design paradigm proposed in the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things that models human industry on natural processes, in which materials act as nutrients that nourish and circulate through a healthy ecological system.


Refers to the recycling of a material into a new one with inferior properties. The most common example is the recycling of plastic into lower quality plastic products.

Elemental Chlorine

A compound used to bleach pulp. The US phased out elemental chlorine in 2001.

Elemental Chlorine Free (“traditional ECF”)

Uses chlorine dioxide instead of elemental chlorine.

ECF with extended or oxygen delignification ("enhanced ECF")

Reduces use of resources by removing more lignin before bleaching. Enhanced ECF uses ozone or hydrogen peroxide as the brightening agent.


An approach to design that considers a product's environmental impact throughout its entire lifecycle from procurement, manufacture, use and disposal.

Ecological design

The design of human systems that are compatible with ecological systems.

Ecological footprint

The measure of land and water area a human population requires to produce the resources needed to support itself and absorb its wastes under prevailing technology.

Endangered forest

Forests that are so rare, threatened, or vulnerable, and are of such global biological importance that any logging or commercial use could cause irreparable damage.

Energy efficiency

The ratio of useful energy output by a conversion process to the energy input.


A product, process or service that has been certified by the FSC as being in compliance with an FSC-endorsed standard.

Forest certification

Is the process by which the environmental, social, and economic integrity of forest management is measured and verified by a credible third party.

FSC-eligible products

Products that are approved by an FSC-accredited certification body as being covered by the scope of a chain of custody certificate, AND that meet the minimum content requirements for FSC labeling.

FSC-pure wood/fibre

Virgin or fibre wood which originates from an FSC-certified forest and is sold as ‘pure wood/fibre’ by the holder of a valid FSC chain of custody or joint forest management and chain of custody certificate.

Forest stewardship council (FSC)

A non-profit, membership-based organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forest through developing standards, a certification system, and trademark recognition. It provides certification for companies and organizations who practice responsible forestry.

Fuel cell

An electrochemical device in which the oxidation of a gas fuel produces electrical energy with heat and water as its by-products.


Denotes the inorganic components of the earth made up mostly of rock, minerals, and water.

Global warming

The gradual temperature increase of the earth's lower atmosphere as a result of the increase of greenhouse gases. It is believed that global warming is linked to climate change and a rise in sea levels.

Green design

A design process that aims to reduce use of non-renewable resources, minimize environmental impact, and recognize connections between people and the natural environment.


A deceptive marketing technique used to make a company or product appear environmentally conscious, sometimes in an effort to mask environmentally unsound practices.

Greenhouse gases

Man-made gaseous emissions that contribute to global warming by trapping the heat of the sun in the earth's atmosphere.


Waste water from personal or general domestic washing activities.

Hannover Principles

A set of design guidelines formulated by William McDonough and Michael Braungart for Expo 2000 that consider environmental connections, long-term sustainability, and social impact.


A paper fibre alternative that can be harvested annually and has been widely used in the production of cloth, cord, and other products.


A fast-growing annual plant and promising paper fibre alternative. An acre of kenaf can annually outproduce an acre Southern pine, one of the most productive trees used for paper fibre.

Kyoto protocol

An amendment to the international treaty on climate change that requires signatory nations to meet designated targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Non-renewable resources

Natural resources of finite supply that cannot be renewed or regenerated within any reasonable timescale. These include fossil fuels and minerals.


Emissions of volatile compounds into the air from synthetic or natural polymers.

Post-consumer waste

Waste produced from end-users that includes routinely discarded garbage.

Post-consumer waste paper

Paper that was printed on, used by consumers and then collected for recycling.

Pre-consumer waste

Waste that is created through the manufacturing and production process, such as paper trimmings and defective aluminum cans. This waste never reaches the consumer.

Processed chlorine free (PCF) and Totally chlorine free (TCF)

Papers that are bleached without harmful chlorine-compounds. The chlorine-bleaching process creates a carcinogenic byproduct called dioxin. PCF means no chlorine compounds were used in creating the product, but it is impossible to know if chlorine compounds were used in creating the products from which PCF paper's recycled content comes from. TCF papers are made using 100% virgin fibres only.

Recycled fibre

Fibre reclaimed from a previous product and reprocessed into a new product.

Recycled paper

Paper that contains 30 percent post-consumer waste.

Renewable resources

Sustainable resources that are derived either directly or indirectly from the sun's energy such as solar power, wind energy, hydroelectric power, and living organisms.

Soy ink

An environmental alternative to traditional petroleum-based inks that is available in brighter colours, improves the life span of printers, and makes it easier to recycle paper.


Able to continue a certain behaviour indefinitely.

Sustainable development

Economic development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable products

Products that serve human needs without depleting resources, damaging the environment, or restricting the options available to future generations.


The component of the world that consists of man-made materials such as synthetic polymers (plastics) that cannot re-enter the biosphere through the process of biodegradation alone.

Tree-free paper

Paper that excludes the use of virgin tree pulp and instead uses sustainable resources like kenaf and hemp.

Virgin wood

Wood used in manufacturing processes that is traceable to forest sources

The Emperor Penguin colony at Pointe Geologie, featured in the film “March of the Penguins,” has declined by 70 percent due to global warming. Source: Center for Biological Diversity.

Photo: dv1484028 Digital Vision/courtesy of Getty Images

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