five non blondes

Green Vocab Lesson


I’ve been noticing a lot of new vocabulary lately that’s been popping up in relation to the “green” movement.  Maybe you’re familiar with all of them, maybe you’re not, but I thought a little lesson might be helpful for some people.

 Closed-loop recycling: The process of recycling in such a way that the components of the original product are reclaimed or utilized into similar products without the process of downcycling.

Cradle to cradle: A term used to describe materials or products that are recycled into a new or similar product at the end of their intended life.

Downcycling: The process of recycling in such a way that new products are of lesser economic value.

Greenwash: A combo of green & white wash.  It’s a term that is used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. The marketing company Terrachoice listed the 6 sins of greenwashing as:  1.  Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: e.g. “Energy-efficient” electronics that contain hazardous materials.  2.  Sin of No Proof: e.g. Shampoos claiming to be “certified organic,” but with no verifiable certification.  3.  Sin of Vagueness: e.g. Products claiming to be 100% natural when many naturally-occurring substances are hazardous, like arsenic and formaldehyde.  4.  Sin of Irrelevance: e.g. Products claiming to be CFC-free, even though CFCs were banned 20 years ago. This Sin was seen in 78 products and 4% of environmental claims. 5.  Sin of Fibbing: e.g. Products falsely claiming to be certified by an internationally recognized environmental standard like Eco Logo, Energy Star or Greenseal. 6.  Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: e.g. Organic cigarettes or “environmentally friendly” pesticides.   

Greenhush:  Coined by It’s when companies choose to stay silent about their green initiatives for fear that they’ll be seen in the same light as those who are claiming to be green, but carrying on with business as usual.  It seems admirable, but it does nothing to strengthen the movement and encourage other businesses to make real changes.  It also makes it more difficult for consumers to support eco-friendly businesses.   

LOHAS: Per Wikipedia: An acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, a market segment focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living, and social justice.  These consumers are sometimes called Lohasians.  The LOHAS market segment in year 2006 was estimated at $300 billion, approximately 30% of the USA consumer market.  According to the New York Times, a study by the Natural Marketing Institute showed that in 2000, 68 million Americans were included within the LOHAS demographic.

Offsets: Greenhouse gas reduction activities undertaken to compensate for emissions elsewhere.

Renewable Resources: A resource that can be replenished at a rate equal to, or greater than its rate of depletion. 

Slow Food: Movement started by Slow Food International out of Italy to combat fast food and fast lifestyles.  They seek to preserve cultural cuisine & local food traditions as well as bring awareness to where food comes from, the quality of it, and how its prepared.  Feel free to add your own words if you have some to share.




-Rebecca, SF


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This was a wonderful resource! We’re putting together a pamphlet of green tips for our community.

Sustainable Earth
Carnegie Mellon University

Comment by Daisy Wang

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