Sunday, October 19, 2008

Whatchu Talkin Bout?

Here I am rambling on about all this environmental whoo-ha and it just occurred to me that some readers may be new to the eco lifestyle and have no idea what we are all going on about over here. How dare I post a bunch of bloggity blogs without first sharing what all of those fancy terms even mean?! Well before those fantastic people glaze over and click away, I will share a list of a bunch of environmental based terms and what they mean to me. I encourage everyone to post in the comments if you have questions about certain terms or have a different opinion on what it means to you. Please note there are some terms I will just post the dictionary definition for because they just seem to sum it up so nicely. Now in no particular order, let’s get talking people!

Environment -- The most important of all the terms. To me this is the all encompassing, includes everything term. The environment is not just the untouchable ozone layer or air we breathe but also the house we live in, the car we drive, outer space, the job we work at, the websites we surf, the water we swim in, fish, drink, the tiny little ant that crawls across the sidewalk to the greatest desert, the smallest creature on the planet, the polar ice shelf, You, me, all breathing things, you get the picture. If you experience it at any time with any of your six senses then it is the environment. Treat it well.

Green -- This is a toughie because everyone has a slightly different take on what this means but to me, green means being, doing and promoting the betterment of the environment as much and as often as possible. What is your take on this word as used in an environmental capacity?

Recycle -- Probably the most widely used and recognized term where environmental living is concerned. The dictionary defines this as: to treat or process (used or waste materials) so as to make suitable for reuse. This is important to remember – anything recycled in a traditionally adopted manner must go through another process to become something else. It will save that thing from being placed in a landfill (trash heap) but a process must be completed again to make the new item.

Upcycle -- Sort of like recycling except the item in question is generally not completely reprocessed, just repurposed or reused. Here is the difference: With recycling, I put a plastic bottle in my bin, it is taken to a plant, melted down and reformed into a plastic shopping bag. With upcycling I take a plastic bottle, cut it in half, coat the bottom with sticky back felt and use it as a pen holder. There is a process involved in repurposing that bottle but a lower impact process environmentally speaking. And I have a personalized, kick ass new pen holder to boot.

Eco -- This is simply the prefix used to shorten the length of an ecologically responsible word. Instead of saying “that shopping bag purse is an environmentally responsible item” we can be lazy and say “I love her eco-friendly purse!”. Eco-conscious, eco-responsible, eco-blogger, eco-mom, etc. What eco- do you define yourself as?

Repurpose -- Dictionary says: To use or convert for use in another format or product. This is another term for recycling, upcycling or reuse.

Earth Day – This is the day we greenies get to share the love of our blue and green marble in space with a whole slew of people that may not be focused on it any other time of year. There are amazing conventions, group meet ups, talks, discussions, actions and many other activities planned all over, you guessed it, the Earth on this day. In 2009 it is on April 22. Get involved!

Solar -- Fun in the sun baby! The heat and energy produced by everyone’s favorite flaming ball of gas is known as solar.

Passive Solar -- Collecting and using the rays of the sun without any mechanics. This is something I do every day and discussed here.

Photovoltaic Panels -- Cells in the form of flat panels (photodiodes) used to collect the suns rays and regenerate that into electric energy. This is known as Active Solar and they are sometimes referred to as PV’s.

Wind Turbine -- Wind, or kinetic, is harnessed through the rotating turbines (blades) and converted into energy. It is deemed a turbine when that energy is converted to electricity. Windmills use the power of wind to run machinery strictly.

Compost -- The dictionary tells us this is: a mixture of various decaying organic substances, as dead leaves or manure, used for fertilizing soil. Scraps of dinner or yard waste (like lawn clippings) can be saved and put back into the Earth to make a more nutrient friendly soil for planting.

Emission -- Basically a fancy-schmancy term for release or discharge. Every time we start and run our cars there is an emission created from the tail pipe for example. Emissions from many sources (methane gas, fossil fuels, etc), has led to increased air pollution across the planet. Using clean power such as solar or wind will help to keep emissions to a minimum.

Sustainable -- Anything that will continue to provide forever is sustainable. Wikipedia states “sustainability has been expressed as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. A fantastic explanation.

Renewable Resource -- Anything in nature that can be reproduced (or naturally recycled if you will) is renewable. A great example of a rapidly renewing resource used for many items would be bamboo. It grows quickly and can be easily replenished (also allowing for sustainability). A non renewable resource would be fossil fuel.

Global Warming -- The dictionary has a nice definition here: an increase in the earth's average atmospheric temperature that causes corresponding changes in climate and that may result from the greenhouse effect. So let’s break that down. The greenhouse effect happens when solar radiation is absorbed by gas in the atmosphere. It is natural and not a bad thing. When more of that radiation is trapped than escapes however it will lead to an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere in question. Temperatures in an overall sense go up and that results in warmer air and water. In our case the temperature on Earth has gone up by one degree in the past century. Now many people might be saying “big deal, one degree is barely noticeable so who really cares?”

Climate Change -- Here is where caring about the one degree really comes into play. Due to that seemingly tiny temperate increase so many things within our global ecosystem have shifted and not in a good way. Beach erosion is directly related as the sea levels begin to rise. When the sea becomes warmer the ice melts, just like in a glass of water. In that glass of water however is not an entire species that relies on the ice being there to survive. Ever wonder why there has been a significant increase in bizarre weather events of late like a tornado in Brooklyn or snow in southern California? All of this is a direct result of climate change.

Carbon Footprint -- Each of us have one because it is the measurable impact we all have on the planet. We can determine how much greenhouse gas is released through our individual daily activities (our personal emissions checklist). There are predictable and non predictable questions in a Life Cycle Assessment that help determine where we each stand and then we can truly gauge the areas we could cut back to help protect the first and most important term -- our Environment.


kim* said...

wow thanks for all the new vocab! when will the test take place? jk

i upcycle bottle caps. oh how i love thee.

esque said...

Upcycling rules! Thanks for this comprehensive list of terms!

Bridgete said...

So they taught us this little mantra in elementary school that's sort of the all-encompassing green living mantra. (It's really going to be hard for another city to beat Portland...) The mantra is: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It's the three R's of waste management.

Reduce is a lot of the stuff people think about for green living now. It's turning off the water when brushing your teeth, taking shorter showers, buying recycled products, buying used clothing, etc. It even goes so far as encouraging companies to reduce their waste through letters asking for less overpackaging, or things like Ginger's letter to Starbucks.

Reuse and Recycle you have covered here, but I noticed the overall "reduce" was missing. You have stuff that fits but it's really just all about reducing waste.

Hm, thinking about how I grew up with that...what if you interviewed me about "Growing Up Green"? I'm busy until late November though...but I don't honestly know many people who can say that they've seriously been doing this stuff since they were 7 or 8. What do you think? =)

High Desert Diva said...

Nice to have all the definitions clearly laid out.

artjewl said...

Slight correction: Earth Day doesn't change dates; it's always 4/22. :)

Other terms that might be helpful to be added to this primer: Organic & biodegradable. (Can't add it myself at the moment, sorry.)

Great post -- you should add a link directly to it from your side bar as a quick reference.


Jenn said...

No test kim, I'm one of those easy going type teachers.

esque you are very welcome, thanks for swing by and commenting!

Bridgete thanks so much for adding your feelings on reducing! You are absolutely correct that it is so important to remember to reduce everything, not just waste. Thanks for the reminder & I answered your interview question on your blog, thanks!

Charmaine happy to help and it looks as if a second reference guide might follow with so many great suggestions!

Yikes Julie you are right! lol. Well at least I got my duh moment of the week out the of the way before the week even started huh? Thanks, I've changed the post to show the correct info now. Thanks for the idea about the sidebar link as well, just added it :)

ecokaren said...

This is so awesome! I may have to make a link to this and the Part II from my blog.

What a comprehensive list!!

I think some terms aren't even in the dictionary yet!

Thanks for sharing!