Green Glossary -


Acid rain
the result of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) reacting in the atmosphere with water and returning to earth as rain, fog, or snow.*
Air pollution
emissions of the following pollutants: sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and carbon dioxide. These air emissions contribute to such environmental concerns as urban smog; acid deposition; excessive nutrient loads to important bodies of water, such as the Chesapeake Bay; haze in national parks and wilderness areas; and global climate change.*


biobased products are commercial or industrial goods whose main ingredients are renewable plant or animal materials (as determined by the USDA secretary). See also "BioPreferred."
ability of a substance to be broken down physically and/or chemically by microorganisms. For example, many chemicals, food scraps, cotton, wool, and paper are biodegradable; plastics and polyester generally are not.*
products that are designated under the USDA BioPreferred program to meet the minimum program standards for biobased content. See also "Biobased."


Carbon dioxide (CO2)
a colorless, odorless greenhouse gas. It is produced naturally when dead animals or plants decay, and it is used by plants during photosynthesis. People are adding carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, mostly by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. This extra carbon dioxide is the main cause of climate change. It is the reference gas against which other greenhouse gases are measured.*
Carbon footprint
the total amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere each year by a person, family, building, organization, or company. A person's carbon footprint includes greenhouse gas emissions from fuel that an individual burns directly, such as by heating a home or riding in a car. It also includes greenhouse gases that come from producing the goods or services that the individual uses, including emissions from power plants that make electricity, factories that make products, and landfills where trash gets sent.*
Carbon monoxide
a colorless, odorless, very toxic gas that is formed as a product of the incomplete combustion of carbon or a carbon compound.†
Carpet and Rug Institute™
certifies which cleaning solutions, extractors, and vacuums are superior to the standard. When you see a CRI Seal of Approval, it identifies effective carpet cleaning solutions that filter a high amount of dirt and dust particles from the rug, help protect the carpet's life and beauty, and help with indoor environmental quality.
see "Compact fluorescent lamp."
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
gases used for refrigeration, air conditioning, packaging, insulation, solvents, or aerosol propellants. Since they are not destroyed in the lower atmosphere, CFCs drift into the upper atmosphere, where, given suitable conditions, they break down ozone. These gases are being replaced by other compounds such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and hydrofluorocarbons, which are also greenhouse gases.*
Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL)
small fluorescent light bulbs that use 75% less energy, last up to 10 times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb, and can be screwed into a standard light socket.
ENERGY STAR® qualified CFLs cost little up front and provide a quick return on investment. However, all CFLs contain a small amount of mercury and must be handled properly and recycled when they burn out.*
decomposed organic material that is produced when bacteria in soil break down garbage and degradable trash, making organic fertilizer. Making compost requires turning and mixing and exposing the materials to air. Gardeners and farmers use compost for soil enrichment.*
preserving and renewing, when possible, human and natural resources. The use, protection, and improvement of natural resources according to principles that will ensure their highest economic or social benefits.*
see "EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG)."


Department of Energy (DOE)
see "U.S. Department of Energy."
Design for the Environment (DfE)
works in partnership with industry, environmental groups, and academia to reduce risk to people and the environment by finding ways to prevent pollution. DfE has evaluated and certified more than 2,500 products based on having limited or no human health concerns, environmental considerations, performance, and cost.
see "Design for the Environment."


founded by the Canadian government but now recognized worldwide, EcoLogo provides customers with assurance that the products and services bearing the logo meet stringent standards, which address various environmental attributes through their life cycle. EcoLogo is designed so that only the top 20 percent of the market can achieve the certification.
degree to which outputs are achieved in terms of productivity and input (resources allocated).* For our purposes, efficiency refers to how much electricity, gas, or water is required to operate a product at a specific efficacy.
Energy efficiency rating (EER)
ratings under which specified appliances convert energy sources into useful energy, as determined by procedures established by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Energy efficiency
products or systems using less energy to do the same or better job than conventional products or systems. Energy efficiency saves energy, saves money on utility bills, and helps protect the environment by reducing the amount of electricity that needs to be generated.*
a joint program of the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), designed to help consumers save money and preserve the environment through energy efficiency.
Environmentally friendly products
parts that cause no harm to the environment. For example, a product made of hazardous materials but used to insulate a building is considered environmentally preferable because it will save energy. It's not considered environmentally friendly because, if disposed of improperly, it will harm the environment.
Environmentally preferable
a designation given to products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose.*
Environmentally preferable products
parts that have a reduced effect on human health and the environment when used and disposed of properly, compared to standard products that serve the same purpose. For example, products that contain recycled content, require less energy or create less waste during production and manufacturing, use less packaging, or are reusable or recyclable are preferable.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
strives to make sure that environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and that these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy. This agency spearheads numerous programs and groups (such as WaterSense® and Design for the Environment®) that pave the way for sustainability as we know it today.
EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG)
the EPA designates items that must contain recycled content when purchased by federal, state, and local agencies, or by government contractors using appropriated federal funds. Executive Order 13423 directed the EPA to periodically review existing CPG product designations for effectiveness, obsolescence, and consistency with other product designation programs.*
Executive Order 13423
titled "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy and Transportation Management," this Executive Order was signed by President George W. Bush in January of 2007 and calls for federal agencies to set goals in the areas of energy efficiency, acquisition, renewable energy, toxic chemical reductions, recycling, sustainable buildings, electronics stewardship, fleets, and water conservation.
Executive Order 13514
titled "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance," this Executive Order was signed by President Barack Obama in October of 2009. It introduced new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions management requirements, expanded water reduction requirements for federal agencies, and addressed waste diversion, local planning, sustainable buildings, environmental management, and electronics stewardship.


Fossil fuel
a general term for organic materials formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth's crust over hundreds of millions of years.*


Global warming
an increase in the earth's atmospheric and oceanic temperatures widely predicted to occur because of an increase in the greenhouse effect, resulting especially from pollution.†
Global warming potential (GWP)
a measure of how much heat a substance can trap in the atmosphere. GWP can be used to compare the effects of different greenhouse gases. For example, methane has a GWP of 25, which means over a period of 100 years, 1 pound of methane will trap 25 times more heat than 1 pound of carbon dioxide (which has a GWP of 1).*
Greenhouse gas (GHG)
any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.*
Greenhouse effect
warming of the surface and lower atmosphere of a planet (such as Earth or Venus) that is caused by conversion of solar radiation into heat in a process involving selective transmission of short-wave solar radiation by the atmosphere, its absorption by the planet, surface, and reradiation as infrared, which is absorbed and partly reradiated back to the surface by atmospheric gases.†
Green Seal™
a nonprofit organization that uses science-based programs to create a more sustainable earth. The group develops life cycle-based sustainability standards for products, services, and companies. Green Seal has been actively identifying and promoting sustainability in the marketplace and helping organizations lessen their environmental impact since 1989.


Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
a compound consisting of hydrogen, chlorine, fluorine, and carbon. HCFCs are one class of chemicals being used to replace CFCs. They contain chlorine and thus deplete stratospheric ozone, but to a much lesser extent than CFCs. HCFCs have ozone depletion potentials (ODPs) ranging from 0.01 to 0.1. Production of HCFCs with the highest ODPs are being phased out first, followed by other HCFCs.*
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
A compound consisting of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon. HFCs are a class of replacements for CFCs. Because they do not contain chlorine or bromine, they do not deplete the ozone layer. All HFCs have an ozone depletion potential of 0. Some HFCs have high global warming potential (GWP).*


HD Supply Facilities Maintenance's proprietary initiative that denotes environmentally preferable products and practices.


Kilowatt-hours (kWh)
a unit of work or energy equal to that expended by one kilowatt in one hour or to 3.6 million joules. It is energy most often used to measure electricity use.*


Land waste disposal site in which waste is generally spread in thin layers, compacted, and covered with a fresh layer of soil each day.*
Life cycle assessment
the process for evaluating the environmental burdens associated with a product, process, or activity by identifying and quantifying energy and material users and releases to the environment. The assessment covers the entire life cycle of the product, process, or activity, including extracting and processing the raw materials; manufacturing, transporting, and distributing the product; product use, reuse, and maintenance; recycling; and final disposal.*
a heavy metal that is hazardous to health if breathed or swallowed. Its use in gasoline, paints, and plumbing compounds has been sharply restricted or eliminated by federal laws and regulations.*
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®)
an internationally recognized green building certification system. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2000, LEED provides a framework for buildings and their operators to implement practical green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions.
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
a device that uses a material called a semi-conductor to produce light without using a lot of electricity. LEDs are commonly used as indicator lights on electrical devices, but they are now being used more often for general lighting.*


a hydrocarbon that is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential most recently estimated at 25 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane is produced through anaerobic (without oxygen) decomposition of waste in landfills, animal digestion, decomposition of animal wastes, production and distribution of natural gas and petroleum, coal production, and incomplete fossil fuel combustion.*
Municipal solid waste (MSW)
residential solid waste and some nonhazardous commercial, institutional, and industrial wastes. This material is generally sent to municipal landfills for disposal.*


Natural gas
underground deposits of gases consisting of 50 to 90 percent methane (CH4) and small amounts of heavier gaseous hydrocarbon compounds such as propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10).*
Nitrous oxide (N2O)
a powerful greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of 298 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2). Major sources of nitrous oxide include soil cultivation practices, especially the use of commercial and organic fertilizers, fossil fuel combustion, nitric acid production, and biomass burning.*
Nonrenewable resources
natural resources that cannot be regenerated or grown at a sustainable rate to meet demand, including fossil fuels, metals, and minerals.*


substances that come from animal or plant sources. Organic substances always contain carbon.*
Ozone layer
the layer of ozone that lies approximately 10 to 40 km above earth and thins to an almost negligible amount at about 50 km. The ozone layer shields the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The highest natural concentration of ozone (approximately 10 parts per million by volume) occurs in the stratosphere at approximately 15 km above earth. The stratospheric ozone concentration changes throughout the year as stratospheric circulation changes with the seasons. Natural events such as volcanoes and solar flares can produce changes in ozone concentration, but man-made changes are of the greatest concern.*


Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
a compound consisting of carbon and fluorine. PFCs have extremely high global warming potentials (GWPs) and very long lifetimes. They do not deplete stratospheric ozone, but the EPA is concerned about their impact on global warming.*
Photovoltaic cells (PVC)
a system that converts sunlight directly into electricity using cells made of silicon or other conductive materials. When sunlight hits the cells, a chemical reaction occurs, resulting in the release of electricity.* See also "Solar panels."
any of a group of synthetic or organic materials that may be shaped when soft and then hardened, including many types of resins, resinoids, polymers, cellulose derivatives, casein materials, and proteins. Plastics are often used in place of other materials, such as glass, wood, and metals, in construction and decoration, for making many articles, such as coatings, and drawn into filaments, for weaving.**
Post-consumer materials
materials or finished products that have served their intended use and have been diverted or recovered from waste destined for disposal, having completed their lives as consumer items. Post-consumer materials are part of the broader category of recovered materials.*
Pre-consumer materials
Materials generated in manufacturing and converting processes such as manufacturing scrap and trimmings and cuttings. Includes print overruns, overissue publications, and obsolete inventories.*


collecting and reprocessing a resource so it can be used again. An example is collecting aluminum cans, melting them down, and using the aluminum to make new cans or other aluminum products.*
Recycled Content
the portion of a product, or package, weight that is composed of materials that have been recovered from waste; this may include pre-consumer or post-consumer materials.*
to diminish in size, amount, extent, or number. To lessen the amount of waste you generate; for example, to bring a reusable cloth bag for grocery shopping instead of using disposable plastic bags.
Renewable resource
a natural resource that can be produced, regrown, or reused fast enough to keep up with how quickly it is used. Wind, tides, and solar energy, for example, are in no danger of running out and can be consumed by people virtually forever. In contrast, fossil fuels such as coal take millions of years to develop naturally and are considered nonrenewable.*
the use of a product more than once in its same form for the same purpose or for different purposes, such as reusing a soft-drink bottle when it is returned to the bottling company for refilling, or reusing a coffee can as a container for nuts and bolts.*


Solar energy
the radiant energy of the sun, which can be converted into other forms of energy, such as heat or electricity.*
Solar panels
a device that can convert energy from the sun into energy for people to use. Some types of solar panels convert sunlight directly into electricity. Others use sunlight to heat water, which can then be used to provide heat or hot water to a building.* See also "Photovoltaic cells."
Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
a criteria air pollutant. Sulfur dioxide is a gas produced by burning coal, most notably in power plants. Some industrial processes, such as production of paper and smelting of metals, produce sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is closely related to sulfuric acid, a strong acid. Sulfur dioxide plays an important role in the production of acid rain.*
Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)
a colorless gas soluble in alcohol and ether, slightly soluble in water. A very powerful greenhouse gas used primarily in electrical transmission and distribution systems and as a dielectric in electronics. The global warming potential (GWP) of SF6 is 22,800.*


Total cost of ownership (TCO)
TCO includes the up-front cost of the product and the costs associated with using that product for the duration of its life. Often, TCO is used to compare two products, to determine which product will make the most financial sense over the entire lifetime of the products.


USDA BioPreferred
See "BioPreferred."
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
ensures American security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.
Utility provider (utility company)
a utility is a municipal or private business that provides electricity to the public and is subject to governmental regulation.*
Utility rebate
offered by utility providers, municipalities, or states to provide cash or credit for the purchase and installation of efficient products.


Virgin materials
resources extracted from nature in their raw form, such as timber or metal ore.*


a partnership program administered by the EPA. It seeks to protect the future of our nation's water supply by offering people a simple way to use less water with water-efficient products and services. WaterSense brings together a variety of stakeholders, including manufacturers of water-efficient products and consumers of those products.
*EPA's Terms & Acronyms Dictionary
†Merriam-Webster Dictionary at