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Green Terms Guide

Green Terms Guide

Think.Eat.Drink - What those green terms mean?

Eco jargon can be a bit baffling at the best of times. This green glossary will help you get to grips with all things green.

Organic & Biodynamic

Organic is a method of farming livestock and agricultural crops without the use of chemicals such as fertilisers, pesticides and medicines. Organic farming helps develop a fertile soil by growing mixed crops and encouraging insects and earth worms to keep the soil healthy, and using other wildlife to act as natural predators of crop pests.

Genetic modification transfers hereditary information from one species of plant or animal to another. It interferes with something that is not properly understood and may have consequences that cannot be predicted. Genetically modified food cannot be certified organic.

Why eat & drink organic?

  • Industrial farming causes serious environmental damage and costs the taxpayer millions. We believe that business has a responsibility to the environment and that organic farming is the only way forward.
  • Organic produce tends to be of a better quality with a better taste. Intensive farming and mass production usually produces food that looks good but tastes bland.
  • It is healthier; surveys consistently show that levels of chemicals in non- organic foods exceed the legal levels set by government regulations. The effects of these chemical cocktails have not been properly researched yet.

What is Biodynamic?

Biodynamic agriculture is a method of farming based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. Biodynamic agriculture, a method of organic farming that has its basis in a spiritual world-view (anthroposophy, first propounded by Rudolf Steiner), treats farms as unified and individual organisms, emphasizing balancing the holistic development and interrelationship of the soil, plants, animals as a closed, self- nourishing system. Regarded by some proponents as the first modern ecological farming system, biodynamic farming includes organic agriculture's emphasis on manures and composts and exclusion of the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants.

Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include the use of fermented herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays and the use of an astronomical sowing and planting calendar. We're not sure exactly how and why bio dynamics works so well, but when combined with great winemaking, the results can be sublime. After all, the most expensive wine in the world, Romanée-Conti, is biodynamic!

Acid rain - Rain with increased acidity due to absorption of airborne pollutants such as C02 and sulphur dioxide.

Bali Roadmap - The Bali roadmap, named after the Indonesian island where the deal was struck in December 2007, is an important milestone. The roadmap will plot how all countries must take action to tackle climate change, with aims to produce an international convention by the end of 2009.

Biodegradable - Any material that can be broken down by living things including micro-organisms such as bacteria.

Biodiversity - The variety of different species within a set habitat. For example, the biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest is greater than that of the Gobi desert.

Biofuels - A fuel that is made from (in whole or in part) renewable organic sources, such as rapeseed oil. These can include refined fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel as well as unrefined such as wood.

Biomass - In energy terms, biomass refers to the use of organic material for the generation of heat, electricity or motive power. Biomass is produced from organic materials, either directly from plants or indirectly from industrial, commercial, domestic or agricultural products. It is carbon neutral as the CO2 released when energy is generated from biomass is balanced by that absorbed during the fuel's production.

Carbon capture - New technology can now capture large amounts of carbon emissions and store them in isolated areas. This means they don’t float into our atmosphere and speed up climate change.

Carbon dioxide - Carbon dioxide is a gas that’s made when fossil fuels are burnt to provide power for everything from driving your car to boiling the kettle. It’s also made when organic things like trees are burnt. It’s then released into the earth’s atmosphere and is one of the harmful gases known as Greenhouse Gases.

Carbon footprint - We all have a carbon footprint; it’s the amount of CO2 each of us produces in our daily lives (for example through using electricity in our homes or driving) and the impact that has on the environment. Other gases like methane (produced by cows!) also contribute to a carbon footprint, for example consuming meat and dairy products adds to our footprint.

Carbon negative - Any process or product that removes carbon from the atmosphere. Growing trees are carbon negative.

Carbon neutral - Because so many of the things we do involve burning carbon at some stage (for example though riding a bike does not produce emissions, manufacturing the bike did) it’s so far been difficult to say what being carbon neutral really is. But many people agree that it’s all about cutting down carbon emissions as much as possible by doing things like switching to renewable energy. You can also be more carbon neutral if you offset things like foreign holidays (see below).

Carbon offset - Carbon offsetting is a way of balancing your carbon emissions. There are a number of ways of doing this including funding schemes to plant trees or replace energy production from fossil fuels with renewable energy such as wind or solar power. It can help to reduce your carbon footprint but is best viewed as a last resort once actual energy use has been reduced as much as possible.

Carbon tax - This is the tax on the use of fossil fuels like oil. It’s based on the amount of carbon each fuel gives out when it’s used.

Carbon trading - Carbon trading is a way of reducing carbon emissions. Many companies are now part of a carbon trading scheme where the government gives each company a set amount of carbon credits each year. If a company doesn’t use all of their credits, they can sell them to other companies who have used all of theirs.

Climate change - Over the years our climate has changed. Climate change can be due to natural causes, but most scientists agree that the rises in the earth’s temperature are linked to the way we live and activities like burning fossil fuels. This means that the temperature of the earth is getting hotter, causing ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise. According to the World Wildlife Fund, climate change could cause a global, humanitarian and environmental disaster. Find out more at

Cradle to cradle - This is a construction and production ethos proposed by Walter R. Stahel that aims to make all components of a made object reusable or disposable with no negative ecological effects.

Deforestation - Deforestation is simply the process of removing trees from land. Trees help absorb CO2, one of the main gases that contribute to climate change, so the more trees get chopped down, the less carbon is absorbed. Deforestation now contributes to nearly 20% of global carbon emissions, according to the Forestry Commission.

Desalination - This is the process of removing salt from the sea and other salt water. It’s a way of increasing the water supply for humans and farm animals.

Dioxins - A group of chemicals, some of which are highly toxic, which can be formed by incomplete combustion (such as you may find in incinerators) and are believed to contribute to pollution and climate change.

Eco friendly - An object or action that is believed to be less harmful to the environment than a common alternative. For example, walking to work is more eco friendly than driving.

Ecological footprint - The Ecological Footprint measures how our lifestyles affect other people as well as the planet. It works out how much land and sea is needed to feed everyone and to provide all the energy, water and raw materials like wood we use in our everyday lives.

Ecosystem - A system made up of a community of living organisms. You might talk about the ecosystem of an English Forest or the Antarctic as a whole.

Energy efficient - Energy efficient products use less energy, but work just as well, if not better, than standard products. Energy efficient light bulbs use up to 80% less energy and last much longer than standard light bulbs. Find out more here. There are lots of other energy efficient products available from fridges to computers, so look out for them next time you buy.

Ethical - Ethics is a branch of philosophy which seeks to address questions about morality, such as what the fundamental semantic, ontological, and epistemic nature of ethics or morality is (meta-ethics), how moral values should be determined (normative ethics), how a moral outcome can be achieved in specific situations (applied ethics), how moral capacity or moral agency develops and what its nature is (moral psychology), and what moral values people actually abide by (descriptive ethics).

Fairtrade Mark - The Fairtrade Mark is an independent consumer label which appears on UK products as a guarantee that they have given their producers a better deal. Farmers supplying Fairtrade products receive a minimum price that covers the cost of sustainable production and an extra premium that is invested in social or economic development projects. Visit for more information.

Food miles - This is the distance food travels from where it is grown to where it is consumed. This can be used to measure the impact each product has on the environment. However, to get the whole picture it’s also important to look at how the food traveled and how it was produced in the first place. Fruit and veg from your own garden has no food miles at all!

Fossil fuels - Oil, natural gas and coal are all fossil fuels. They are formed in the ground from the remains of dead plants and animals over millions of years.

FSC wood - The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) helps to make sure that wood products come from sustainable forests. When you see the FSC label, you can be sure the wood product you are buying has come from a forest that is responsibly managed, with respect for wildlife and the people who live there. Visit for more information.

Global warming - The temperature of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere is gradually warming. However recently the rate at which this is happening has rapidly increased. Scientists agree that this is caused by greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels and other industrial processes.

Greenhouse effect - The increase in greenhouse gasses means that more of the sun’s heat is trapped in our atmosphere. This is called the greenhouse effect. It alters the delicate balance of our climate and the result is global warming.

Greenhouse gas - There are two main types of greenhouse gases: natural ones like methane and those made by humans burning fossil fuels. They trap and absorb the sun’s heat. The more greenhouse gas we produce, the more we contribute to the Greenhouse Effect.

Greywater - Water from showers, baths and washing machines that makes up 50% to 80% of domestic wastewater, which can sometimes be used to water the garden and for car washing.

Hybrid car - Hybrid Cars are a new generation of cars which use electricity as well as fuel for power. This means they emit less CO2 and are friendlier to our environment.

Hydroelectric - Hydroelectric power is electricity generated by running water. It’s a great way of using a natural force to create electricity.

IPCC Fourth Assessment Report - This is a report on climate change produced by the United Nations. It was put together by over 600 experts and reviewed and agreed by 113 governments. The fourth report concluded that there has been an increase in climate change likely to be caused by human activities.

Kyoto Protocol - This is an agreement reached in 1997 by industrial nations around the world to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Landfill - Disposal of rubbish by burying it under the ground. The UK buries 27 million tonnes of rubbish every year according to The Local Government Association – more than any other European country.

Local and seasonal food - This is food that’s produced close to you and grown in season rather than imported from abroad out of season. It doesn’t include food produced by artificial means like strawberries grown in winter greenhouses.

Methane - Methane is the second most important gas contributing to the human- made greenhouse effect after carbon dioxide. Around 40% of methane in the UK comes from landfill sites according to Defra, and around 37% from agriculture, including livestock.

Micro-generation - This is when businesses or homes make their own energy using solar panels or domestic wind turbines.

MSC fish - The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) rewards environmentally responsible fisheries with its blue product label. This means the fishery is well managed, helping to preserve fish populations for future generations. See for more information.

Non-renewable resource - Any resources that cannot be re-made or re-grown at the rate they are consumed. Examples include coal, oil and natural.

Nuclear Power - Nuclear power is energy made by using the heat produced by an atomic reaction. There are a number of nuclear power stations in the UK.

Organic Food - Organic food is produced using organic farming methods, which restrict the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides and avoids the genetic modification of food.

Ozone - This toxic form of oxygen can cause real problems for us at surface level, but protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays in the upper atmosphere – the ozone layer.

Photovoltaic - A device that converts light energy into electricity, eg solar panels that convert the sun’s energy into electricity through a series of grids.

Polar melt - The continuing melting of polar ice at a faster rate than its seasonal growth, causing an ongoing shrinking of the ice caps.

Renewable energy - Wave, wind and solar power are all renewable energies: they produce electricity without harming our environment.

Stern Report - This is a detailed report by Sir Nicholas Stern on the global economic effects of climate change and global warming. Though it was commissioned by the UK government, countries across the world have received it with interest.

Sustainable development - If everyone in the world lived the same way as we do in the UK, we’d need three planets to support us, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Sustainable development is about using all of our natural resources more responsibly, so we can meet our needs today without affecting the ability of future generations to meet their needs too.

Vegetarian - Vegetarianism is the practice of a diet that excludes meat (including game and slaughter by-products; fish, shellfish and other sea animals; and poultry). There are several variants of the diet, some of which also exclude eggs and/or some products produced from animal labour such as dairy products and honey.

Vegan - Veganism is a diet and lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. Vegans endeavor not to use or consume animal products of any kind. The most common reasons for becoming a vegan are ethical commitment or moral conviction concerning animal rights, the environment, human health, and spiritual or religious concerns. Of particular concern to many vegans are the practices involved in factory farming and animal testing, and the intensive use of land and other resources for animal farming.

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) - Any carbon compound that evaporates easily in normal environmental conditions – petrol for example.

Wind turbines - You’ll see these dotted around the country quite often now. They’re a modern day windmill which uses the power of the wind to produce electricity.

Zero carbon home - A house that produces no net C02 emissions from the energy used by people living in it. This, however, does not include initial construction materials.

A few eco tips

Insulation - You can help to stop heat escaping by installing cavity wall insulation and loft insulation. You can lose up to 35% of the heat from your home through the walls and up to 25% through the roof.

Heating - Don't overheat your home, use your heating to reach the temperature you need and make sure you know how to use the controls properly. If your house is too hot don't open the windows - turn the thermostat down instead. Reducing the temperature by just 1°C can cut your fuel bills by up to 10%.

Hot Water - Insulate your hot water cylinder with a lagging jacket and if it has a thermostat make sure it is set to the recommended temperature of 60°C. Having a shower uses much less water than a bath.

Lighting - Low energy light bulbs are ideal for lighting the rooms that you use the most. They cost a little bit more to buy but they last up to 15 times longer and use a quarter of the electricity of ordinary bulbs.

Cooking - Keep saucepan lids on when cooking to reduce condensation and energy. When cooking vegetables use just enough water to cover them. Using the microwave instead of the oven will also save money. Washing - Using a 40°C washing machine cycle rather than a 60°C cycle means you use a third less electricity. Use the economy setting where possible and use the half load setting when you have a small quantity to wash.

Fridges and Freezers - Defrost fridges and freezers regularly. Don't leave the door open for longer than necessary and don't put hot food in - let it cool down first. When buying a new fridge or freezer look for the energy rating. The most efficient appliances and the cheapest to run are given an "A" rating.

Boiling Water - Use a kettle to boil water - it is quicker and more efficient than using a pan - and only boil the amount of water you need. Choose kettles with a water gauge so you know how much water is being boiled.

Windows - Draw your curtains at dusk to stop heat being lost through the windows. Take care not to drape curtains over radiators. Lined curtains will help stop heat escaping.

Free Energy Efficiency Advice - For even more energy saving advice from please call our Energy Efficiency Advice Service FREE on 0800 33 22 33.Our advisors will be able to give you information on the grants and products which are available, to help you make your home warmer and more comfortable.

Hopefully you have found this document a bit useful. All the very, Jamie Grainger-Smith 

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