Glossary of Eco Terms

Glossary Eco/Ethical Terms

This is a short guide to help you understand some of the terms used in Ethical & Environmental trading

Biodegradable (v Composting)

Biodegradable materials can decompose into very small fractions by biological activity and changes to the chemical structure of the material. Compostable materials can fully decompose back to soil, leaving no visible, distinguishable or toxic residue, in a set time frame and under pre-defi ned conditions. In other words, composting is a complete form of biodegradability.

Biodiversity

To maintain balance in nature there must be a large variety of life on the planet. This variety of life is called biodiversity (from biological diversity). Each life form performs a particular task. By working together, the living things do the following:

  • regulate the planet's climate & atmosphere providing air & space for things to live
  • ensure that nutrients are recycled for other living things to feed on & grow in
  • ensure water is purified & retained for living things to drink or live in
  • create & enrich soil by helping dead things to decompose for other living things to grow in & feed on

Many of the things man does is causing 100's of the planet's species to disappear threatening the biodiversity of our planet.

Compostable (v Biodegradable)

Biodegradable materials can decompose into very small fractions by biological activity and changes to the chemical structure of the material. Compostable materials can fully decompose back to soil, leaving no visible, distinguishable or toxic residue, in a set time frame and under pre-defined conditions. In other words, composting is a complete form of biodegradability.

Ecosystems

All living things have a role to play in the environment. Life on our planet depends on all the different forms of life working together. The survival of each living thing is linked to the survival of all the other living things. Living things tend to work together in ecosystems. An ecosystem is a group of plants & creatures living together in one place off the same source of energy. The source of energy is used in a different way by each member of the ecosystem, making it is possible for them all to live together. The energy source is recycled within the ecosystem so it can be reused time & time again. Every ecosystem is part of a bigger ecosystem. From the ecosystem on the forest floor, to the forest itself, to the biggest ecosystem of them all, the Earth. All living things take certain things from the environment & put certain things back into it. What one thing puts back into the environment another thing takes. For instance.....

  • Plants take carbon dioxide from the air & release oxygen, while animals breath oxygen and release carbon dioxide into the air.
  • Grass needs nutrients to grow. It gets the nutrients it needs from the soil. A Horse eats the grass, and its manure returns nutrients to the soil to grow new grass.
  • Trees take water from the ground through roots. The water is carried up the trunk to feed the leaves; some of the water evaporates into the air & forms rain clouds. When it rains the water is returned to the ground for other plants & animals to drink. Animals wee the water back into the ground or sweat it back into the air as water vapour.
  • Small life forms living near the surface of the soil, such as worms, make more soil by eating & breaking down dead plants & animals. Plants can then grow in the soil & animals can eat these plants.

Cycles, such as these, occur in ecosystems & help to keep the environment in balance. A balanced environment provides the living things in it with all they need to survive, such as air, food, water & a space to live. To protect its inhabitants it is important to maintain balance in these systems.

Fairtrade

Is about helping communities across the globe support themselves through sustainable businesses. Fairtrade certified businesses offer employees a fair wage & working conditions. They do not exploit their workforce or use child labour. By supporting these businesses we are encouraging sustainable practices & providing many people a fair way to make a living avoiding undesirable alternative such as "slash & burn farming" where huge areas of the rain forest are destroyed. These areas of forest not only account for a large proportion of the worlds biodiversity, but also absorb significant levels of CO2, thus helping to control Global Warming.   

FSC

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), FSC managed forests ensure that trees are replaced at the same rate they are used.

Fossil Fuels

A natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere & contributes to the Greenhouse effect & Global Warming.

Global Warming

The earth is getting hotter and it is doing it very quickly. This is called Global Warming. The increase in average global temperatures will cause big changes to occur in our environment. The changes will be different from one region to another...

  • Some areas will become hotter as others become colder.
  • Some areas may suffer water shortages, while others experience floods.
  • Polar icecaps and glaciers will melt causing sea levels around the world to rise destroying land vital to human existence.
  • Some islands may completely disappear under water.
  • Deserts will become bigger as rainforests become smaller.
  • The weather will become more extreme causing large-scale destruction across the globe from typhoons, hurricanes, heat waves, flooding and forest fires.

Greenhouse Effect

This is where greenhouse gases, such as CO2, act as a blanket around the earth preventing some of the Sun's heat (reflected off of the earth's surface) from escaping back into outer space. The trapped heat causes the earth's temperature to increase.

Greenhouse Gases

In total there are 6 greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). The 6 Greenhouse gases are believed to contribute to Global Warming.  

Organic (Soil Association)

Organic farming severely restricts the use of artificial chemical fertilisers & pesticides. Organic products contain less contaminants. Cotton farm works, & children living near-by, risk being poisoned by pesticides: pesticide poisoning causes up to 20,000 farm worker deaths a year. Soil Association certified Organic food ensures high standards of organic farming are adhered to. Soil Association organic farming standards are higher than SKAL (EU) certified products.

Slash & Burn Farming

Slash & burn farming is where huge areas of the rain forest are destroyed. These areas of forest not only account for a large proportion of the worlds biodiversity, but absorb significant levels of CO2, thus helping to control Global Warming.   

Sustainable

Sustainable activities are those that replace whatever is taken from the environment, so that the activities can be continued indefinitely into the future. Examples of sustainable activities...

  • FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), FSC managed forests ensure that trees are replaced at the same rate they are used
  • Bamboo is the most sustainable plant on the planet; it produces more oxygen than any other plant & it renews itself without the need to replant.
  • Fairtrade certified products encourage people to adopt more sustainable business practices.