Acid Rain: Rain with a high concentration of acids produced by the gasses from burning fossil fuels.

Biodegradable: Capable of being readily decomposed by the action of microbes.

Biotechnology: The industry in which humans are engaged in altering the natural composition and processes of life forms. Example: genetic engineering.

Decomposers: Plants and animals that feed on once-living material and cause it to mechanically or chemically break down.

Environmental Stewardship: The careful and responsible management of our natural resources and the environment.

Genetic Engineering: Genetic engineering is a laboratory technique used by scientists to change the DNA of living organisms

GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms): Life forms that are the result of combining the genes of one organism with that of another, thus altering the make-up of the “target” organism. What is produced in this process in often not something that could occur naturally or through conventional breeding – for example, crosses between tomatoes and fish are possible.

Geothermal (heating and cooling): Geo (Earth) thermal (heat). Process in which the earth’s energy is converted into heat and/or cooling energy. Commonly achieved via a “geothermal heat pump system,” which consists of pipes buried in the shallow ground near the building, a heat exchanger, and ductwork into the building. In winter, heat from the relatively warmer ground goes through the heat exchanger into the house. In summer, hot air from the house is pulled through the heat exchanger into the relatively cooler ground. Heat removed during the summer can be used as no-cost energy to heat water.

Green Living: A lifestyle intended to ensure that one’s impact on the environment is as minimal (or as positive) as possible

Greenhouse Effect: The way in which the Earth’s atmosphere acts as a blanket to keep temperatures at a higher level than would otherwise be so. The carbon monoxide and water vapor in the atmosphere transmit solar radiation but reflect the longer-wavelength heat radiation from the Earth. The increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, caused by large-scale burning of fossil fuel, will probably produce higher temperatures and have widespread climatic effects unless control measures are instituted.

Hazardous or Toxic Waste: Any solid, liquid, or containerized gas that can catch fire easily, is corrosive to skin tissue or metals, is unstable and can explode or release toxic fumes, or has harmful concentrations of one or more toxic materials that can leach out.

IPM (Integrated Pest Management): Combined use of biological, chemical, storage and cultivation methods in proper sequence and timing to keep the size of a pest population below that which causes an economically unacceptable loss of a crop or livestock animal.

Natural or Whole Foods: Any food in its raw, unrefined form. This includes all the unprocessed grains, beans, vegetables and meats.

Natural Resources: An area of the Earth’s solid surface, nutrients and minerals in the soil and deeper layers of crust, water, wild and domesticated plants and animals, air and other resources produced by the Earth’s natural processes.

Non-renewable Resource or Energy: A resource that exists in a fixed amount (stock) in various places in the Earth’s crust and has the potential for renewal only by geological, physical and chemical processes taking place over hundreds of millions to billions of years. Examples are copper, aluminum, coal, and oil. We classify these resources as exhaustible because we are extracting and using them at a much faster rate than the geological time scale on which they were formed.

Nuclear Energy: Energy released when atomic nuclei undergo a nuclear reaction such as the spontaneous emission of radioactivity, nuclear fission, or nuclear fusion.

Old-growth Forest: Uncut, virgin forest containing trees that are often hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years old. Examples include forests of Douglas fir, Western hemlock, giant sequoia, and coastal redwoods in the Western United States.

Organic: Organic has many definitions, but this definition is specifically about a labeling term that denotes products produced in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act: According to Roots & Fruits Cooperative; “Organically-grown food is produced without the use of synthetic pesticides and/or fertilizers.” The U.S.D.A. will be implementing a national organic standard in October of 2002. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.

Ozone Depletion: Thinning of the protective layer of the upper atmosphere, known as the ozone layer, by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other human-created ozone-depleting chemicals (ODCs). The ozone layer is a strong-smelling, slightly bluish gas layer in the stratosphere, 10 to 25 miles above the earth, that shields us from the burning ultraviolet rays of the sun, and traps reflected solar heat around the earth, keeping the earth warm.

Passive Solar Heating: A system that captures sunlight directly within a structure and without the use of mechanical devices, and converts it into low-temperature heat for space heating or for heating water for domestic use.

Runoff: Excess rainwater that can carry contaminants—untreated—from urban concrete and other human-made surfaces, into sewers, rivers and streams.

Sustainable/Sustainability: Meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable Development: The use of components of biological diversity in a way that does not interfere with the natural functioning of ecological process and life-support systems. For example, crops that are managed in an ecologically sound way, including supporting and preserving genetic diversity for the future.

Watershed: A land area that delivers the water, sediment, and dissolved substances via small streams to a major stream or river.

Wilderness: An area of undeveloped land retaining its primeval character, without any substantial impact of human habitation or activities.

Zero Population Growth: State in which the birthrate (plus immigration) equals the death rate (plus emigration) so the population of a geographical area is not increasing.