Green Purchasing Terms

Biodegradable:  The ability of a material to be broken down into simpler compounds by microorganisms or other decomposers.  Many different definitions of and tests for biodegradability exist.  Definitions of the different tests are available from the EPA.
Climate Change:  Climate is the long-term average of a region's weather.  Climate change represents a change in these long-term weather patterns.  Based on the change, climates can become warmer or colder.  Annual amounts of rainfall or snowfall can increase or decrease. (Also see Global Warming).

Durability:  The ability of a product to be reused, without significant degradation, for its intended purpose for a greater period than the average useful product life-span of other similar products.

Environmental Labeling:  Any printed label on a package or product that provides environmental information regarding recycled content, recyclability, reduced packaging etc.

Environmentally Preferable Products (EPPs):  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.  Such products or services may include, but are not limited to, those which contain recycled content, minimize waste, conserve energy or water, and reduce the amount of toxics disposed or consumed.

Extended Producer Responsibility/Manufacturer's Responsibility:  A system whereby the Producers (or distributors/retailers) of a packaged consumer product assume primary responsibility for the management and recycling of the product packaging.
Global Warming:  Global warming refers to an average increase in the Earth's temperature, which in turn causes changes in climate.  A warmer Earth may lead to changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea level, and a wide range of impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans.  Greenhouse gases make the Earth warmer by trapping energy inside the atmosphere.  Greenhouse gases are any gas that absorbs infra-red radiation in the atmosphere and include:  water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), halogenated fluorocarbons (HCFCs), ozone (O3), perfluorinated carbons (PFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Low-VOCs (volatile organic compounds):  Products with a low-VOC content meant for indoor use have been positively correlated with better indoor air quality.  Using products with low VOCs is especially important for chemically sensitive individuals.

Pollution Prevention:  Any practice which reduces the amount of hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant entering the waste stream or otherwise released to the environment (including fugitive emissions) prior to recycling, treatment, or disposal; and reduces the hazards to public health and environmental associated with the release of such substances.

Post-Consumer Content:  The manufacturing of a new product using materials that have already served their intended uses and have been separated for recycling to be used as a raw material.

Post-Industrial Materials:  Materials generated by manufacturers or product converters, such as trimmings, overruns and obsolete products, that are incorporating back into the manufacturing process of the same or a different products are considered post-industrial materials or scraps.

Pre-Consumer Materials:  Materials and manufacturing by-products that would be destined for disposal had they not been diverted from the waste stream for reuse or recycling (e.g., paper trimmings left over after cutting envelopes from paper that are sold to another manufacturer to be used to make paper products) are consider pre-consumer materials.  Pre-consumer material does not include materials and by-products generated by and commonly used in an original manufacturing process (see Industrial Scrap).

Post-Consumer Materials:  Materials generated by consumer, business or institutional sources that have served their intended use or completed their lifecycle and would be destined for disposal had they not been diverted from the waste stream for recycling (e.g., paper placed in a recycling bin by a consumer/end-user that is collected and re-pulped to make new paper products) are considered post-consumer materials.

Product Stewardship:  Product stewardship is an approach to product and materials management designed to improve resource utilization efficiency and promoting waste minimization.  Product stewardship programs seek to 1) establish responsibility for, and 2) to apportion the costs of waste management among the specific participants in the various stages of a product's life cycle.  In this way, the full environmental costs of a product are internalized and end of life product management responsibility is clearly assigned to either the manufacturer, the retailer, or to other specific participants in the product life cycle, rather than being left to the consumer or the municipality.

Reclaimed:  Refers to the specialized process of cleaning and refurbishing an item for reuse.  For example, carpet broadloom and tiles can be cleaned and refurbished to replace overly worn segments.

Recyclability:  The potential of a material to be diverted from solid waste stream for the purpose of recycling and reprocessed into a new product.

Recycled Content:  The amount of pre- and post-consumer recovered material introduced as a feed stock in a material production process, usually expressed as a percentage.

Refurbished:  The process of restoring a product by cleaning, repairing, recovering, and reusing the item for its original intended use.

Remanufacturing:  The dismantling of a spent product to clean and repair the product for the same use.  Replacement parts must be new after-market parts that meet the same specifications as original equipment manufactured parts.

Shared Product Responsibility:  A new trend in waste and pollution prevention policies that seeks to expand the assignment of responsibility for waste management of packaging and spent consumer goods beyond the producer and consumer to include all participants along the life cycle of a product including designers, suppliers, manufacturers, fillers, distributors and disposers, as well as consumers and governments.

Sustainability:  Sustainable development is the process of conducting business and commerce in a resource conservative and resource efficient manner such that operations do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  The essential elements of this trend are the promotion and maintenance of business and community development strategies that lead to a better business environment in the future; one sustained by stable, healthful communities within a clean, safe environment.

Virgin Product:  Products that are made with 100 percent new raw materials and contain no recycled materials.

Waste prevention:  Also known as source reduction, means any change in the design, manufacturing, purchase, or use of materials or products (including packaging) to reduce their level or toxicity before they become municipal solid waste. Waste prevention also refers to the reuse of products or materials.

Waste reduction:  Means preventing or decreasing the quantity of waste being generated through waste prevention, recycling, or purchasing recycled and environmentally preferable products.

*NASPO Green Purchasing