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Links & Definitions
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GBP Company / Product Information Form PDF-version of the questions asked on this website
GBP Supplied Product Questionnaire PDF file of questions to ask regarding the production and manufacture of supplied inputs.
GBP Supplier Questionnaire PDF file of questions regarding the social and environmental policies of supply companies.
Unit Conversion On-line conversion calculators for all kinds of units.
Currency Converter International currency exchange rates. Current rate calculator as well as daily records for up to 3 months and monthly averages for previous year. (
CSI Guide Construction specification index for referencing CSI category numbers and names.
OSHA Occupational Health and Safety standards required by U.S. Department of Labor.
ISO 14000 Standard for Environmental Management Systems
EPA Environmental Protection Agency website.
TRI List PDF version of 2001 Toxic Release Inventory Chemicals list. An HTML version of the same list is viewable at Scorecard.
Scorecard Chemical Profiles Searchable chemical database.
LEED Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a sustainable building standard developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Rating System PDF file outlining LEED rating system. Go here to find out about Credit categories to which a product may help contribute points for a LEED building project.
Animal-friendly products Products that are manufactured and tested without use of or harm to animals.
Atmosphere Refers to the gaseous components at and above the world's surface including the important gases oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and ozone.
Biodegradable Decomposition of a product by the action of microbes such as bacteria and fungi to its basic elements or compounds to a point where it can be considered 'food' for another living organism. Most manufactured products biodegrade slowly, if at all, and emit toxic substances throughout the decomposition process.
Bio-diversity The complex interdependence between all plant and animal life.
Carcinogens Chemicals, airborne asbestos, fiberglass, some electromagnetic fields and tobacco that are currently under study for their role as definite or potential agents in causing cancer.
Certified sources Materials that are independently certified as originating from sustainably managed resources from recycled materials or conforming to a national or international eco-label.
CFC (Chlorofluorocarbons) A family of chemicals known to contribute to global climate change and the depletion of the atmospheric ozone layer. CFCs are used in air conditioners, refrigerators, foam insulation, styrofoam plastics, aerosol containers, and as cleaners in the manufacturing of electronic circuitry.
Clear-cutting A method of harvesting timber by cutting every tree over a large area of a forest. There are many damaging effects from this practice including, erosion of the nutrient rich topsoil, destruction of habitat, loss of wildlife and important microorganisms.
Closed-loop recycling/production The process of introducing waste streams back into the manufacturing process in a continuous cycle without loss of waste from that cycle.
Compostable A product that can be decomposed by microbes such as bacteria and fungi to release nutrients and organic matter back into the earth.
Corporate environmental policy A written statement defining a company's position on the environment with an ongoing audit of progress over time. Existence of a corporate environmental policy usually indicates inclusion of environmental management systems and/or the use of basic eco-design strategies in everyday business.
Cradle-to-cradle A term was coined by William McDonough to describe the practice of developing products whereby all components of the product are completely biodegradable, becoming food for other organisms. The cradle-to-grave approach to product manufacturing looks only at the lifecycle of a product until the end of its useful life without taking responsibility for its decomposition.

A marketing claim used along with "not tested on animals" or "no animal testing" to suggest that no animals have suffered in the process of bringing a product to market. Green Building Pages specifically defines this term to mean that no tests or processes required for the manufacture or marketing of a particular product, its inputs or byproducts, involve animals (live or dead), or animal by-products for which the animal is killed.

Daylighting A design strategy which brings natural sunlight into an interior space without contributing to glare and excessive heat gain but able to supplement or even eliminate the need for electric lighting.
Downcycling Refers to the recycling of a product to create a new material that has properties inferior to those of the original virgin materials. For example, the use of some plastic products into car wheel stops.
Durable Tough, strong materials that do not break or wear and survive the life of the product or well beyond.
Embodied energy The total energy input required to extract, process, fabricate, assemble, transport and install a product or material. Also considered in the embodied energy of a product is the use of fossil fuels and emissions of pollutants during this entire cycle. It is measured in Mj per kg or Gj per tonne.
Energy conservation Products designed to prevent loss of energy.
Energy efficiency Products/buildings/services designed to use energy efficiently.
Environment conscious manufacturing The application of green engineering techniques to manufacturing to encourage greater efficiency and reduction of emissions and waste.
Environmental risk The potential negative effects on the planet resulting from inefficient use of energy and natural resources, the increasing use of toxic chemicals in manufacturing processes, and the escalation of unsafe disposition of waste.
Green design A design process in which the focus is on assessing and integrating all the individual components of the design for their environmental impacts, individually and as a whole.
Green Products There are many criteria that make a product 'green,' including recycled content, manufacturing practices, amounts and range of toxic emissions, energy used in extraction, manufacturing and transportation, water use, and social practices of the manufacturing company. The consumer must choose what 'shade of green' is acceptable.
Greenhouse gases Any man-made gaseous emission that contributes to the rise in the average temperature of the earth, a phenomenon known as global warming, by trapping the heat of the sun near the surface rather than allowing it to dissipate into space. The key green house gases include carbon dioxide, mainly from fossil-fuel burning activities; methane from landfill sites, agriculture and coal production; chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), used in refrigerants and aerosols; nitrous oxide from nylon and nitric acid production, fossil-fuel burning and agriculture; and sulfur hexafluoride from the chemical industry.
Green Seal An organization that has set some standards and offers a certification for the 'greenness' of a product. As with all third-party evaluators, a consumer should become aware of the criteria needed for a product to achieve the approval of the Green Seal organization.
Greywater The wastewater from personal or general domestic washing activities.
Hazardous waste Materials that, when discarded, pose a significant immediate and/or long-term danger to all life. The EPA mandates these materials to be properly disposed. There are over 250,000 hazardous waste sites in the U.S alone.
Heavy metals These are substances mined from the earth for use in many products, including plastics, paints, metals, etc, including mercury, lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium, zinc. Many of these substances have been included on the lists as hazardous to human health.
ISO 14001 An international standard for environmental management schemes maintained by the International Standards Organization (ISO) in Geneva, Switzerland. New standards are emerging for lifecycle assessment (ISO 24040) and eco-labeling and environmental labels (draft ISO 14021).
Lifecycle analysis or Lifecycle assessment (LCS) The process of analyzing the environmental impact of a product from the cradle to the grave in four major phases: production, transport/distribution/packaging, usage, and disposal or end of life/design for disassembly/design for recycling.
Life-cycle Assessment A method of determining the impact of a product on the environment by assessing all the raw materials used, energy used and waste produced. It is currently a cumbersome and difficult protocol but promises information for future environmentally conscious product manufacturing.
Locally sourced materials Those products extracted, mined, etc. in close proximity to the point of manufacturing or production.
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) The information on an MSDS, by law, must be available to the public and identify all materials considered hazardous or posing significant exposure risk. They must also include information on handling precautions and what to do in case of exposure. These have their limitations. For example, formaldehyde is not considered a material needing to be identified in the MSDS even though it is considered a hazardous material to human and animal health.
Natural lighting Products that encourage the use of natural day light rather than consuming electricity.
Non-renewable resource Those resources in finite supply that cannot be regenerated or renewed by synthesizing the energy from the sun. Such resources include fossil fuels, nuclear power, metals and plastics. They are considered serious air, water and land polluters. Improving the rate of recycling will extend the longevity of these resources.
Non-toxic, non-hazardous Not likely to cause loss of life or ill health and /or degradation of living eco-systems.
Off-gassing The term for emissions of volatile compounds to the air from synthetic or natural polymers. Emissions usually derive from additives, elastomers, fillers and residual chemicals from the manufacturing process rather than from the long, molecular-chain polymers.
Organic Products that have been produced or manufactured without the use of pesticides, hormones, or synthetic fertilizers.
Ozone depletion The ozone layer of the earth's atmosphere is a protective shield against the harmful ultraviolet rays from our sun. Scientists believe a reaction with chlorine molecules released into the atmosphere over many years has resulted in a thinning of the ozone layer, which increases the risk of skin cancer and other damage to life.
Post-consumer waste Waste that is collected and sorted after the product has been used by the consumer.
Pre-consumer or post-industrial waste Waste generated at the manufacturing plant or production facility before the product reaches the consumer.
Reclaimed Materials saved from demolition for reuse in the built environment.
Reuse of materials Reusing materials without changing their original state.
Recycled Materials that have been processed (such as cleaned, graded, shredded, blended), then remanufactured. See pre-consumer recycled content vs. post-consumer recycled content above.
Recycled content Materials that include some recycled and some virgin content.
Renewable A material that can be extracted from resources that absorb energy from the sun to synthesize or create matter. These resources include primary producers, such as plants and bacteria, and secondary resources, such as fish and mammals. Renewable resources are those sources of energy that are not depleted when they are used, such as solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric energy sources.
Reusable product A product that can be reused at the end of its initial lifespan for an identical, similar or new use.
Sick Building Syndrome This term was coined when researchers became aware that the indoor air quality was the source of illness and chronic health problems in the users of the building.
Solar power Products that produce light or heat by absorbing the energy of the sun. This source of energy does not cause pollution, or contribute to the damaging effects of global warming.
Solid waste This is the solid (not gaseous or liquid) waste that is taken out of the useful materials cycle by being sent to a landfill or burned.
Source reduction This is one of the guiding principles of sustainable design in that it calls for the reuse and recycling of materials in an effort to decrease the amount of virgin raw material needed for manufacturing.
Supply-chain management (green procurement) The process of specifying that the goods/materials of suppliers meet minimum environmental standards.
Sustainable An adjective applied to diverse subjects including populations, cities, development, business, communities and habitats. It means that the subject can persist to meet the needs now as well as a long time into the future.
Sustainable design/ development / manufacturing Refers to the process that accounts for all consequences to the environment, now and in the future.
Toxic product Products that have been determined to be a hazard to life, which makes them unsafe to use as well as dispose of. Toxic products need to be phased out of use through the redesign of the many building materials currently using them.
Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) The federally identified list of over 230 toxic chemicals identified to cause serious health and environmental hazards and recommended for discontinued industrial use.
Transport energy The energy expended to transport or distribute a product from the manufacturer to the wholesaler or retailer.
Upgradeable A product that regains usefulness by replacing old components/elements with new.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) Natural and synthetic organic chemicals that can easily move between the solid/liquid and gaseous phase. VOCs evaporate at room temperature and are common in many building products, including, paints, ink, dyes, household cleaners, wood paneling, cosmetics, glues, sealants, caulking, adhesives. Formaldehyde is one of the more common VOCs used in building materials. Others include toluene, xylene, benzene, acetone, etc. The awareness of the dangers of VOCs in building materials has caused a number of new materials produced without the use of the chemicals that emit VOCs.
Waste water Water that must be purified from chemical contamination before being reintroduced into the environment for use.
Water conservation Products that reduce water usage, and/or facilitate water collection.