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Sustainability: A Glossary of Terms

  • Biological Cycle

    The processes – such as composting and anaerobic digestion – that together help to regenerate natural capital. The only materials suitable for these processes are those that can be safely returned to the biosphere. 

    Source of definition: https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/glossary
  • Biomimicry

    A design strategy that takes inspiration from the natural world and its systems to produce more environmentally benign, circular solutions to meet our ongoing needs. 

    Source of definition: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/explore/the-circulareconomy-in-detail
  • Carbon Positive

    Any activity deemed to reduce and/or offset more emissions than it produces. 

    Source of definition: https://sustainable.org.nz/learn/tools-resources/glossary-of-sustainability/
  • Cradle to Cradle

    Cradle-to-cradle is a specific kind of life-cycle assessment used to calculate circular or closed-loop production down technical and biological paths, where the last-resort resource recovery strategy is recycling. It takes inspiration from natural systems that leave no waste and use only clean, renewable energy. The concept was developed by German chemist Michael Braungart and American architect Bill McDonough, who trademarked the Cradle to Cradle™ name and certification process. 6 One of the less obvious principles is that cradle-to-cradle production should celebrate diversity on the grounds that it builds resilience suited to different geographies.

    Source of definition: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/explore/the-circulareconomy-in-detail
  • Cradle to Gate

    A recognised boundary condition for a life-cycle assessment, useful for OEMs and their clients. 

    Source of definition: majorprojects.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/glossaryofterms.pdf
  • Cradle to Grave

    A recognised boundary condition for a full life-cycle assessment, useful for seeking formal performance certifications such as BREEAM, LEED, or CEEQUAL. 

    Source of definition: https://majorprojects.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/glossaryofterms.pdf
  • Carbon Neutrality

    Carbon neutrality can be defined as the balance between residual climate-altering emissions and removal activities from the atmosphere. This term refers to an organisation (or product) whose net contribution in terms of climate altering emissions to the atmosphere is zero.

    Source of definition: https://circularity.com/en/circular-economy-news/circular-economy-glossary/
  • Decarbonisation

    Decarbonization refers to policies that will result in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by substituting lower-carbon sources of energy or taking equivalent actions such as reducing the consumption of goods and energy. In both the near and medium term, decarbonization will affect every economy in the world and most aspects of economic activity. It will lead to a transformation in how goods and services are produced and consumed. It is part of the routemap to a circular economy. .     

    Source of definition: https://www.actuaries.org/IAA/Documents/Publications/Papers/Decarbonization-A_Briefing_for_Actuaries_FINAL.pdf
  • Decoupling

    The term ‘decoupling’ refers to the separation between economic growth and pressure on the environment. This phenomenon occurs when, in a given period, the growth rate of environmental pressure (measured by indicators such as climate-altering emission levels) is lower than the growth of the economic flow (measured by indicators such as GDP) that causes it.     

    Source of definition: https://circularity.com/en/circular-economy-news/circular-economy-glossary/
  • Design for Disassembly

    Design principle that calls for the end-of-life options of how the product, components and materials can be deconstructed. 

    Source of definition: https://www.ceguide.org/Glossary
  • Downcycling

    Use of secondary materials that results in a lower economic value of that material that cannot be recovered. 

    Source of definition: https://www.ceguide.org/Glossary
  • Eco-efficiency

    The economic value of a product or service compared to its natural capital costs. 

    Source of definition: https://www.ceguide.org/Glossary
  • Footprint

    The impact of a product or service across its life cycle. One can calculate a product’s carbon, water, energy and material footprints, for example. This is similar to an LCA except that footprints typically only evaluate one environmental issue. 

    Source of definition: https://www.ceguide.org/Glossary
  • Greenwashing

    Activities, usually marketing, intended to make people believe a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is. 

    Source of definition: https://sustainable.org.nz/learn/tools-resources/glossary-of-sustainability/
  • Industrial Symbiosis

    The mutually beneficial exchange of waste and by-products between three or more parties. 

    Source of definition: https://www.ceguide.org/Glossary