’s green glossary is an ever-growing list of constantly updated key sustainable business terms for sustainability professionals (so don’t mind the date and time stamp above).

If you feel that we’re missing something, we appreciate you letting us know by adding it as a comment at the bottom.


A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | OP-Q | R | S | T | U-V-W-X-Y-Z


Landfill – dump site for our municipal waste. Landfills are covered with dirt and topsoil once they are full. Well managed landfills don’t leak substances into the groundwater, and methane from the decomposition of material inside can be harvested to produce heat or electricity.

Lead – a heavy metal, and a fairly toxic material that used to be used in a lot of products, including paint. Leaded gasoline used to be the norm until human health effects such as drops in IQ among children were increasingly being attributed to higher levels of lead in the air.

LED – an abbreviation for light emitting diode. LED lights are uber high efficiency and can last a long time compared to other lights.

LEED – Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design. This is the credential given by the United States Green Building Council to its LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED AP’s) who have undergone training in how to make buildings more green. LEED standards cover a wide range of greenery for a building, from insulation to access to public transit to bike racks to indoor air quality to energy efficient technologies.

Life Cycle Assessment or Life Cycle Analysis – one of the biggest game-changers in the sustainability movement, LCA is a method for companies to investigate the entirety of environmental and health effects of their products. By looking at the life cycle of the product, companies may find that the greatest impacts of a washing machine, for example, are in the use phase, not the manufacturing phase, and decide to change the design so that customers don’t have to foot the bill for years of inefficient washing. This is exactly what happened when Electrolux did an LCA on their top-load washers, and reinvented a washer that is front-loading and much more efficient. The savings generated from this technology didn’t benefit Electrolux directly, or so they thought, but rather benefited their customers. Customers, however, loved the savings, and Electrolux had a winner on its hands with their new design.

Light pollution – a term used to describe the effect that city lights have on the night sky for those so inclined to stargaze.

Locavesting – investing locally. This can include angel investor networks, friends and family loans, and local stock exchanges. Here’s an article on Locavesting from our friends at the Inspired Economist.

Locavore – as opposed an omnivore, carnivore, or herbivore, a locavore doesn’t discriminate their food choices based on makeup or ingredients, but rather on the food miles! Locavores try to eat a majority of their food from local sources, typically 60-100 miles from where they live. This can have a good effect on the local economy and reduce the emissions associated with transporting goods long distances. According to life cycle analysis reviewed in a report by Brighter Planet called America’s Carbon Foodprint, however, the actual carbon emission impact of our food lies mainly in its production, and therefore cutting meat out of your diet one day per week has a bigger environmental benefit than eating all of your food locally!


Have a suggestion for a term, organization or concept to add to our glossary? Send it along! Email info at with the subject line “glossary”. Thanks for helping us make this a great community resource!


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About The Author

Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

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