’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.


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Mercury – a heavy metal that is liquid at room temperature. Mercury is highly toxic and can cause brain damage. Mercury has been used as a filling for cavities for more than 50 years, and many people are choosing to find a qualified dentist to remove mercury fillings that, they claim, are impairing their health by leaching into their system. Mercury, whose chemical symbol on the periodic table is Hg, is also a component of compact fluorescent lightbulbs, making CFL’s difficult to dispose of properly. CFL’s can be taken to many stores, including Ace Hardware, where they will be recycled and the mercury properly disposed of.

Methane – CH4, as it is known in the chemical world, methane is also known as natural gas. Methane is a product of decomposition, and is odorless and tasteless. It is a powerful greenhouse gas, with about 18-22x the greenhouse gas effects of carbon dioxide. Methane is also a by-product of digestion, especially in ruminants like cows, which is one of the main reasons that the United Nations believes that a vegetarian diet free of beef and dairy products can reduce a person’s carbon footprint as much as switching from a gas-guzzling SUV to a Prius.

Michael Pollan – sustainable food activist and author. Pollan’s books include Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food and the Botany of Desire.

Microenterprise – a term used to describe the small businesses that typically don’t require a lot of startup capital or expertise, and can potentially reinvigorate the economy. A good example of a microenterprise is a mobile food truck or a consignment store. Many microenterprises don’t grow much beyond their original premise, but provide decent jobs and local control.

Mountaintop Removal Mining – a term used to describe the technology in which a mountain is completely destroyed in order to harvest the coal or other minerals found inside. Rather than digging a traditional mine shaft, a mining company can recognize some financial savings and lay off workers by simply chopping the top off the mountain and sifting through the rubble to pull out the coal. Here’s a before and after picture of mountaintop removal, courtesy of GoogleEarth and our friends at ThinkProgress.



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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