’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


Natural Gas – often cited as a cleaner burning fuel due to the fact that after being combusted, natural gas produces very nontoxic emissions. Its main byproduct is a greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, but natural gas is clearly cleaner than burning oil, diesel, gasoline, or many other fossil fuels. One of the challenges with natural gas is its extraction. Many have called America the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, due to our wealth of natural gas reserves. But extracting that natural gas requires fracking, a process that can be highly toxic to groundwater and seismically challenging. For more information, check out Gasland, a documentary about fracking. Also, see methane.

Natural Resources – everything from trees to water to wildlife to fossil fuels is referred to as a natural resource, since these derived, at least at one point, from living beings. Things like lead and zinc are not considered natural resources.

Nissan Leaf – the most successful all-electric vehicle in recent time. Check out this commercial with Lance Armstrong about the difference between biking behind cars with tailpipes and those without:

Nuclear energy – energy derived from the fission of atoms. It’s complex folks. It’s “clean” in that it produces no emissions, but very unclean in that it produces nuclear waste in terms of spent fuel rods, and to date, no one has come up with a good way to store these waste products or get rid of them. As Japan’s tsunami taught us in 2011, nuclear energy is one natural disaster away from becoming a global calamity.





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

One Response to Glossary of Common Sustainability Terms (The N’s)

  1. […] work best for bringing along people who may not share our passion. Let’s talk about “natural resources” and “environmental economics” so others don’t think we’re just hippy […]

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