’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


USDA Organic – an eco-label classifying food grown as certified organic, without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees agricultural production in the United States, and the ecolabel you see here is a trustworthy one backed by the U.S. government.

Vegan – a term used to describe a person who eats a diet entirely consisting of plant materials: no meat, meat by-products, eggs, or dairy products. In addition to being (in general) a much more environmentally friendly diet, the body of evidence suggesting the healthful benefits of veganism and vegetarianism is quite strong. One of the most groundbreaking developments in recent history is a 30 year study of human health in rural China, conducted by Dr. T Colin Campbell, known as the China Study. Children who ate the highest meat, egg, and dairy diets were the ones that developed the most cancer and Type II diabetes.

Vegetarian – a term used to describe a person who eats a diet without meat or meat by-products, but may include eggs, cheese, and other dairy products.

Vermicomposting – the process of breaking down compostable material with worms. Worm castings (um, poop) tend to make delicious food (at least plants think so), so they provide a great source of organic fertilizer for your gardens.

Victory Gardens – a movement that began during World War II in the United States wherein people started growing their own food in their backyard so that soldiers could get a bigger portion of the foodstuffs grown in the U.S. Michelle Obama revived this concept by putting an organic garden on the White House grounds in 2009, and encouraging people all across America to do the same. Amazingly, she was criticized for doing so, publicly, by lobbying groups that represent chemical companies that make pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Really. These people have no shame.

Wave Energy – the power potential in the ocean’s constantly shifting waves and tides is enormous. Harvesting it and sending it to where it’s needed has proved to be a technological challenge. However, the technology continues to improve, and there are several commercial scale wave energy producers around the world, most notably off the western coast of Australia and off the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States (CA, OR, WA). In GBO Hawai’i, there is a wave energy business you can invest in:

Wind Farm – not a ‘farm’ in a traditional sense, nonetheless, a wind farm harvests the power of the wind to create electricity. They’re referred to as ‘farms’ because windmills are aligned along one piece of land and the wind is not used necessarily to power just what’s on that land, but the surrounding community as well. In GBO Hawai’i, you can invest in several wind farms, including this one, colloquially known as “Big Wind” out in Hawai’i. Big Wind is currently under review for development in Maui County, with an undersea cable that will send the electricity to Oahu:

Zero waste – a term that describes the process of diverting all “waste” to second life applications, most commonly recycling, waste-to-energy, or composting. The economics of zero waste are quite appealing. Many large companies, including companies you’d never expect to have a green thumb like Sunny Delight, have gone zero waste.

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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