Glossary of Common Sustainability Terms

The following is an ever-growing list of key sustainable business terms for sustainability professionals. If you feel that we’re missing something, we appreciate you letting us know by emailing us (address below).

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

Accredited Professionals (AP’s) – The U.S. Green Building Council certifies people under the Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design (LEED) framework, as LEED AP’s play a center role in the transition of the building sector toward a more sustainable future.

Air Pollution – either particulate or fine matter that interferes with human health or that produces harmful effects on wildlife, plants, or soils.

Algae Biofuels – algae, grown in a contained environment, can produce a renewable source of fatty acids that can be harvested and processed into a biofuel that serves as a “drop-in” substitute for fossil fuels. In GBO Hawai’i, the sustainability board game, you can invest in this algae biofuel producer:

Alliance to Save Energy – ASE is a non-profit coalition promoting energy efficiency and advocating energy efficiency policies, minimizing costs to consumers and businesses, and lessening greenhouse gas emissions.

Alternative energy – Typically, alternative in this sense refers to energy that is not derived from fossil fuels. In GBO Hawai’i, alternative energy businesses that players can invest in are geothermal plants, wind farms, Seawater Air Conditioning (SWAC), wave energy, algae biofuels, waste oil biofuels, and solar installers.

Alternative fuels – Typically, alternative in this sense refers to fuels that are not derived from fossil fuels. However, there are good biofuels and not-so-good biofuels. Typically, corn based ethanol is not considered environmentally friendly or even sustainable, as the energy required to grow the corn and the genetically modified stock used have inherent challenges that are not really worth the sacrifice to create corn based ethanol. Biodiesel, however, manufactured from waste oils or from some forms of algae biofuel, can be quite sustainable and environmentally friendly. In GBO Hawai’i, alternative fuels businesses that players can invest in are waste oil biofuels, algae biofuels, and a biodiesel taxi service.

Alternative transportation – anything that describes an alternative to people driving by themselves. This can be carpooling, bus, train, bicycle, etc. Alternative transportation plays a large role in the development of smart cities and sustainable economies, not just for the pollution reduction, but for the immense amount of space that’s needed to park and move all those cars. Think what we could do with all that paved land out there that is needed for cars! In GBO Hawai’i, you need an Alternative Transportation Entrepreneur to start most bike shops, car sharing services, and other alternative transportation businesses.

Aquaculture – A contained environment in which fish and other aquatic life is grown for eventual harvest. Aquaculture ponds and containment tanks also present a great opportunity to grow produce, as the roots of plants like tomatoes dangle into the “fertilized” water of the aquaculture pond or tank.

Architectural salvage – the business that does deconstruction of buildings slated for demolition, in order to reuse any items (sinks, tables, fixtures, wood beams, doors, windows, etc.) that are still in working order. In GBO Hawai’i, the sustainability board game, you can invest in a business like this to offset much waste sent to landfill, as construction and demolition waste is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest contributor to our nation’s landfills. It’s enough waste to build a four foot tall city street from New York to Los Angeles every year.



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!