The A-to-Z Guide to Sustainability

Key Terms Every Eco-Warrior Should Know

Are you eager to champion the cause of sustainability but finding it difficult to navigate through the sea of jargon and buzzwords? Look no further! Our comprehensive A-to-Z glossary dives into the essential terms and concepts surrounding sustainability and the environment. With this guide at your fingertips, you’ll gain the knowledge and confidence to jump into conversations, make informed choices, and become a true eco-warrior. Let’s decode environmental terminologies that unlock the door to a greener and more sustainable future, together.

Agroforestry: A land-use system where trees or shrubs are grown alongside crops or pastures.

Bioaccumulation: The accumulation of substances, such as pesticides, or other chemicals in an organism.

Biodegradable: A term used to describe items that can be broken down and decomposed by microbes and other natural biological processes.

Biomimicry: The design and production of materials, structures, and systems modeled on biological entities and processes.

Carbon Footprint: The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to, directly and indirectly, support human activities.

Circular Economy: An economic model aimed at eliminating waste through the continual use of resources in a circular loop of regeneration.

Climate Change: Long term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns, mainly caused by human activities.

Compostable: Referring to organic matter that can be broken down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass by microorganisms in the environment.

Conservation: The sustainable use and management of natural resources including wildlife, water, air, and earth deposits.

Deforestation: The mass removal or clearing of forest lands, usually due to human activities such as logging, agriculture, or urban development.

Downcycling: The recycling of a material into a lower quality product.

E-Waste: Discarded electronic or electrical devices or their parts.

Eco-Friendly: Not harmful to the environment.

Ecosystem Services: The benefits provided by ecosystems that contribute to making human life both possible and worth living.

Endangered Species: Species of organisms that are at risk of becoming extinct due to a variety of reasons such as loss of habitat or reduction in numbers.

Fair Trade: Trade between companies in developed countries and producers in developing countries in which fair prices are paid to the producers.

Food Miles: The distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer.

Greenwashing: The practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology, or company.

Greywater: Domestic wastewater from non-toilet plumbing fixtures such as showers, basins and taps.

Habitat Restoration: The process of aiding the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed.

Landfill: A site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment.

Life Cycle Assessment: The assessment of the environmental impact of a product, process, or service throughout its life cycle.

Ozone Depletion: The decrease in the concentration of ozone in the Earth’s ozone layer.

Permaculture: A design philosophy that works with nature to create sustainable systems.

Pollution: The presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects.

Rainwater Harvesting: The collection and storage of rain for use in irrigation and other household needs.

Recycling: The process of converting waste into reusable material.

Reforestation: The process of replanting an area with trees.

Regenerative Agriculture: An approach to farming that works to regenerate topsoil and enhance biodiversity.

Renewable Energy: Energy from a source that is not depleted when used, such as wind or solar power.

Renewable Resources: Natural resources that can be replenished naturally with the passage of time.

Single-Use Plastics: Plastic items intended to be used once before they are thrown away or recycled.

Sustainability: The use of natural resources in a way that preserves the environment and its ability to support human life in the future.

Sustainable Agriculture: The production of food or animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.

Sustainable Development: Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Upcycling: The practice of creating a useable product from waste or unwanted items or adapting an existing product in some way to add value.

Veganism: The practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.

Water Footprint: The total volume of freshwater used to produce the goods and services consumed by an individual, company or country.

Xeriscaping: A process of landscaping or gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation.

Zero-Waste: A philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused, and no trash is sent to landfills, incinerators, or the ocean.


We hope you have found this glossary of terms useful and simple to navigate. These terms represent important concepts that contribute to our understanding and handling of environmental issues. By familiarizing ourselves with this vocabulary, we can participate more fully in discussions about sustainability, make informed decisions, and actively contribute towards a more sustainable world. Understanding these terms is not just beneficial for those working directly in environmental fields, but for all citizens of our planet. After all, sustainability is a responsibility that we all share for the preservation and betterment of our environment.

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