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Environmental Management Glossary

A list of vocabulary items related to the environment:

Important environment issues, natural environmental disasters and other environment
vocabulary. The use of these terms and definitions varies largely from one author to
another. The list below relies on definitions used by internationally recognized
organizations (e.g. ISO: International Organization for Standardization, SETAC: Society of
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry), environmental agencies (e.g. Environmental
Protection Agency of the USA) or research reports of large groups of scientists and
projects etc.

Abiotic Resources: Resources which are considered abiotic and therefore not
renewable. Zinc ore and crude oil are examples of abiotic resources.
Ancillary Material: Material that is not used directly in the formation of a product or
Auditing: See environmental management system audit.
Abiotic Resources: Resources which are considered abiotic and therefore not
renewable. Zinc ore and crude oil are examples of abiotic resources.
Ancillary Material: Material that is not used directly in the formation of a product or
Biodegradable: able to decay naturally and harmlessly. Biodegradable packaging helps
to limit the amount of harmful chemicals released into the atmosphere.
Biodiversity: the number and variety of plant and animal species that exist in a
particular environmental area or in the world generally, or the problem of preserving
and protecting this. A new National Biological Survey to protect species habitat and
Biotic Resources: Resources which are considered biotic and therefore renewable. The
rainforests and tigers are examples of biotic resources.
By-Product: A useful and marketable product or service that is not the primary
product or service being produced. See also co-product.
Carbon monoxide: the poisonous gas formed by the burning of carbon, especially in the
form of car fuel.
Carbon dioxide: the gas formed when carbon is burned, or when people or animals
breathe out.
Climate: the general weather conditions usually found in a particular place. The
Mediterranean climate is good for growing citrus fruits and grapes.
Climate change: there has been a growing concern about climate change.
Certification: The procedure by which third party gives written assurance that a
product, process, or service conforms to specific requirements. See also registration.

Characterization: Characterization aggregates classified environmental
interventions/aspects within an environmental impact category. This step results
in environmental performance indicators.

Characterization Factor: A factor that describes the relative harmfulness of
an environmental intervention within one environmental impact category. A factor is a
result of modeling environmental effects/problems.
Classification: Classification attributes are environmental interventions/aspects listed in
an environmental inventory/environmental effects register according to environmental
impact categories.
Close-loop Recycling: A recycling system in which a product made from one type of
material is recycled into a different type of product (e.g. used newspapers into toilet
paper). The product receiving recycled material itself may or may not be recycled. See
also open-loop recycling.
Co-Product: A marketable by-product from a process that can technically not be
avoided. This includes materials that may be traditionally defined as waste such as
industrial scrap that is subsequently used as a raw material in a different manufacturing
Continuous Improvement: The process of enhancing an environmental management
system to achieve improvements in overall environmental performance in line with
an organization's environmental policy.
Damage: deterioration in the quality of the environment not directly attributable
to depletion or pollution.
Deforestation: the cutting down of trees in a large area; the destruction of forests by
people. Deforestation is destroying large areas of tropical rain forest.
Depletion: The result of the extraction of abiotic resources (non-renewable) from
the environment or the extraction of biotic resources (renewable) faster than they can
be renewed.
Desertification: the process by which land changes into desert.
Disposable products: describes an item that is intended to be thrown away after use.
(e.g. Disposable nappies)
Drought: a long period when there is little or no rain. This year (a) severe drought has
ruined the crops.
Downcycling: See recycling.
Earthquake: a sudden violent movement of the Earth's surface, sometimes causing great
Endangered species: endangered birds/plants/species animals or plants which may soon
not exist because there are very few now alive.
Energy: the power from something such as electricity or oil, which can do work, such as
providing light and heat. There are different types of energy: solar, nuclear,
Extinction: Many species of plants and animals are in danger of/threatened with
extinction (being destroyed so that they no longer exist)
Eco-Efficiency: The relationship between economic output (product, service, activity)
and environmental impact added caused by production, consumption and disposal.
Emission: One or more substances released to the water, air or soil in the
natural environment. See also environmental release, pollution and environmental
Environment: Surroundings in which an organization operates, including air, water,
land, natural resources, flora, fauna, humans, and their interrelations. This definition
extends the view from a company focus to the global system.
Environmental Aspects: Elements of an organization's activities, products or services
which can interact with the environment (ISO 14004). A significant environmental aspect
is an environmental aspect which has or can have a significant environmental impact.
See also environmental interventions, environmental problem.
Environmental Effect: Any direct or indirect impingement of activities, products and
services of an organization upon the environment, whether adverse or beneficial. An
environmental effect is the consequence of an environmental intervention in an
environmental system. See also environmental impact, environmental problem.
Environmental Effects Evaluation: A documented evaluation of the environmental
significance of the effect of an organization's activities, products and services (existing
and planned) upon the environment.
Environmental Effects Register: A list of significant environmental effects, known or
suspected, of an organization's activities, products and services upon the environment.
Also see environmental inventory.
Environmental Impact: Any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial,
wholly or partially resulting from an organization's activities, products or services. An
environmental impact addresses an environmental problem. Also see environmental
Environmental Impact Added: The total of all environmental interventions of a product
or production system evaluated (weighted) according to the harmfulness of
each intervention to the environment.
Environmental Intervention: Exchange between the economy and
the environment including resource extraction, emissions to the air, water, or soil, and
aspects of land use. If resource extraction is excluded, the term used in this case
is environmental release. See also emission and pollution.
Environmental Inventory: An environmental inventory identifies and quantifies - where
appropriate - all environmental aspects of an organization's activities, products and
services. Also see environmental effects register.
Environmental Issue: A point or matter of discussion, debate, or dispute of
an organization's environmental aspects.
Environmental Management: Those aspects of an overall management function
(including planning) that determine and lead to implementation of an environmental
policy. See also environmental management system.
Environmental Management Audit: A systematic evaluation to determine whether
an environmental management system and environmental performance comply with
planned arrangements, and whether a system is implemented effectively, and is suitable
to fulfill an organization's environmental policy.
Environmental Management Manual: The documentation describing the procedures for
implementing an organization's environmental management program.
Environmental Management Program: A description of the means of achieving
environmental objectives and targets.
Environmental Management System: The part of an overall management system which
includes structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procurements,
processes and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, reviewing and
maintaining an environmental policy.
Environmental Objectives: The overall environmental goal, arising from
an environmental policy, that an organization sets itself to achieve, and which is
quantified where practical.
Environmental Performance: Is based on environmental policy, environmental
objectives and environmental targets.
Environmental Performance Index: A parameter describing environmental impact with
a single figure. An index is usually calculated by weighting the actual impact level
against a target level. Also see valuation.
Environmental Policy: A statement by an organization of its intentions and principles in
relation to its overall environmental performance. Environmental policy provides a
framework for action and for the setting of its environmental objectives and target.
Environmental Problem: An environmental problem is a description of a known process
within the environment or a state of the environment which has adverse effects on the
sustainability of the environment including society. They include resource consumption
and environmental impacts. See also environmental effects, environmental aspects.
Environmental Regulation Register: A list of regulations regarding environmental
aspects of an organization. Also see environmental effects register and environmental
Environmental Strategy: A plan of action intended to accomplish a
specific environmental objective.
Flood: a large amount of water covering an area that is usually dry.
Fumes: strong, unpleasant and sometimes dangerous gas or smoke. Petrol fumes always
make me feel ill.
Factor Four is the idea that resource productivity should be quadrupled so that wealth
is doubled, and resource use is halved. The concept has been summed up as "doing more
with less". It is argued that this would result in substantial macro-economic gains

Finite is used to describe substances that are found in limited amounts e.g. oil

Food chain is the sequence of organisms usually beginning with plants, that successively
depend on each other for food, the chain shows the direction of the flow of energy
between organisms

Food web is a group of inter-linked food chains that shows how energy flows through an

Fossil Fuel is a general term for combustible geologic deposits of carbon in reduced
(organic) form and of biological origin, including coal, oil, natural gas, oil shales, and tar
sands. A major concern is that they emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when
burnt, thus significantly contributing to the enhanced greenhouse effect.
Genetics: is the study of the way characters of living things are passed from one
generation to the next.
Genetic Engineering: is the new technique of finding and transferring desirable genes
from one organism.

Geothermal energy: is the energy gained by tapping the hotspots near the surface of
the Earth's crust. Global warming: a gradual increase in world temperatures caused by
polluting gases such as carbon dioxide which are collecting in the air around the Earth
and preventing heat escaping into space.
Greenhouse effect: an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide and other gases in the
atmosphere which is believed to be the cause of a gradual warming of the surface of the
Green peace: an organization that fights for the protection of the environment.
Habitat: is the local surroundings in which an organism normally lives. Other individuals
of the same species (i.e. by a population) will share the habitat. There will usually be a
community of other populations (i.e. of other species) in the same habitat

Half-Life: is the time required for a pollutant to lose one-half of its original
concentration, or the time required for half of the atoms of a radioactive element to
decay or the time required for the elimination of half a total dose from the body.

Halogens: are the highly reactive elements fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine and

Halons: are bromine-containing compounds with long atmospheric lifetimes whose
breakdown in the stratosphere causes depletion of ozone. Halons are used in fire

Heat: is the energy that is transferred when two objects at different temperatures are
brought into contact.

Household Waste: includes waste from premises occupied by a charity; land belonging
to domestic property, caravan or residential home; private garage; moored houseboat;
camp sites; prisons and penal institutions; public meeting halls; royal palaces; litter
collected under section 89 of the EPA.

Hydrocarbons: describe a wide range of compounds that contain hydrogen and carbon
molecules. Many oil, paraffins, and coal are hydrocarbons.

Hydrological (water) cycle: is the cycle of the earth's water supply from the atmosphere
to the earth and back which includes precipitation, transpiration, evaporation, runoff,
infiltration, and storage in water bodies and groundwater.
Integrated: expenditure on environmental protection relates to new or modified
production facilities, which have been designed so that environmental protection is an
integrated part of the process.

Integrated Waste Management: uses a variety of practices to handle municipal solid
waste and can include source reduction, recycling, incineration, and land filling.

Interested Party: is an individual or group concerned with or affected by the
environmental performance of an organization.
Industrial ecology: uses the metaphor of metabolism to analyze production and
consumption by industry, government, organizations and consumers, and the
interactions between them. It involves tracking energy and material flows through
industrial systems, e.g. a plant, region, or national or global economy.
Interested Party: Individuals or groups concerned with or affected by the environmental
performance of an organization. Interested groups include those exercising statutory
environmental control over an organization, local residents, an organization's investors,
insurers, employees, customers and consumers, environmental interest groups and the
general public.
Just Transition: keeps workers and communities whole when toxic chemicals, or other
environmental damaging processes, are banned or phased out e.g a fund raised from a
surcharge on the polluting process can provide for employees to make the transition to
other jobs.
Kinetic energy: is the energy an object has by virtue of its motion.
Landfill: is the disposal of waste by tipping it on the land. Nowadays waste can only be
tipped on licensed landfill sites that protect against contamination of land and water.

Leachates: are liquids that have seeped through waste sites.

Lead-free Petrol: is vehicle fuel that does not contain tetraethyl lead a compound
added to stop "knocking" or "pinking".
Life Cycle Assessment: (LCA) is a systematic tool for assessing the environmental
impacts of a work process in order to build an inventory and make an evaluation of
inputs and outputs and to identify the most significant aspects of the process.
Light energy: is the form of energy associated with visible light.

Limits of Growth: was the title of a book produced in the early 1970s by a research
team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that purported to show that under
the most optimistic assumptions.the world cannot support present rates of economic
and population growth. The title has become a short-hand for the earth running out of
MEAs (Multilateral Environmental Agreements): the new term for the International

Methane: gas in the atmosphere is increasing at a greater rate than carbon dioxide.
Changes in agricultural production from traditional farming methods to agri-business are
the main cause. Rice production and cattle ranching are mainly responsible. Cattle
produce methane I the gut, releasing it from both ends.

Mineral cycle: is the cycle, within an ecosystem, of a mineral element between living
and non-living parts of the natural world. Mineral cycling does not involve the
atmosphere, they are so called as main reservoir is in rocks (mineral)

Mineral: is a naturally occurring chemical element or compound possessing a definite
crystalline structure

Monoculture: is the cultivation of vast tracts of land under one crop.

Mutagens: are those substances that can alter (mutate) the genes - the bits of material
that pass on characters in living cells.
Natural resources: things such as minerals, forests, coal, etc. which exist in a place
(nature) and can be used by people. Some natural resources, such as natural gas and
fossil fuel, cannot be replaced.

Negotiation: is a joint process between employer and employee representatives leading
towards agreement.
Niche: describes the role played by a particular species within the ecosystem.

NIMBY: means Not In My Back Yard and refers to the habit of everybody to want any
environmental degradation to go on somewhere else.
Nitrogen Cycle: is the process whereby nitrogen, which is vital to all plant life, is
circulated through food chains.
Nuclear fission and fusion: is the source of energy that is released either by splitting
(fission) the nucleus of a heavy atom (usually uranium) or fusing (fusion) the nuclei of
two light atoms.

Nuclear reprocessing: is the recovery of unused plutonium or uranium from irradiated
fuel that has been used up in nuclear reactors- the systems used to carry out nuclear
Oil slick: a layer of oil that is floating over a large area of the surface of the sea, usually
because an accident has caused it to escape from a ship or container.
Ozone layer: a layer of air high above the Earth, which contains a lot of ozone, and
which prevents harmful ultraviolet light from the sun from reaching the Earth. Scientists
believe that there is a hole in the ozone layer.
Open-loop Recycling: A recycling system in which a particular mass of material (possible
after upgrading) is remanufactured into the same product (e.g. glass bottles into glass
bottles). See also close-loop recycling.
Organization: A company, corporation, firm, enterprise or institution, or part or
combination thereof, whether incorporated or not, public or private, that has its own
functions and administration. For organizations with more than one operating unit, a
single operating unit may be defined as an organization.
Oxygen Cycle: the continuous movement of oxygen. Oxygen is a major and vital
component of all living matter. Most comes from the process of photosynthesis carried
out by plants.
Pollution: Residual discharges of emissions to the air or water following application of
emission control devices (EPA 1993b). See also environmental release and environmental
Pollutant: is, strictly, too much of any substance in the wrong place or at the wrong
Primary Product: The product or service which is the strategic focus of an organization.
See also by-product and co-product.
Prevention of Pollution: The use of processes, practices, methods or products that
avoid, reduce or control pollution. These may include recycling, treatment, process
changes, control mechanisms, efficient use of resources and material substitution.
Particulates: are tiny pieces of solid or liquid matter, such as soot, dust, fumes, or

PBTs: are substances which are Persistent, Bio-accumulative, and Toxic. See also VPVBs
Persistence: is the word used for chemicals that do not break down very easily and
remain persistent (in one form or another) in the environment
Quality Systems: are the fore-runners of environment management systems. They were
developed in the 1980s to control quality by achieving more accurate production,
thereby cutting down waste. They lead to the idea of Total Quality Management (TQM)
that encouraged the consumer to drive all developments - as evidenced with the advert
"everything we do is driven by you".
Recycling: The process of re-using material for the production of new goods or services
on the same quality level. If the quality of the goods and services produced with
recycled material is lower, then the process is known as downcycling. See also close-
loop recycling and open-loop recycling.
Registration: The procedure by which an organization indicates relevant characteristics
of a product, process or service, or particulars of an organization or person, and then
includes or registers the product, process, or service in an appropriate publicly available
list. See also certification.

Resources: Materials found in the environment that can be extracted from
the environment in an economic process. There are abiotic resources (non-renewable)
and biotic resources (renewable).

Reuse: The additional use of a component, part, or product after it has been removed
from a clearly defined service cycle. Reuse does not include reformation. However,
cleaning, repair, or refurbishing may be done between uses.

Solid Waste: Solid products or materials disposed of in landfills, incinerated or
composted. See also waste.
System: A collection of operations that perform a desired function.
Sustainable Development: is development that meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Salinisation: refers to land that has become too salty to support life. Ill-planned
irrigation schemes have greatly exacerbated the problem.

Seller: is somebody, in the Packaging Regulations, who supplies to an "end user"
Sequestration: is where carbon dioxide is absorbed from the atmosphere and stored by
soil or trees. These areas are called "sinks" (see below). This absorbed, 'Sequestered'
carbon can be counted as credit that can then be used as a commodity in a carbon
trading system.

Sink: is a reservoir that takes up a pollutant from another part of its cycle. Soil and
trees act as natural sinks for carbon.

Smog: is a mixture of smoke, chemical pollutants and fog (dispersed water droplets).
Smog hit many UK cities in the 1950s and early 1960s, killing nearly 5000 elderly people.

Social capital: is a measure of the ability of people to work together for common
purposes in groups and organizations. Social capital of the nation can be measured or
assessed by the quality of life and quality of living and working conditions. The size or
level of social capital in a country determines the extent everyone can make full use of
their physical, mental, and social capacities.

Solar Energy: is the energy from the sun and it provides the source for all energy
sources - wind, water, waves, biofuels and fossil fuels.

Solvent: is any liquid used to dissolve and disperse useful substances. Much work is going
on to replace organic solvents that are known to cause nervous disorders with water
based solvents.

Special Packaging: is packaging that handles special waste (below). It contributes to a
company's overall packaging obligation but is exempt from the recovery and recycling
Tsunami: an extremely large wave caused by movement of the earth under the sea,
often caused by an earthquake (when the Earth shakes).
TBT: or Technical Barrier to Trade is what it says - something technical that may
prevent trade.

Technical Fix: is the idea that technology alone can solve problems - rather than
recognise the role of social, economic and political influences.

Teratogen: is a substance that deforms the foetus directly.
Toxic: means having the characteristic of causing death or damage to humans, animals,
or plants; poisonous.

Toxic substances (or toxin): are those chemicals or other substances that can cause
damage to the health of living organisms.

Unleaded petrol: describes a type of petrol or other substance that does not contain lead.
Use up natural resources: The degradation of natural resources because of human pressure
Valuation: The process of weighting characterized environmental interventions against
each other in a quantitative and/or qualitative way. This process results in
an environmental performance index.
Verification Activities: All inspection, test and monitoring work related
to environmental management.
Valorize: means to reuse, recycle or incinerate waste with energy recovery.

Value shift is when human and social values change over time. Freeing slaves and
enfranchising women were once thought extraordinary, now they are taken for granted.
New concepts such as environmental justice and responsible consumerism are moving
the same way.
VPVBs are substances which are Very Persistent and Very Bio-accumulative. See also
Volcano: a mountain with a large circular hole at the top through which lava (= hot
liquid rock), gases, steam and dust are or have been forced out. Erupting volcanoes
discharge massive quantities of dust into the stratosphere.
Waste: is any substance or object with no marketable value that is discharged to
the environment by the business that was responsible for producing it. Normally the
term "waste" refers to solid or liquid materials.
Waterborne Waste: Discharge to water of pollutants.
Waste Brokerage: is when waste companies circulate lists of types of wastes, giving
other companies the opportunity to use these wastes.

Waste Hierarchy: proposes that waste reduction is the best way to deal with waste, re-
use the second best option, followed by recovery (e.g. recycling) and a last resource

Water Vapour: is the most abundant greenhouse gas and is the water present in the
atmosphere in gaseous form. Water vapour is an important part of the natural
greenhouse effect.

Wave radiation: This is the property of glass which accounts for the heating effect of
greenhouses. It is also the property of carbon dioxide.

Weather: is the specific condition of the atmosphere at a particular place and time. It is
measured in terms of such things as wind, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure,
cloudiness, and precipitation. In most places, weather can change from hour-to-hour,
day-to-day, and season-to-season.

Weathering: is the chemical and mechanical breakdown of rocks due to atmospheric
Zero waste : turning waste into resource; the redesign of resource-use so that waste can
ultimately be reduced to zero; ensuring that by-products are used elsewhere and goods
are recycled, in emulation of the cycling of wastes in nature.