This glossary will have you green in no time.
  • Composting: If you allow solid organic material to decompose naturally, it will turn into a soil-like product that can be used to fertilize gardens, flowerbeds, and other plants. This enrichment nourishes the soil and helps increase moisture retention, reducing the need for frequent watering.
  • Linoleum: flooring made from solidified linseed oil in combination with wood or cork dust over a burlap or canvas backing
  • Renewable: a material or source of energy that is derived from sources that don't deplete or can easily be replaced when used
  • Volatile Organic Compound (VOC): This term refers to substances used in solvents found in household cleaners, paints, inks, and dyes that, when released into the air, are unhealthful to breathe. Other sources for VOCs are formaldehyde, benzene, and acetone. Biodegradable: ability of substances to break down or decompose naturally without harming the environment.
  • Compact-fluorescent bulbs (CFL): small fluorescent lights that require less energy to burn than standard incandescent bulbs
  • Energy Star ratings: These are labels given to appliances and other products that exceed federal energy efficiency standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. This recognition helps people identify products that save energy and money.
  • Low impact: not wasteful or detrimental to the environment, requiring few resources and little energy
  • Recycling: the ability of a product or material (or elements thereof) to be reused or remanufactured to create a new product that otherwise would be made from scratch
  • Eco-friendly: just another way of saying ecologically conscious or good for the environment
  • Green: This refers to a product, a material, a living practice that meets present needs without impacting the environment in a negative way or robbing future generations of the same resources. Things that are truly Green are often durable, energy efficient, made with recycled materials, and can also be recycled.
  • Green design: This means creating homes and other buildings that use energy, water, and materials more efficiently to reduce the impact of a structure upon the environment. Every phase of Green design--site selection and orientation, construction, renovation, operation, maintenance, and demolition --is analyzed to be more resource efficient.
  • Solar gain: Also known as "solar heat gain" or "passive solar gain," this refers to the rise in temperature of a space according to the amount of sunlight it receives. Through good design, a room should get more natural light in the winter than it does in the summer.
  • Sustainability: practices such as salvaging and recycling that ensure the continued viability of a product or material well into the future
  • FSC-certified: As recognized by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), this refers to wood used in constructing buildings and furniture that comes from sources that comply with sustainable forestry practices, such as protecting trees, wildlife habitat, sources of water, and soil.
  • Off-gassing: the release of volatile, toxic gases into the air, which negatively impacts indoor air quality. A product or material can off-gas as it ages or cures.
  • Organic fabrics: textiles made from materials that are raised or grown without the use of chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, or other toxic substances
  • Rayon: Made from naturally occurring polymers, this fabric consists of regenerated cellulose fibers. Sometimes called "artificial silk," rayon isn't synthetic.

"Green Glossary" is from the May 2008 issue of Southern Living.