Glossary of Terms

Alternative energy
An umbrella term used to describe any non-traditional energy source (wind power, solar energy) that replaces more traditional sources that use fossil fuels.

Carbon footprint
A measure of your impact on the environment terms of the number of greenhouse gases produced. Carbon footprint refers to the overall carbon emissions a building creates including construction and operation.

Carbon neutra
A company, developer, or action that claims it does not make any carbon emissions or that if it does it offsets the emissions elsewhere.

Carbon offsetting
The process of reducing carbon emissions by donating money to organizations that will plant trees or create renewable energy technology. An example would be taking a flight and paying an organization to plant trees that will equal out the number of carbon emissions used by the flight.

An evaluation of your home or workplace that aims to cut down your energy and water usage.

Energy efficiency
Methods and technology that can reduce the amount of electricity or fuel used to do the same work, such as keeping a house warm using less energy.

Fossil fuels
Coal, oil, and natural gas made by the decomposition of fossilized plants and animals.

Green design
A design, usually architectural, conforming to environmentally sound principles of building, material, and energy use. A green building, for example, might make use of solar panels, skylights, and recycled building materials.

Going green
Adopting practices that reduce your overall impact on the environment. These may include reducing your energy usage, recycling, using public transportation, buying local products, and/or designing, remodeling, or buying a home that is more energy-efficient.

The practice of making a false or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a company, product, service, or technology. An example is a homeowner/REALTOR® referring to his or her home/listing with few green features as a “green home.”

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings.

Photovoltaic (PV) panels
Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity. Power is produced when sunlight strikes the semiconductor material and creates an electrical current. While initial costs to buy and install these panels are still high, incentives and rebates, as well as savings in utility bills, offset the purchase price.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses the World Commission on Environment and Development definition that describes sustainability as: “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)
VOCs are organic chemical compounds that are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. They can have short-term and long-term adverse health effects. In the home, VOCs are often found in paint, cleaning supplies, building materials, and furnishings.