Glossary of Terms

Absolute zero – refers to a state where no carbon emissions areis emitted at all. No offsetting of residual emissions is needed because none are released.

Anthropogenic – (global warming)  caused by human activities.

Back-of-house sorting – when no recycling bins or multi-bin systems are provided for guests/delegates/visitors, and waste has to be separated behind the scenes into different waste streams, such as glass, paper and plastic. This can be done either on-site, or off-site at a material recovery facility (MRF). Compare to separation at source™.

Baseline – a minimum or starting point used for comparisons.

Benchmark – a standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed. Best practice  the most efficient (least amount of effort) and effective (best result) way of accomplishing a task, based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves successful over time for large numbers of people.

Biodiesel – a diesel fuel substitute produced from renewable sources, such as vegetable oil, animal fat or recycled cooking oil. It is important that it be produced from non-food sources to ensure food security.

Biodiversity – Biological diversity encompasses the variety of all living organisms and communities, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part. It is the natural wealth™ of the earth that supplies all our food and other natural resources. This is also called the web of life™, on which we depend.

Biodegradable – a substance or object that is capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms.

Carbon contribution – a payment made for the specific purpose of reducing a carbon footprint of a specific activity. This could be either voluntary or compulsory (green tax).

Carbon dioxide equivalent – not all greenhouse gases are equal; some are more harmful than others. This is why the term ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’ or ‘CO² equivalent’ is often used, as a standardised measure to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases on the basis of their global-warming potential (GWP).

Carbon emissions – carbon dioxide (CO2) is the greenhouse gas most emitted by human activity, and therefore often is the focus of discussions on greenhouse gas emissions. The other greenhouse gases are often referred to in terms of CO2 equivalents™ or carbon emissions.™

Carbon footprint  the total impact of a person, group or event relating to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels. Compare with ecological footprint.

Carbon-neutral event – when net greenhouse gas emissions are zero; thus, all the activities related to an event are measured, so that carbon emissions can be reduced where possible, and all unavoidable emissions that cannot be reduced through behavioural changes can be offset through a reputable carbon offsetting programme.

Carbon offsetting – the process of calculating the greenhouse gas emissions generated by activities such as travelling and use of electricity, and then paying for those emissions through a donation to a project that reduces carbon in the atmosphere by an equivalent amount.

Certified and credible – officially recognised, convincing, and supported by known facts.

Climate change – changes in weather patterns and temperatures due to change in the composition of the earth’s atmosphere. (Note: This used to often be called global warming, but the term has fallen out of common use as some parts of the world may experience more extreme cold weather. Rather, climate change indicates more extreme weather patterns, including droughts, flooding, heat waves, snow storms and tornadoes.) We all contribute to climate change, largely by burning fossil fuels, clearing land, and increased farming, which has exacerbated the greenhouse effect.

Composting – the processing of organic waste in the presence of oxygen, resulting in a soil conditioner that can be used as a valuable source of nutrients for plants.

Dual – or multi-flush toilets  toilets that have the option of releasing half a flush or a full flush of water to encourage water conservation.

Ecological footprint – a measure of human demand on the earths ecosystems, so that it is possible to estimate how much of the earth (or how many Planet Earths) it would take to support humanity, if everybody lived a given lifestyle. Compare with carbon footprint.

Eco-procurement – giving preference to the procurement of products and services that do not have a negative impact on the environment.

Ecosystem – a system where organisms live, and in which they interact with each other and their environment.

Event greening – the process of incorporating socially and environmentally responsible decision-making into the organising, implementation and participation of an event. This is also known as sustainable or responsible event management.

Event-greening principles and practices – the actual application of sustainable principles (such as waste reduction or energy efficiency) or practices (such as implementing a three bin system or using LED lights) relating to event management.

Fair-trade – an internationally recognised approach to trading that aims to ensure that producers in poor countries get a fair deal, including a fair price for goods and services, decent working conditions, and a commitment from buyers to provide reasonable security for the producers.

Food miles – the distance food is transported from its production source until it reaches the consumer.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – a non-profit organisation devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the worlds forests. Consumers wishing to support healthy forests and communities should look and ask for the FSC label when purchasing wood or paper products. Fossil fuels  a natural fuel, such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms.

Global warming – the effect of climate change that is currently experienced, mainly due to excess greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Framework – a comprehensive sustainability reporting framework that is widely used around the world.

Green electricity – also called green power is electricity which is derived from renewable energy sources and which is generated in a sustainable manner.

Green rating system – a system to standardise environmental best practice in the industry.

Greenhouse effect – as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere it acts like a blanket, so that less heat escapes creating a greenhouse effect for the earth.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) – a gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect (global warming) by absorbing infrared radiation. The three main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide. It is also commonly referred to as carbon emissions.

Greenhushing – refers to companies purposely keeping quiet about their sustainability goals, even if they are well-intentioned or plausible, for fear of being criticised or labelled as greenwashers.

Greenwashing – make false or misleading environmental claims. Greenwashing can take a variety of forms: vague language, lying or marketing claims without proof. It can be done intentionally as well as out of ignorance.

Greywater  – waste-water generated from non-industrial activities relating to laundry, dish washing and bathing, and that can be recycled on-site for uses such as landscape irrigation and constructed wetlands.

Landfill site  – a scientifically chosen, designed, engineered and managed location for the disposal of waste by burying it (informally referred to as a rubbish dump).

Legacy project – the long-term effect of the event on its stakeholders and on infrastructure, environment, economy or society at local, national, and global levels. The most positive event legacy can be an enhanced infrastructure, environment, economy or society compared to the pre-event situation.

Multi-bin system  – waste bins providing more than one option for responsible waste disposal, e.g. separation of glass, paper, plastic or tin; dry waste and wet waste, or recyclables and non-recyclables.

Net zero – implies a balancing of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere with carbon removals, but goes farther than simply being carbon neutral. Net zero implies that emissions are measured and reduced, and not just offset.

Non-renewable resource – a natural resource that cannot be produced, regrown, regenerated or reused on a scale that can sustain its consumption rate indefinitely, such as fossil fuels. These resources often exist in a fixed amount, or are consumed much faster than nature can recreate them, such as coal, petroleum and natural gas.

Organic food – that is grown or raised without synthetic fertilisers, pesticides or hormones.

Organic or biodegradable waste – that typically originates from plant or animal sources, and can be broken down by other living organisms. When organic waste is processed in anaerobic digestion (without oxygen), it produces methane gas, which is valuable if harnessed, but a dangerous greenhouse gas if not used effectively. See composting™ for aerobic digestion™ (with oxygen).

Pedicab a small, pedal-powered vehicle serving as a taxi in some countries.

Recycled content – when a product is partially made out of recycled material, i.e. a portion of the content of the material has been recycled.

Renewable energy – energy that is generated from renewable resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, bio fuels, etc.

Renewable energy certificates (RECs) – a mechanism for purchasing green or renewable electricity in units of megawatt hours, in a manner that stimulates investment in renewable energy projects.

Renewable resources – that are naturally replenished when harvested sustainably, such as fish or timber. (Also see Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is similar to the Marine Stewardship Council.)

Resource efficiency – the management of raw materials, energy and water in order to minimise waste, and thereby reduce cost. It is not just an environmental initiative; it is also an important business process that could save your organisation a lot of money.

Separation – at source when waste is separated at the same place where delegates/public throw it away, by providing a multi-bin system, such as for recyclables (glass, plastic, tin), paper and non-recyclables.

Single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) – when only one person drives in a car, instead of car sharing.

Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) – an initiative that aims to improve the conservation status of overexploited seafood species, by educating and raising awareness among all participants in the seafood trade from wholesalers and restaurateurs through to seafood lovers.

Supply chain – the sequence of processes involved in the production and distribution of a commodity.

Sustainable development – development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainably harvested – the process of growing and collecting crops without depleting future resources, also not catching fish during their breeding season.

Tap aerator – a small device on a tap to restrict water flow without reducing water pressure, thereby helping to conserve water.

Threatened or endangered living organisms at serious risk of extinction (plants, animals, birds, etc.).

Triple bottom line – a balance between environmental protection, social development and economic benefit; also referred to as planet, people and prosperity™.

Twin-bin system – the concept of having two bins next to each other for separate waste types, such as recyclable (dry) and non-recyclable (wet) items.

Voluntary carbon emission contributions – when delegates/visitors/guests pay a voluntary monetary contribution towards a legacy project, to offset their carbon emissions.

Waste-water – water that has been affected in quality, and cannot be used for human consumption.

Water-wise plants – plants that are indigenous to the region that do not require additional watering during the regular rainfall patterns.