Glossary A-M

Yes, terminology can be confusing; but, those who manage to incorporate a broad vocabulary into their lives can open new doors for themselves and for our society. I hope this page can clarify and emphasize significant concepts, places, and occurrences that relate to the content I have posted on this blog.


The breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments, including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Similar to agriculture, aquaculture can take place in the natural environment or in a manmade environment.

Bike Box


Biodiesel fuel is derived from vegetable oils and animal fats, unlike standard diesel fuel, which is derived from petroleum. Like standard diesel, however, biodiesel provides better fuel economy and less pollution and carbon dioxide than gasoline; biodiesel is also more energy efficient than ethanol fuel. Biodiesel is usually mixed with regular diesel, in blends such as B5 (up to 5% biodiesel) and B20 (up to 20%); most standard diesel vehicles can operate on B2 or B5 without requiring engine conversions. Biodiesel is considered a potential alternative to gasoline and is being offered at an increasing number of locations.

Bioclimatic Design

The design of buildings and spaces (interior – exterior – outdoor) based on local climate, aimed at providing thermal and visual comfort, making use of solar energy and other environmental sources. Basic elements of bioclimatic design are passive solar systems which are incorporated onto buildings and utlilise environmental sources (for example, sun, air, wind, vegetation, water, soil, sky) for heating, cooling and lighting the buildings.


Organic material made from plants and animals.
For the renewable energy potential:


Bio=life and mimesis=imitate. “the science and art of emulating Nature’s best biological ideas to solve human problems.”


A region whose limits are naturally defined by topographic and biological features (as mountain ranges and ecosystems)

Blackwater System

A system where “everything that goes down [the] drain[], including toilet water and what it carries, is recycled.”

Buy Local Initiative

Initiative focused on strengthening local economies and/or reducing environmental impact.


Introduced in the mid 1990s, CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) are one of the easiest ways to save energy in the household. Designed to be compatible with lamps originally designed to hold standard incandescent lightbulbs, CFLs emit the same amount of visible light as incandescent bulbs, but use a fraction of the energy and have longer lifespans.

Carbon Tax

A form of pollution tax. It levies a fee on the production, distribution or use of fossil fuels based on how much carbon their combustion emits. The government sets a price per ton on carbon, then translates it into a tax on electricity, natural gas or oil. Because the tax makes using dirty fuels more  expensive, it encourages utilities, businesses and individuals to reduce consumption and increase energy efficiency. Carbon tax also makes alternative energy more cost-competitive with cheaper, polluting fuels like coal, natural gas and oil.

Carbon Offset

A financial instrument aimed at a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. […] One carbon offset represents the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.

Chicago Hold-Up

The action of “lifting [a] bike[] in a Critical Mass ride. It is also known as ‘bike lift’ or ‘bike salute’ and [is] a spontaneous and symbolic gesture frequently performed in Chicago [in] moving intersections by corkers who safe the other cyclists. The term dates back to Chicago[‘]s first Critical Mass bike ride held on September 5, 1997.”

Climate Refugee

Someone displaced by environmental situation or catastrophe caused by climate change.

Congestion Pricing

A way of harnessing the power of the market to reduce the waste associated with traffic congestion. Congestion pricing works by shifting purely discretionary rush hour highway travel to other transportation modes or to off-peak periods, taking advantage of the fact that the majority of rush hour drivers on a typical urban highway are not commuters.

Community Resilience

The [community’s] capability to anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back rapidly through survival, adaptability, evolution, and growth in the face of turbulent change.
When a community is truly resilient, it should be able to avoid the cascading system failures to help minimize any disaster’s disruption to everyday life and the local economy.  A resilient community is not only prepared to help prevent or minimize the loss or damage to life, property and the environment, but also it has the ability to quickly return citizens to work, reopen businesses, and restore other essential services needed for a full and swift economic recovery.

Community Supported Agriculture

When a community of individuals […] pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.

Complementary Currency

Appropriately-designed social and economic networks which encourage cooperation and reciprocation, self-reliance and mutual aid, local production, micro-small enterprise development, socio-economic solidarity and economic justice for the meeting of needs, cultural revitalization, socio-economic solidarity and rural reconstruction.


[A] phrase invented by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s and popularized by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book of the same name. This framework seeks to create production techniques that are not just efficient but are essentially waste free. In cradle to cradle production all material inputs and outputs are seen either as technical or biological nutrients. Technical nutrients can be recycled or reused with no loss of quality and biological nutrients composted or consumed. By contrast cradle to grave refers to a company taking responsibility for the disposal of goods it has produced, but not necessarily putting products’ constiuent components back into service.

Critical Mass

A bicycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in over 300 cities around the world. While the ride was originally founded in 1992 in San Francisco with the idea of drawing attention to how unfriendly the city was to cyclists, the leaderless structure of Critical Mass makes it impossible to assign it any one specific goal.
Critical Mass is a monthly bicycle ride to celebrate cycling and to assert cyclists’ right to the road.

Curitiba, Brazil

A city many planners and environmentalists look to as a model city for sustainability and effective transit.


Most recycled industrial nutrients (materials) lose viability or value in the process of recycling. This means they can only be used in a degraded form for components other than their original use. White writing paper, for example, is often downcycled into materials such as cardboard and cannot be used to create more premium writing paper.


A contemporary form of environmental art created by artists who are concerned about local and global environmental situations, and who take art making to a functional format.


“Simply put, ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment. […] [E]cocriticism takes an earth-centered approach to literary studies.
Source: The Ecocriticism Reader, Glotfelty, 1996 (pxviii)

Fiscal Accountability

The principle that institutions collecting and disbursing taxes work most responsibly when they are transparent to those providing the money.
Source: Dark Age Ahead, Jacobs, 2004 (p103)

Graywater systems

Any washwater that has been used in the home, except water from toilets, is called graywater . Dish, shower, sink, and laundry water comprise 50-80% of residential “waste” water. This may be reused for other purposes, especially landscape irrigation.

Green Building

Green building is a broad term that refers to building design and construction practices that encourage people to be more responsible with energy, natural resources and the environment.

Green Roof

In its basic definition, a green roof is a rooftop that is vegetated. Green roofs are emerging as a very effective means of addressing many of the environmental concerns that exist in today’s urban centers. In studies, they have shown great promise in reducing the urban heat island effect, improving air and water quality, and increasing the amount of plant life in an urban area.

Green Wall

Heat Island Effect

As urban areas develop, changes occur in their landscape. Buildings, roads, and other infrastructure replace open land and vegetation. Surfaces that were once permeable and moist become impermeable and dry.1 These changes cause urban regions to become warmer than their rural surroundings, forming an “island” of higher temperatures in the landscape.

Heat islands occur on the surface and in the atmosphere. On a hot, sunny summer day, the sun can heat dry, exposed urban surfaces, such as roofs and pavement, to temperatures 50–90°F (27–50°C) hotter than the air,2 while shaded or moist surfaces—often in more rural surroundings—remain close to air temperatures. Surface urban heat islands are typically present day and night, but tend to be strongest during the day when the sun is shining.

Human Resource Development

Human resource development is the process of enhancing the potential of people (as individuals and groups) to perform better in all spheres of life. People’s potential can be developed through training and capacity-building, access to opportunities, and access to an environment which supports their development.

Inhibiting Satisfier

A satisfier which “impair[s] significantly the possibility of satisfying other needs (e.g., extreme economic competitiveness to meet the need for freedom impairs subsistence, protection, affection, leisure, and participation needs).
Source: Max-Neef in- Cities as Sustainable Ecosystems, Newman & Jennings, 2008 (p17)


Light emitting diode.

LEED Certification

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system,  providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Mixed Income Development

Mixed-income development aims to eliminate the “ghetto-isation” of the poor by locating high-income and low-income residential areas closer to one another. This proximity means the benefits of investment in affluent neighbourhoods will be shared by adjacent areas, and local facilities and amenities can be utilised by both high and low-income residents.

Mixed Use Development

Mixed-use development locates residential, commercial and industrial land-use in close proximity to one another. This makes the area more convenient for residents, who have near-by shopping, recreation and job opportunities.


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