The A-Z of Greening

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

Over the past few months we have featured advice, hints, tips and tricks to help readers’ lead greener lifestyles. Often, greening introduces us to concepts, ideas or products that are unfamiliar. At times, this terminology can be intimidating or difficult to understand which is why we will feature a “green glossary” this week.

Alternative Energy: energy from less common sources such as solar energy, wind or wave power. This type of environmentally friendly energy does not rely on fossil fuels.

Biodegradable: material or substances that break down and are absorbed into an eco-system or natural cycles.

Carbon Footprint: a measurement of individual, household, organisation or areas’ environmental impact. It is measured in units of Carbon Dioxide.

Deforestation: processes that result in forests having trees removed and the land being used for industry, agriculture or urban development. It leads to the release of greenhouse gasses.

Emission: the release of gases into the atmosphere as a result of human activity.

Fair Trade: a movement that aims to restrict exploitative labour, promote ethical and environmentally friendly production of goods, and ensure that producers are given a fair price for their wares.

Greenhouse gas: a group of gasses that includes carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons. They prevent infrared radiation from escaping and trap heat in the lower atmosphere.

Habitat: a geographic area where a particular species of plant or animals lives. Plants that occur naturally in a homeowner’s area will be better suited to the conditions and may need less water.

Integrated Waste Management: safe and effective management of waste products that uses techniques such as recycling or composting.

Jar Test: a laboratory test used in water treatments plants. The test is used to help reach optimal water quality levels.

Kinetic Energy: the energy of motion. Some watches and torches charge through movement and will never need new batteries. Moving water also constitutes kinetic energy and can be used in hydro-electric power.

Landfill: site where waste is disposed. Usually, waste is spread in layers and covered with soil each day.

Methane: a greenhouse gas produced through decomposition of landfill waste, animal digestion and incomplete fossil fuel combustion.

Non-renewable Energy Resources: sources of energy that cannot be replenished such as coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium.

Organic: this term is widely used but is mainly underpinned by the notion of engaging in practices that cause the least harm to the environment, such as eating locally produced, chemical pesticide-free vegetables to wearing clothes made of natural fibres rather than those made from synthetic materials.

Photovoltaic Panels: panels that can convert sunlight into energy. Research is being conducted into this field and scientists hope to one day create a viable paint that would use sunlight to generate electricity.

Reforestation: planting or restocking forests to reverse the effects of deforestation. It improves air quality and rebuilds natural habitats.

Sustainable: in environmental terms this refers to practices that have minimal long-term effect on the environment. It often refers to how the environment, economics and society meet. Being able to find a practice that is economically viable, has benefit for humans and does little harm to the environment is referred to as the Triple Bottom Line.

Tide Energy: a form of renewable energy that uses tides to generate electricity. First used in France in 1966, research is underway in this field that hopes to make it more viable. Currently, the costs of producing such power (that has less output than other renewable sources) are high.

Ultraviolet Rays: radiation from the sun. It is both harmful and useful. UV rays are vital for plant photosynthesis (and solar energy) but can also cause skin cancer.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): organic chemical compounds that can turn into vapour at room temperature. The ease with which they vaporise means that they can enter the air easily and cause tremendous damage. Certain paints contain VOCs and be harmful to human health.

Wind Turbine: a machine that captures energy generated by wind and converts it to electricity.

Yield: the amount of water that can be collected from surface or groundwater sources for a particular use.

Zero Waste: the aim reduce both the volume and toxicity of waste materials through process such as recycling.

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