Abiotic – nonliving; not associated with or derived from living organisms; absence of life; ecological term that describes anything chemical or physical that lacks life

Acid Free – not containing a relatively high concentration of hydrogen ions; does not have a substance that can act as a proton donor; does not have a pH less than 7

Acid Rain – rain that contains high concentrations of pollutants, chiefly sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels (coal or oil)

Agro-ecology – an ecological approach to agriculture that views agricultural areas as ecosystems and is concerned with the ecological impact of agricultural practices; the application of ecological principles to the production of food, fuel, fiber, and pharmaceuticals

Air Pollution – introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials into the atmosphere that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural or built environment; contamination of air by smoke and harmful gases (mainly oxides of carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen)

Alternative Energy – an umbrella term that refers to any source of usable energy intended to replace fuel sources without the undesired consequences of the replaced fuels

Alternative Fuels – also called non-conventional or advanced fuels; any materials or substances that can be used as fuels other than conventional fuels (fossil fuels, petroleum, coal, propane, natural gas, or nuclear materials such as uranium); some include biodiesel, non-fossil methane, and vegetable oil

Biodegradable – capable of being broken down by the action of living things (microorganisms); capable of being readily decomposed by microbial action

Biodiesel – fuel that is derived from vegetable sources (like soybean oil); refers to a vegetable oil or fat-based fuel typically made by chemically reacting lipids (e.g. vegetable oil or animal fat reacting with an alcohol)

Bioswale – landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water; consist of swaled drainage course with gently sloped sides and filled with vegetation, compost, and/or riprap; breaks down certain pollutants; common application is around parking lots

Black water – wastewater containing bodily or other biological wastes as from toilets, dishwashers, or kitchen drains

Brown Fields – a tract of land that has been developed for industrial purposes, polluted, then abandoned; abandoned or underused industrial and commercial facilities available for re-use; land previously used for industrial purposes or certain commercial uses that may be contaminated by low concentration of hazardous waste or pollution and has the potential to be reused once it is cleaned up

Carbon Footprint – the amount of greenhouse gases (specifically carbon dioxide) are emitted by something (such as a person’s activities or a product’s manufacture and transport); total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, event, product, or person

Carbon Sequestration – process by which carbon dioxide sinks (such as plants and other organisms that use photosynthesis) remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

Compostable – material that biodegrades substantially into carbon dioxide, methane, water, and compost biomass; a subset of “biodegradable”

Conservation -  a careful preservation, protection, and planned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect; the official care, protection, or management of natural resources

Constructed Wetlands – artificial marsh or swamp created for anthropogenic discharge such as wastewater, storm water runoff, or sewage treatment; serves as a habitat for wildlife and act as biofilters, removing sediments and pollutants from the water

Eco-Friendly – not harmful to the environment; inflict minimal or no harm on the environment

Ecologist – a person who studies the distribution and abundance of living organisms and how the distribution and abundance are affected by interactions between the organisms and their environment

Ecology – branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments; the scientific study of the relation of living organisms to each other and their surroundings

Ecosystems – complex communities of organisms and their environment functioning as an ecological unit; biological environments consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving, physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact (like air, soil, water, and sunlight); a biological community and its physical environment

Endangered species – a species threatened with extinction; species whose continued existence is threatened; population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters

Extirpated – destroyed completely; the condition when local extinction occurs (when a species which ceases to exist in the chosen area of study but still exists elsewhere)

Geocaching – outdoor sporting activity in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers (called “geocaches” or “caches”) anywhere in the world

Geothermal Wells – includes any excavation made for producing geothermal resources

GPS – Global Positioning System; a navigational system using satellite signals to fix the location of a radio receiver on or above the earth’s surface; a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides reliable location and time information in all weather and at all times and anywhere on or near the Earth

Grasslands – farmland occupied chiefly by forage plants (especially grasses); a land on which the natural dominant plant forms are grasses and forbs

Gray Water – water that has been used for one purpose but can be used again without repurification (e.g. bath water used to water plants); household wastewater that does not contain serious contaminants; dirty water from sinks, showers, bathtubs, washing machines, etc. that can be recycled

Green Initiatives – strategies to become more environmentally-friendly

Habitat – the area or natural environment where an organism or ecological community normally lives or occurs

Habitat Regeneration – renewal or restoration of a damaged habitat

Hydropower – also called hydroelectric power; generating electricity by conversion of the energy of running water; production of electricity by waterpower; pertaining to the generation and distribution of electricity derived from the energy of falling water or any other hydraulic source

Invasive Plant/animal – also called invasive species; “non-native” species that adversely affect the habitats and bioregions they invade economically, environmentally, and/or ecologically; labeled as exotic pest plants; they occur outside their natural distribution area and threaten biological diversity

LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design; an internationally-recognized green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in March 2000; provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions

Lagoon Landscape – a shallow body of liquid waste material

Meadow – a field vegetated primarily by grass and other non-woody plants (grassland); may be cut for hay or grazed by livestock such as cattle, sheep, or goats; land that is covered or mostly covered with moist low-lying, level grassland

Migration – directed, regular, or systematic movement of a group of objects, organisms, people or animals; regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds in response to changes in food availability, habitat, or weather

Native Plant/animal – also called native species; its presence in a region is the result of only natural processes with no human intervention; the species is in its own natural range of distribution

Organic Gardening – also called organic horticulture; the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants by following the essential principles of organic agriculture in soil building and conservation, pest management, and heirloom variety preservation

Piedmont – a district lying along or near the foot of a mountain range; lying or formed at the base of mountains

Pollinator – the biotic agent (vector) that moves pollen from the male anthers of a flower to the female stigma of a flower to accomplish fertilization of the female gamete of the flower by the male gamete from the pollen grain

Raptor – also known as bird of prey; hunt for food primarily using their keen senses (especially vision); have large, powerful talons and beaks used for tearing and/or piercing flesh to hunt vertebrates; birds that have very good eye sight for finding food, strong feet for holding food, and a strong curved beak for tearing flesh

Recycle – processing used materials (waste) into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air/water pollution by reducing the need for “conventional” waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions; to treat or process used materials so as to make suitable for reuse

Renewable Energy – energy that comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat; any naturally occurring, theoretically inexhaustible source of energy (as biomass, solar, wind, tidal, wave, and hydroelectric power) that is not derived from fossil or nuclear fuel

Renewable Resource – a natural resource is a renewable resource if it is replaced by natural processes and if replenished with the passage of time; parts of our natural environment and form our eco-system; any natural resource that can replenish itself naturally over time

Smart Growth – an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in compact walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl and advocates compact, transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use (including neighborhood schools, complete streets, and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices); values long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over a short-term focus; goals are to achieve a unique sense of community, expand the range of transportation, employment, and housing choices, equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development, preserve and enhance natural/cultural resources, and promote public health

Solar Energy – radiant light and heat from the sun has been harnessed by humans to use as renewable energy

Solar Array – an electrical device consisting of connected solar cells

Steward – one who administers anything as the agent of others 

Sustainable – pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse

Sustainable Development – a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present but also for generations to come

Threatened Species – a species likely, in the near future, to become an endangered species within all or much of its range

Wetlands – area of land whose soil is saturated with moisture either permanently or seasonally; may also be covered partially or completely by shallow pools of water (e.g. swamps, marshes, bogs); considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems

Wildlife – includes all non-domesticated plants, animals, and other organisms; living things (especially mammals, birds, and fishes) that are neither human nor domesticated; undomesticated animals living in the wild, including those hunted for food, sport or profit

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