6 minute read

A Green Glossary

Greenwashing (verb): The practice of companies making their products appear to be environmentally sound by putting them in green packages, claiming they are biodegradable (when they are not), etc.

Greenwashing (verb): The practice of companies making their products appear to be environmentally sound by putting them in green packages, claiming they are biodegradable (when they are not), etc.


Unfortunately, greenwashing is real in today’s marketplace. And it can make decision-making with the planet in mind very difficult for the average consumer. With shelves packed with products in packaging made of neutral tones and matte materials, covered in terminology that sure, sounds planet-friendly, how can you really know which brands are creating products with your values in mind versus creating promotions that seem that way?

We’ve pulled together a glossary of common terms utilized in green marketing for you to discern for yourself:

Biodegradable Material: An organic compound that can be degraded or converted to more simple compounds by microorganisms in the natural environment

Biodiesel: A renewable diesel fuel created from natural oils such as soybeans. A clean burning, alternative fuel derived from animal fats or vegetable oil that can be used in diesel burning engines. It does not contain petroleum products, but may be blended with petroleum-based diesel

Carbon Footprint: The total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emitted over the full life cycle of a product or service

Carbon-Neutral: Refers to achieving zero carbon release. This can be accomplished by using altrnative fuels to completely eliminate any carbon release or through a system of balancing or off-setting the carbon release by paying others to make up the fiference, by planting trees, for example

Circular Economy: A system dedicated to eliminating waste by reusing, sharing, repairing, and recycling resources

Climate Positive: Exceeding achieving carbon neutrality by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; also referred to as carbon negative

Composting: Controlled decomposition of organic material

Eco-Conscious: The mentality to focus on reducing harm to the environment wherever possible. Not a regulated word.

Eco-Friendly: Something that does not harm the planet. Not a regulated word.

Ethical Business: Good working conditions and fair wages for their employees, transparent supply chains and aim to reduce the negative impact on people and the environment

Green: Used to explain basically anything that benefits the environment, from business practices to design and products. Not a regulated word.

Green Washing: The practice of companies making their products appear to be environmentally sound by putting them in green packages, claiming they are biodegradable (when they are not), etc.

Net-Zero: Achieving a balance between emissions produced and emissions removed from the atmosphere; also known as carbon neutraily

Non-GMO: A verified label that assures food items have not been contaminated with genetically modified organisms

Nontoxic: Not poisonous or not containing poisonous substances

Organic: Material that came from a once living organism. Organic food is food that was grown without the use of chemicals that can harm the land, water, or human health

Post-Consumer: Material that has completed its life as a consumer item and has been discarded for disposal or recovery. It often refers to paper products such as newspaper, white paper, and magazines, that have been recycled to make new products.

Pre-Consumer: Material that has been discarded by commercial enterprise for disposal or recovery. Pre-consumer waste often refers to material such as paper products that have been recovered from industry and recycled into new products.

Recycled Material: Describes products made from post-consumer waste or used materials that are cleaned and reprocessed into new products bound for manufactruing

Renewable Resource: A natural resource that can be replenished by natural means at rates comparable to its rate of consumption

Sustainability: A goal that aims toward preserving quality interactions with the local environment, economy, and social system

USDA Organic: Certified organic agriculture produces products using methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials such as pesticides and antibiotics

Waste Diversion: Includes waste management activities that divert waste from disposal through incineration or land filling. Typically waste diversion methods are reuse and recycling

Wish-Cycling: An aspirational approach to recycyling items without knowing if they recyclable but expecting them to be properly dealt with

Zero-Waste: Avoiding products that create waste to avoid contributing to landfills, incinerators, and waste discarded in nature. Minimal waste is a more realistic term, as it’s impossible to create zero waste

Filed Under:

ConsumerSustainability
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