The CHEM-ELEON iPhone app



Acid rain: When strong acids fall from the atmosphere in the form of rain, snow, fog or dry particles. The acid is the result of pollution caused mostly by sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides that are discharged into the atmosphere by industry. It also is created by burning coal and oil, from the operation of smelting industries and from transportation. In the atmosphere, these gases combine with water vapour to form acids, which then fall back to Earth. The result often kills forests and sterilizes lakes.

alternative energy - energy that is not popularly used and is usually environmentally sound, such as solar or wind energy (as opposed to fossil fuels).

Alternative fibers - fibers produced from non-wood sources for use in paper making.

Alternative fuels - transportation fuels other than gasoline or diesel. Includes natural gas, methanol, and electricity.

Alternative transportation - modes of travel other than private cars, such as walking, bicycling, rollerblading, carpooling and transit.

Aquaculture - the controlled rearing of fish or shellfish by people or corporations who own the harvestable product, often involving the capture of the eggs or young of a species from wild sources, followed by rearing more intensively than possible in nature.
Aquifer - underground source of water.

Atmosphere - the 500 km thick layer of air surrounding the earth which supports the existence of all flora and fauna.

Atomic energy - energy released in nuclear reactions. When a neutron splits an atom's nucleus into smaller pieces it is called fission. When two nuclei are joined together under millions of degrees of heat it is called fusion.



Bamboo fabric is a natural textile that is light and strong, has excellent wicking properties and is naturally antibacterial. Bamboo fibres resembles cotton in its unspun form, a puffball of light, airy fibres. Extensive bleaching is needed to turn fibre white, but companies producing organic fabric leave it unbleached. Bamboo fabric is favoured by companies looking for sustainable textiles because the plant grows quickly and generally does not require pesticides or herbicides. The fabric also has insulating properties to keep the wearer cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

Biodegradable - A product is biodegradable when, under suitable conditions, can break down into its natural parts and disappear without harmful effects on the environment. Some biodegrable products take years to fully decompose. Wood, for example, is biodegradable, for example, while plastics are not.

Biodiversity - a large number and wide range of species of animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms. Ecologically, wide biodiversity is conducive to the development of all species.

Biomass - Plant materials and animal waste used as fuel. (1) the amount of living matter in an area, including plants, large animals and insects; (2) plant materials and animal waste used as fuel.

Biosphere - (1) the part of the earth and its atmosphere in which living organisms exist or that is capable of supporting life; (2) the living organisms and their environment composing the biosphere.

Biosphere Reserve - a part of an international network of preserved areas designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Biosphere Reserves are vital centers of biodiversity where research and monitoring activities are conducted, with the participation of local communities, to protect and preserve healthy natural systems threatened by development. The global system currently includes 324 reserves in 83 countries.

Bycatch - fish and/or other marine life that are incidentally caught with the targeted species. Most of the time bycatch is discarded at sea.

Bycatch reduction device (bdr) - a devise used to cut bycatch while fishing. These gear modifications are most commonly used with shrimp trawls. They are also called "finfish excluder devices" (feds) or, when specifically designed to exclude sea turtles, they are called "turtle excluder devices" (teds).



Carbon Debts- Our activities, such as driving cars or using electricity, produces greenhouse gases that lead to global warming. Most people are said to be accruing a carbon debt, or an increasingly high level of carbon consumption for carrying out such activities. Carbon offsetting is one way to neutralise the carbon debt.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)- A naturally occurring greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, concentrations of which have increased substantially as a result of humans activity, such as burning of coal, oils and gas.

Carbon Footprint- A calculation of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with a specific activity, an individual, business or organisation.

Carbon neutral - Being carbon neutral, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset. Carbon offsetting is one way for business and individuals to become Carbon Neutral. Note that simply reducing carbon consumption does not equate to being carbon neutral.

Carbon offset - A process whereby an individuals or organisation purchases carbon credits to neutralise its global warming impact. Each carbon credit represents the abatement or sequestration of one tonne of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases - or carbon emissions - from our atmosphere.
One way to compensate for a carbon footprint, essentially by investing money in a project that will benefit the environment and cancel out the emission of carbon dioxide from a certain activity. The most common form of carbon offset is planting trees because they will absorb carbon dioxide.

Carbon tax - a charge on fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) based on their carbon content. When burned, the carbon in these fuels becomes carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the chief greenhouse gas.

Carcinogens - substances that cause cancer, such as tar.

Carpooling - sharing a car to a destination to reduce fuel use, pollution and travel costs.

CFC - see chlorofluorocarbons.

Chlorination byproducts - cancer-causing chemicals created when chlorine used for water disinfection combines with dirt and organic matter in water.

Chlorine - a highly reactive halogen element, used most often in the form of a pungent gas to disinfect drinking water.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) - Synthetic products that are artificially-created chemical compounds containing carbon, chlorine, fluorine and sometimes hydrogen. Chlorofluorocarbons, used primarily to facilitate cooling in refrigerators and air conditioners, have been found to damage the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects the earth and its inhabitants from excessive ultraviolet radiation.

Clean fuel - fuels which have lower emissions than conventional gasoline and diesel. Refers to alternative fuels as well as to reformulated gasoline and diesel.

Clearcutting - a logging technique in which all trees are removed from an area, typically 20 acres or larger, with little regard for long-term forest health.

Climate change - a regional change in temperature and weather patterns. Current science indicates a discernible link between climate change over the last century and human activity, specifically the burning of fossil fuels.

Climate neutral - The term climate neutral is used to reflect the fact that it is not just carbon dioxide (CO2), that is driving climate change, even if it is the most abundant, but also encompasses other greenhouse gases regulated by the Kyoto Protocol, namely: methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

Compact fluorescents - florescent light bulbs small enough to fit into standard light sockets, which are much more energy-efficient than standard incandescent bulbs.

Compost - process whereby organic wastes, including food wastes, paper, and yard wastes, decompose naturally, resulting in a product rich in minerals and ideal for gardening and farming as a soil conditioners, mulch, resurfacing material, or landfill cover.

Compostable- Materials can be biodegradeable, however to be deemed compostable they need to conform to performance standards such as AS4736 in Australia. Composting refers to the helping of organic matters to decompose. It can be done organically on a small-scale or industrially. Compost can then be used in landscaping and agriculture as fertiliser. Commercially compostable products have to decompose within a certain time frame under tightly controlled conditions.

Crop dusting - the application of pesticides to plants by a low-flying plane.

Crank-Charging Electronics- Using old-fashioned kinetic energy and a tiny energy cell, some products can be recharged by repeatedly turning a lever. Flashlights, radios and battery chargers are common crank-charge items. Some companies are experimenting with wind-up mobile phones, MP3 players and laptop computers.



DDT: An organochloride used as an insecticide. It has been banned since 1969 in most developed countries because it is a probable cause of cancer. However, it is still widely used in developing countries.

diesel - a petroleum-based fuel which is burned in engines ignited by compression rather than spark; commonly used for heavy duty engines including buses and trucks.

dioxin - a man-made chemical by-product formed during the manufacturing of other chemicals and during incineration. Studies show that dioxin is the most potent animal carcinogen ever tested, as well as the cause of severe weight loss, liver problems, kidney problems, birth defects, and death.

driftnet - a huge net stretching across many miles that drifts in the water; used primarily for large-scale commercial fishing.



Ecologist - a scientist concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environment.

Ecology - a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environment.

Ecosphere: Refers to the entire global ecosystem that comprises atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere as inseparable components.

Ecosystem - an interconnected and symbiotic grouping of animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms.

Electric vehicles - vehicles which use electricity (usually derived from batteries recharged from electrical outlets) as their power source.

Emissions cap - a limit on the amount of greenhouse gases that a company or country can legally emit.

Emissions: The release of greenhouse gases and/or their precursors into the atmosphere over a specified area and period of time.

Endangered species - A species threatened with extinction, throughout all or a significant part of its range.

Energy conservation - using energy efficiently or prudently; saving energy.

Energy efficiency - The most efficient products require the least energy to generate the most output. For example, compact fluorescent light bulbs use far less energy than typical incandescent lights while producing the same brightness; therefore, they are more energy efficient. Engineers compute energy efficiency using a ration, written as a decimal between 1 and 1. The close a method's ratio is to 1, the more efficient it is.

Estuary - a bay or inlet, often at the mouth of a river, in which large quantities of freshwater and seawater mix together. These unique habitats are necessary nursery grounds for many marine fishes and shellfishes.



Factory farming - large-scale, industrialized agriculture.

Fair Trade- A model of international trade and a social movement that supports paying a fair price and upholding social and environmental standards, particularly relating to exports from developing and Third World countries global warming increase in the average temperature of the earth's surface.

Fauna - the total animal population that inhabits an area.

Federal land - land owned and administered by the federal government, including national parks and national forests.

Feedlots - a plot of ground used to feed farm animals.

Forest certification - a process of labeling wood that has been harvested from a well-managed forest.

Fossil fuel - a fuel, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, produced by the decomposition of ancient (fossilized) plants and animals; compare to alternative energy.



Gas - natural gas, used as fuel.

Gasoline - petroleum fuel, used to power cars, trucks, lawn mowers, etc.

Geothermal - literally, heat from the earth; energy obtained from the hot areas under the surface of the earth.

Gillnets - walls of netting that are usually staked to the sea floor. Fish become entangled or caught by their gills. (See also driftnets).

Global warming - increase in the average temperature of the earth's surface.

Green design - a design, usually architectural, conforming to environmentally sound principles of building, material and energy use. A green building, for example, might make use of solar panels, skylights, and recycled building materials.

Greenhouse - a building made with translucent (light transparent, usually glass or fiberglass) walls conducive to plant growth.

Greenhouse effect - the process that raises the temperature of air in the lower atmosphere due to heat trapped by greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone.

Greenhouse gas - a gas involved in the greenhouse effect.

GreenPower - GreenPower is a government accreditation program that enables your energy provider to purchase renewable energy on your behalf. The program was developed in consultation with the energy industry, and various non-governmentorganisations including the Australian Consumers Association, Greenpeace, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the World Wide Fund for Nature.The aims of the program are tofacilitate the installation of new Renewable Energy generators across Australia beyond mandatory renewable requirements.

Greenwashing- Used to describe green advertising, labelling and other sales or promotional activities that use misleading, vague, irrelevant or unsubstantiated environmental claims to sell a product or service. Greenwashing is a serious problem as it confuses consumers and creates a serious disadvantage for companies and products trying to do the right thing.

Groundwater - water below the earth's surface; the source of water for wells and springs.



Hydroelectric - relating to electric energy produced by moving water.

Hydrofluorocarbons - used as solvents and cleaners in the semiconductor industry, among others; experts say that they possess global warming potentials that are thousands of times greater than CO2.

Hydropower - energy or power produced by moving water.

Hydroelectricity: Electric energy produced by water-powered turbine generators.



Industrialized countries - nations whose economies are based on industrial production and the conversion of raw materials into products and services, mainly with the use of machinery and artificial energy (fossil fuels and nuclear fission); generally located in the northern and western hemispheres (e.g., U.S., Japan, the countries of Europe).



Jute is a completely biodegradable fibre. Though it's found most in materials like burlap, innovations with jute have made it possible to use it to construct a silk-like material. Jute is abundant in Southeast Asia.






landfill - disposal area where garbage is piled up and eventually covered with dirt and topsoil.

lead - a naturally-occurring heavy, soft metallic element; human exposure can cause brain and nervous system damage, especially in children.

lead poisoning - damaging the body (specifically the brain) by absorbing lead through the skin or by swallowing.

LED Light Bulbs
Though slightly more expensive than fluorescent or halogen bulbs, LED lights have a much higher energy-efficiency ratio. The electric bill savings more than makes up for their higher sticker prices.

logging - cutting down trees for commodity use.



methyl bromide - the gaseous compound CH3Br used primarily as an insect fumigant; found to be harmful to the stratospheric ozone layer which protects life on earth from excessive ultraviolet radiation.

mining - the removal of minerals (like coal , gold, or silver) from the ground.

mulch - leaves, straw or compost used to cover growing plants to protect them from the wind or cold.



nitrogen oxides - harmful gases (which contribute to acid rain and global warming) emitted as a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion.

nuclear energy - energy or power produced by nuclear reactions (fusion or fission.

nuclear power - see nuclear energy.

nuclear reactor - an apparatus in which nuclear fission may be initiated, maintained, and controlled to produce energy, conduct research, or produce fissile material for nuclear explosives.

nuclear tests - government tests carried out to supply information required for the design and improvement of nuclear weapons, and to study the phenomena and effects associated with nuclear explosions.



Oil spills - the harmful release of oil into the environment, usually in the water, sometimes killing area flora and fauna. Oil spills are very difficult to clean up.

Organic: Referring to or derived from living organisms. In chemistry, organic refers to any compound containing carbon.

Organic Cotton- Grown without pesticides and from plants that are not genetically modified, organic cotton is popular among fair-traders and agricultural purists. Organic farming requires crop rotation to reduce pests and maintain soil nutrients. This, in combination with lower abundance due to no genetic modifications, makes it more expensive to produce. It can cost the end user 20 to 50 percent more.

over-fishing - fishing beyond the capacity of a population to replace itself through natural reproduction.

over-grazing - grazing livestock to the point of damage to the land.

ozone - a naturally occurring, highly reactive gas comprising triatomic oxygen formed by recombination of oxygen in the presence of ultraviolet radiation. This naturally occurring gas builds up in the lower atmosphere as smog pollution, while in the upper atmosphere it forms a protective layer which shields the earth and its inhabitants from excessive exposure to damaging ultraviolet radiation.

Ozone layer (stratospheric ozone): Ozone that is formed in the stratosphere from the conversion of oxygen molecules by solar radiation. Ozone absorbs much ultraviolet radiation and prevents it from reaching the Earth.

ozone depletion - the reduction of the protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere by chemical pollution.

ozone hole - a hole or gap in the protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere.



Paper mills - mills (factories) that produce paper from wood pulp.

Passive solar - using or capturing solar energy (usually to heat water) without any external power.

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate)- This material is the recyclable part of plastic soda and water bottles. It has been used in the past to make everything from clothes and carpet to more bottles.

Plastics - durable and flexible synthetic-based products, some of which are difficult to recycle and pose problems with toxic properties, especially PVC plastic.

Plutonium - a heavy, radioactive, man-made, metallic element (atomic number 94) used in the production of nuclear energy and the explosion of nuclear weapons; its most important isotope is fissile plutonium-239, produced by neutron irradiation of uranium-238.

Photodegradable- A material, usually plastic, that can degrade as a result of exposure to natural sunlight.

Polypropylene-Plastic-based material resistant to hear, solvents and acids. Used in Australian bank-notes.

Power plants - facilities (plants) that produce energy.

Pulp - raw material made from trees used in producing paper products.

PVC (Polychlorinated Vinyl)
A common plastic, capable of leaching substances into the environment. Plasticizers added to PVC may cause chronic health conditions including brain cancer.






Radioactive waste - the byproduct of nuclear reactions that gives off (usually harmful) radiation.

Radioactivity - the spontaneous emission of matter or energy from the nucleus of an unstable atom (the emitted matter or energy is usually in the form of alpha or beta particles, gamma rays, or neutrons).

Radon - a cancer-causing radioactive gas found in many communities' ground water.

Recycling - system of collecting, sorting, and reprocessing old material into usable raw materials.

Recycled vs. Recyclable
Products labelled recycled are made from materials that have been used and reprocessed in to something else. The materials in recyclable products are able to be recycled, if the user disposes of them in a recycling facility. They can, but not necessarily, be used to make a recycled product.

Refrigerants - cooling substances, many of which contain CFCs and are harmful to the earth's ozone layer.

Reforestation: The process of reestablishing a forest on previously cleared land.

Renewable resources: Natural resources that have the capacity to be naturally replenished despite being harvested (e.g., forests, fish). The supply of natural resources can, in theory, never be exhausted, usually because it is continuously produced. However, they can become non-renewable, however, if used faster than the environment can replenish them. Also included in the category are products such as paper and leather.

Renewable energy - energy resources such as windpower or solar energy that can keep producing indefinitely without being depleted.



Second-growth forests - forests that have grown back after being logged.

Smog - a dense, discolored radiation fog containing large quanities of soot, ash, and gaseous pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide, responsible for human respiratory ailments. Most industrialized nations have implemented legislation to promote the use of smokeless fuel and reduce emission of toxic gases into the atmosphere.

Solar energy - energy derived from sunlight.

Stratosphere - the upper portion of the atmosphere (approximately 11 km to 50 km above the surface of the earth).

Strip mining - mining technique in which the land and vegetation covering the mineral being sought are stripped away by huge machines, usually damaging the land severely and limiting subsequent uses.

Surface water - water located above ground (e.g., rivers, lakes).

Sustainability- The potential longevity of ecological systems. Sustainable agriculture, for example, refers to a farm's ability to produce indefinitely without causing irreparable damage to the ecosystem; in other words, it meets the needs of the present without hindering the ability to do the same in the future. Business, sustainability refers to protocols that have little or no adverse effects on the environment.

Sustainable communities - communities capable of maintaining their present levels of growth without damaging effects.



Telecommuting - working with others via telecommunications technologies (e.g., telephones, modems, faxes) without physically travelling to an office.

Thermonuclear - the application of high heat, obtained via a fission explosion, to bring about fusion of light nuclei.

Threatened species - species of flora or fauna likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.

Toxic emissions - poisonous chemicals discharged to air, water, or land.

Toxic sites - land contaminated with toxic pollution, usually unsuitable for human habitation.

Toxic waste - garbage or waste that can injure, poison, or harm living things, and is sometimes life-threatening.

Toxification - poisoning.






Windpower - power or energy derived from the wind (via windmills, sails, etc.).






Zero emission vehicles - vehicles (usually powered by electricity) with no direct emissions from tailpipes or fuel evaporation.