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Sustainability Resource Guide

sus•tain•a•ble \sə-'stā-nə-bəl\
able to be maintained at a certain rate or level: sustainable reactions.
• Ecology (esp. of development, exploitation, or agriculture) conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.


BAGASSE: The biomass remaining after sugar cane is crushed. This renewable material is used in the manufacture of cups, containers and other foodservice disposables, as a tree-free alternative for making paper and as fuel for sugar mills.

BIO-BASED PRODUCTS: Most cleaning products are made from fossil fuels, which are valuable but non-renewable natural resources. Alternatively, bio-based products are composed in whole or produced without diminishing supply.

BIODEGRADABLE PRODUCTS: Products that are made from materials that will disintegrate over time without adverse effects to the soil, water or atmosphere.


CARBON FOOTPRINT: The total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses emitted over the full life cycle of a product or service. Greenhouse gasses contribute to global warming and climate change.

CARBON OFFSET: Carbon offsetting is the act of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through emissions trading. For example, a factory or production facility may not be able to reduce its own carbon footprint any further through its own actions, so it may voluntarily purchase credits for another party to offset its actions. The Kyoto Protocol has sanctioned carbon offsets. The goal of carbon offsets is to attain a carbon neutral overall effect.

CERTIFICATION: This is the process by which a third party, typically a non-profit, evaluates a product or process according to a specific standard to certify that the product or service meets certain requirements. Certification has become an important tool used to accelerate the adoption of Green cleaning.

COMPOSTING: The accelerated biological decomposition of organic material-such as food scraps, yard trimmings, and manure-in the presence of warmth, moisture, oxygen and/or bacteria.

CRADLE-TO-CRADLE: Cradle-to-cradle is a way of thinking about life cycles. If the grave of one cycle can be its own cradle or the cradle of another, the life cycles are called cradle-to-cradle.

CRADLE-TO-GATE: Cradle-to-gate is the LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) of the efficiency of a product or service until it is produced or delivered. It shows the environmental performance as it is. It often is used for environmental product declarations (EPD).


DEGRADATION: The reduction of the size of the molecules of a material (such as plastic) to particles through the action of oxidation or other specific conditions.


ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY PACKAGING: A common Green packaging term. It signifies that a company has significantly reduced the resources required to make packaging products.

ENVIRONMENTALLY PREFERABLE PURCHASING: EPP is the purchasing of products or services that reduce an organization's negative impact on health and the environment.


GREEN: A term used interchangeably with environmentally preferable. The definition comes from Presidential Executive Order 13101, which defines Green as "products or services that reduce the health and environmental impacts compared to similar products and services used for the same purpose."

GREEN CLEANING: Cleaning that protects health without harming the environment. Green cleaning includes all products used in the cleaning process, with an overall goal of creating healthy, high-performing buildings with minimal impact on the environment.

GREENWASHING: Green advertising, labeling and other sales or promotional activities that use misleading, vague, irrelevant or unsubstantiated environmental claims to sell a product or service. Greenwashing confuses consumers and creates a serious disadvantage for companies and products trying to reduce negative health and environmental impact.


IAQ: Indoor Air Quality deals with the content of interior air that could affect the health and comfort of building occupants. The IAQ may be comprised of microbial contaminants, chemicals or any mass or energy stressor that can induce negative health effects.


LIFE CYCLE: The comprehensive examination of a product's environmental and economic aspects and potential impacts throughout its lifetime, including raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, use and disposal.


NETGREEN: Network Services' NetGreen program provides information and direction to customers to better enable them to take advantage of the social, environmental and economic opportunities associated with Green and sustainability.


PET (POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE): PET is not toxic and has no toxic components, though if burned it will emit CO 2 and water with some carbon monoxide. It is a material currently used to manufacture soda and water bottles and is one of the most recycled plastics.

PLA (POLYLACTIC ACID): PLA is biodegradable and has good chemical resistance with low taste and odor properties. PLA has high clarity and is thermoformed under high heat and pressure. It seals well to itself but not to other substrates. It can be used to create foodservice disposables such as cups and plates. PLA is often made from corn starch or sugar cane.

POLLUTION PREVENTION: Practices that reduce or eliminate the creation of pollutants resources or protection of natural resources by conservation. It is preferable to prevent pollution from happening instead of solving the problem after it has been created.

POLYSTYRENE: A material commercially manufactured from petroleum that does not biodegrade.

POST-CONSUMER MATERIALS/WASTE: Materials or finished products that have served their intended use by a consumer and have been diverted or recovered from waste destined for disposal.

PRE-CONSUMER MATERIALS/WASTE: Materials generated in manufacturing and converting processes such as manufacturing scrap and trimmings that are reintroduced as material used in the manufacturing process.

PRESIDENTIAL EXECUTIVE ORDER 13101: Defines enviromentally preferable products as "products or services that reduce the health and enviromental impacts compared to similar products and services used for the same purpose."


RECYCLED PACKAGING (100%): Material is made completely from recycled materials. These recycled materials could be any combination of post-consumer materials and post-industrial raw materials.

RECYCLING: The series of activities including collection, separation and processing by which materials are recovered from the waste stream for use as raw materials in the manufacture of new products.

REDUCE: Using less of a product in order to lessen the impact on the environment.

RENEWABLE RESOURCE: A natural resource that can be replenished by natural means at rates comparable to its rate of consumption.

REUSE: Reusing products or byproducts from processes for the same function, a similar function or a new function.


SOURCE REDUCTION: Reducing the amount of materials entering the waste stream from a source.

STEWARDSHIP: Embracing responsibility for the long-term viability of the environment.

SUSTAINABILITY: As it pertains to people, sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING: Packaging that is sourced responsibly, designed to be effective and safe throughout its life cycle and meets market criteria for performance and cost. It is made entirely

SUSTAINABLE PROCESSES: resources for later generations.


TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE: This term refers to the results of organizations along three dimensions that can generate positive results along all three metrics.


VIRGIN MATERIALS: Resources extracted from nature in their raw form, such as timber or metal ore.

VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUND (VOC): Any organic compound, such as solvents, that participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions—except those designated by the EPA as having negligible photochemical reactivity.


WAL-MART PACKAGING SCORECARD: A measurement tool that allows suppliers to evaluate metrics include:

  1. Remove Packaging: Eliminate unnecessary packaging, extra boxes or layers
  2. Reuse Packaging: Reuse pallets and reusable plastic containers (RPC)
  3. Renewable Packaging: Use materials made of renewable resources; select biodegradable or compostable materials
  4. Recyclable Packaging: Use materials made of high recycled content
  5. Revenue: Achieve all above principles at cost parity or cost savings
  6. Read: Get educated on sustainability and how we can all support it

WASTE: Unwanted materials left over from a manufacturing process. Waste is also the refuse from places of human or animal habitation.

WASTE GENERATION: The weight or volume of materials and products that enter the waste amount of waste generated by a given source or category of sources.

WASTE REDUCTION: Using source reduction, recycling or composting to prevent or reduce waste generation.

WASTE STREAM: The total flow of solid waste from homes, businesses, institutions and manufacturing plants that is recycled, bured or disposed of in landfills, or segments thereof such as the "residential waste stream" or the "recyclable waste stream."

Sustainable Organizations

AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR TESTING AND MATERIALS: ASTM is the oldest and largest standard-setting organization in the U.S. They provide technical standards for various industries. Based on these standards, ASTM offers the Standard Guide for Stewardship for the Cleaning of Commercial and Institutional Buildings.

CARPET AND RUG INSTITUTE: CRI represents the U.S. carpet and rug industry. CRI's programs test carpet, cushions and adhesives to help identify products with very low emissions of VOC. CRI also tests vacuum cleaners and carpet extractors.

CHLORINE FREE PRODUCTS ASSOCIATION: setting organization. It evaluates paper products based on their chlorine usage, among other issues.

DESIGN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: The DfE Program partners the EPA with individual industry sectors to compare and improve performance, human health and environmental risks of existing and alternative

ENVIRONMENTAL CHOICE / ECOLOGO: EcoLogo sets standards and certifies environmentally preferable products in more than 120 categories.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: The EPA is an agency of the U.S. government whose mission is to protect human health and the environment.

GREEN RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION: The GRA's mission is to create an ecologically sustainable restaurant industry. This national non-profit organization provides services in research, consulting, education, marketing and community organizing.

GREEN SEAL: This independent, non-profit organization sets standards that address a product's environmental, health and performance attributes. Products that comply with the organization's standards may use the Green Seal certification mark.

GREENGUARD ENVIRONMENTAL INSTITUTE: GEI is a non-profit organization that sets standards for indoor products, buildings and eviroments. It focuses on imporving indoor air quality that affects quality of life and public health. GEI introduced a certification program specific to the cleaning industry that measures chemical cleaning product emissions during actual product use.

GREENSTAR CERTIFICATION: Greenstar's purpose is to achieve a cleaner, healthier and sustainable world through the identification and promotion of products that are produced and used in an environmentally sound manner.

LEADERSHIP IN ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN: LEED is a series of rating systems that measure the sustainability of the construction, operation, maintenance and other aspects of buildings. LEED is a product of the U.S. Green Building Council.

PRACTICE GREENHEALTH: Practice Greenhealth is a membership and networking organization for institutions in the healthcare community that have made a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly practices.

SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY INITIATIVE: SFI is an independent, non-profit organization. The SFI program and its participants work with a variety of stakeholders to improve and promote responsible forest practices. SFI labels are backed by a third-party certification standard.

SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING COALITION: The SPC is an industry working group inspired by cradle-to-cradle principles and dedicated to transforming packaging into a system that encourages economic prosperity and a sustainable flow of materials.

UNITED STATES GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL: USGBC is a non-profit community of leaders working to make Green buildings available to everyone within a generation. USGBC created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system.