The buzz words ‘green,’ ‘sustainable,’ ‘organic’, ‘ecosystem,’ and ‘carbon footprint’ get thrown around a lot without the people uttering them fully understanding what they mean. This is dangerous because it allows tricksters like profit-driven corporations and wily government agencies to come in and ‘greenwash’ ideas. Disambiguation is in order. Understanding what these words actually mean will help you to move on and take action in your life, from installing green roofing and supporting sustainable farming to reducing your impact on the environment. Thus, we present to you the disambiguation of green:
Green—This is a general term that refers to wide variety of beliefs, theories, and practices meant to protect the natural environments of the Earth from waste and pollution while reigning in dangerous behavior in human populations. ‘Going green’, as is often said, simply means that someone is aware there’s a problem. From awareness comes action.
Sustainable—This term is coming up a lot recently and it’s an important part of the green ethos. Sustainable living means to use and allocate resources in a way that will preserve the Earth’s natural bounty for future generations. This entails farming practices that won’t destroy the land, using water and energy efficiently, and recycling materials that are biodegradable and non-toxic.
Organic—For most people, ‘organic’ simply means more expensive produce. In reality, organic goes hand-in-hand with sustainability, as organic vegetables preserve the land (and our bodies) from herbicides, fertilizers and other synthetic chemicals. To buy ‘organic’ means to support green living and sustainable business models.
Ecosystem—Everything on Earth is part of an ecosystem. Ecosystems are interconnecting environmental communities that cover the atmosphere, the oceans, the forests, and all of the animal and plant species therein. Because they are interconnected, damage to one ecosystem will affect other ecosystems adversely. For example, climate change which begins in the atmosphere is killing off fish populations that polar bears and seals depend on for sustenance. Think of the Earth as a living body, and every organ is an ecosystem. If one organ goes, immeasurable strain is put on all the others.
Carbon footprint—This loosely means the impact any particular action, person, or group will have on the environment as measured by Co2 emissions. If you drove to work today, you left a carbon footprint that can be measured by how much gasoline you burned.
Hopefully, this clarified a few terms for you. Even if you already knew the true meaning of these words and phrases, it never hurts to dig deeper into their significance. The future of the Earth and generations of humans and animals depend on our ability to transform rhetoric into meaningful action.