A known human carcinogen caused by the infestation of molds, most
commonly seen on legumes, including peanuts. The toxin has been found
in peanuts and peanut butter as well as corn, rice, wheat, soy beans
and sorghum. The USDA is responsible for testing peanuts and peanut
products to insure that they do not exceed acceptable levels of
aflatoxin. While new methods for eliminating these molds are being
implemented, there is still some concern over the long-term effects of
ingesting low levels of aflatoxin.
A common surfactant found in laundry detergents. APEs can damage the
immune system, and they are a suspected hormone disruptor, which means
they can mimic hormones in the body that regulate reproduction and
development. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also
warned that ethoxylated alcohol surfactants, such as APEs, may be
contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane, which penetrates skin.
Tests conducted in 1997 by the Washington Toxics Coalition found that
supermarket or drugstore labels are more likely to contain APEs than
A rapid increase in the algae populations in a particular aquatic
region, often the result of excess nitrogen and phosphorous from
fertilizers that run off into rivers and streams. Algae blooms deprive
waterways of oxygen and kill off aquatic life. Such an algal bloom has
created a "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey.
Ammoniacal Copper Quaternary
A less-toxic wood preservative made of copper, which is a fungicide,
and the insecticide quaternary ammonium. Though the preservative is a
healthier option than Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA), its
environmental effects are unknown.
A metal found in the Earth’s crust used in lead batteries and pipes.
Antimony oxide is added to plastics, textiles, paints, metals and glass
to prevent objects from catching fire. Large amounts of exposure to
antimony can lead to adverse health effects including lung, heart,
liver and kidney damage.
German certifier BDIH's "Certified Natural Cosmetic" seal requires the
use of organically grown or "wild harvested" plant-based ingredients
whenever possible, and it bans petroleum-based ingredients, synthetic
dyes and synthetic fragrances. Animal testing isn't allowed, and
manufacturers are encouraged to source fair-trade ingredients and use
eco-friendly manufacturing processes. It doesn't specify certain
percentages for organic or plant-based ingredients.
A broad-spectrum fungicide used on fruit, nuts, lawns and ornamental
plants. Inhalation and oral exposure has reduced sperm activity in lab
Found in sunscreens to help prevent the breakdown of other ingredients
that might be affected by UV rays. In sunscreens, it may cause
photoallergic reactions and hives. Not only is it toxic to humans (if
ingested), but it is also toxic to the environment—according to the
National Toxicology Program, benzophenone has been found in surface
water and groundwater, as well as soil and air, and may affect the
liver and bone marrow of animals ingesting large amounts of the water.
A diesel-equivalent processed fuel made from biological sources that
can be used in unmodified diesel-engine vehicles. It’s a renewable fuel
that can be manufactured from algae, vegetable oils, animal fats, or
recycled restaurant greases.
Certain types of pesticides derived from such natural materials as
animals, plants, bacteria and certain minerals. Biopesticides fall into
three major classes including Microbial Pesticides,
Plant-Incorporated-Protectants (PIPs) and Biochemical Pesticides. See
Blacksurfing is surfing search engine results using an inverted
palette, with white text on a black body. Shifting a high traffic
website, like Google, from a white background to a black background can
save substantial energy. An all-white web page uses about 74 watts to
display on a CRT monitor as compared to an all-black page that uses
only 59 watts. See an energy-saving search engine that uses Google's
custom search. The efficacy of this practice is hotly debated, so be
sure to consult Mark Ontkush's post on the topic before you suggest
Used in the manufacturing process of computers and computer components,
cadmium is a highly toxic heavy metal and a probable human carcinogen
that can cause kidney and liver damage.
Common bacteria that lives in the intestines of poultry and is rampant
on both large and small farming operations. Campylobacter is the most
commonly recognized cause of bacterial diarrhea in the U.S.
A cap-and-trade system is a market-based approach to controlling
pollution that allows corporations or national governments to trade
emissions allowances under an overall cap, or limit, on those
Pesticides often used in flea powders, including the active ingredients
carbaryl and propoxur, that work by disrupting the nervous systems of
insects, and unfortunately, they have the same effect on birds—the
Audubon Society reports that carbamates have poisoned over 100 bird
species—and fish. They also interfere with pet and human nervous
systems. Young children are particularly susceptible, since they crawl
around on carpeting that traps pesticide residues, and have a
propensity for hugging family pets then putting their hands in their
mouths (carbamates are more hazardous if ingested orally than if
absorbed through skin).
The calculation of an individual’s, factory’s, or other entity’s impact
on the environment, measured as the total amount of carbon dioxide. See
The act of mitigating the greenhouse gas emissions you produce from
your activities, from transportation to energy use, through payment of
a fee to fund projects that reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.
A carbon offset is a credit that an individual or organization can
purchase to negate a carbon footprint, thereby achieving carbon
neutrality. Revenue generated from the purchase of offsets is typically
invested in environmentally friendly projects. The purchase of carbon
offsets is a fast-growing industry in the wake of compliance
legislation and the development of cap and trade systems.
To be carbon neutral is to balance the amount of carbon dioxide
released into the atmosphere by a particular activity, like flying,
driving or operating a data center, with an equal amount of carbon
sequestration or carbon offsets from a third party. To be considered
carbon neutral, an individual or organization must reduce its carbon
footprint to zero.
A CGO is a Chief Green Officer. A CGO is tasked with all aspects of
making an organization greener, including energy-efficient
construction, e-cycling and e-waste mitigation, recycling, LEED
compliance, OSHA standards and clean production, if applicable.
Clean computing is when an organization's manufacture, use and disposal
of IT equipment does not produce any harmful waste at any stage.
Non-hazardous materials are used in chip construction and packaging.
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb (CFL)
A CFL is a fluorescent light bulb that has been compressed into the
size of a standard-issue incandescent light bulb. Modern CFLs typically
last at least six times as long and use at most a quarter of the power
of an equivalent incandescent bulb. According to Arthur Rosenfeld, a
physicist and member of the California Energy Commission, "If every
home in the United States replaced just one incandescent light bulb
with a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), the energy saved would
prevent greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to taking more than 1
million cars off the road."
A common household and agricultural herbicide, Dicambra can cause loss
of appetite, loss of weight, vomiting, depressions, general tenseness
and muscular weakness. It is an irritant to skin, eyes and mucous
membranes. Airplane application increases the potential for exposure to
humans, livestock, and wildlife due to air drift.
Found in sunscreens, cosmetics, car washes and hand soap. DEA is a
possible endocrine disruptor, has shown limited evidence of
carcinogenicity, and depletes the body of choline, needed for in utero
brain development. DEA can also show up as a contaminant in products
containing its related chemicals such as cocamide DEA.
Commonly found in citrus-based cleaners, d-Limonene is a high-odor
volatile organic compound (VOC) that irritates skin and eyes. It's also
been found to cause tumors in laboratory animals.
Persistent organic pollutants and known carcinogens that work their way
up the food chain, posing a threat both to wildlife and to people.
Dioxins can be formed during the manufacture or incineration of
polyvinyl chloride (PVC), in the process of chlorine-bleaching paper
and as a byproduct of herbicide manufacturing. Dioxins are also
endocrine disruptors, substances that can interfere with the body's
natural hormone signals, and they can damage the immune system and may
affect reproduction and childhood development. Furthermore, dioxins
build up in animal fat, and we may be exposed to them when eating fatty
meats, whole milk or full-fat yogurt. See Organochlorines
Data center Infrastructure Efficiency (DCIE)
DCIE is a metric used to determine the energy efficiency of a data
center. Like power usage effectiveness (PUE), the reciprocal of DCIE,
the metric is calculated by dividing the amount of power entering a
facility to the amount of power used by the equipment within it. Unlike
PUE, DCIE is expressed as a percentage. A data center's DCIE therefore
improves as it approaches 100%. The metric was created by members of
The Green Grid
Dot green is a shorthand way of describing the online green computing
movement, including both hype and real innovation. The dot-green
movement is considered to follow the dot-com boom model, with the same
bubble of speculators profiting from the buzz.
E-cycling is the practice of reusing, or distributing for reuse,
electronic equipment and components rather than discarding them at the
end of their life cycle. Often, even non-functioning devices can be
refurbished and resold or donated. Organizations such as Students
Recycling Used Technology (StRUT), the National Cristina Foundation,
and the Resource Area for Teachers (RAFT) collect and refurbish donated
computer equipment for redistribution to schools and charities around
E-waste is any refuse created by discarded electronic devices and
components as well as substances involved in their manufacture or use.
The disposal of electronics is a growing problem because electronic
equipment frequently contains hazardous substances. According to the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than four million tons of
e-waste go to U.S. landfills each year. See WEEE
This French cosmetics certification program provides two degrees of
labeling. Its "Eco" label requires that 95 percent of a product's
ingredients are natural or from natural origin, that a minimum of 50
percent of the vegetable ingredients are certified organic and that at
least 5 percent of the ingredients in the finished product are
certified organic. Ecocert's more rigorous "Bio" Label requires the
same 95 percent of ingredients to be natural or from natural origin,
that 95 percent of the vegetable ingredients are certified organic and
that at least 10 percent of the ingredients in the finished product are
certified organic. Both labels disallow mineral oils, silicone,
parabens or animal products, and the agency also analyzes a producer's
manufacturing process, from the transportation and storage of
ingredients and products to energy use and waste disposal.
An economizer is a mechanical device used to reduce energy consumption.
Economizers are commonly used in data centers to complement or replace
cooling devices like computer room air conditioners (CRACs) or
chillers. Economizers can save money data center operators money by
taking advantage of cooler outside temperatures to cool IT equipment
inside a facility. According to GreenerComputing.org, economization has
the potential to reduce annual cooling energy consumption costs by more
than 60 percent. Unfortunately, economizers are only useful for data
centers located in cooler climates.
Any substance that, when inhaled or consumed, behaves like hormones in
the endocrine system and can interfere with reproductive processes,
development, and other processes mediated by hormones. See Hormone
Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER)
A rating system for air conditioners that indicates how much heat is
removed per hour for each watt of energy used. Heat is measured in
British thermal units (Btu) and the rating is expressed in Btu per hour
Emergy-C is a low-wattage palette used by Mark Ontkush, a Boston-area
blogger who frequently posts about green computing and sustainable IT.
Energy Star is a government-backed labeling program that helps people
and organizations save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by
identifying factories, office equipment, home appliances and
electronics that have superior energy efficiency. The EPA estimates
that if every U.S. household and business replaced old computers with
new Energy Star-qualified models, more than $1.8 billion in energy
costs would be saved over the next five years, avoiding greenhouse gas
emissions equivalent to more than those produced by 2.7 million cars.
EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool)
EPEAT is a ranking system that helps purchasers in the public and
private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers,
notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes.
In the U.S., TransFairUSA is the only third-party verifier of fair
trade claims and certifies that agricultural commodities are purchased
at above-market rates from farmers who have eliminated agrochemicals
and pay workers fairly. The industry-supported Fair Trade Federation
accepts member companies based upon their commitment to, among other
things, paying crafts producers at least the local minimum wage and
protecting natural resources. Members must reapply annually and provide
documentation about material sourcing and labor policies.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
The FSC is an international nonprofit organization formed in 1993 to
encourage better forestry practices. Governed by representatives of
environmental organizations, the forest industry and social groups from
over 60 countries around the world, it is widely viewed as the most
independent and credible global forest certification system. The FSC
accredits certifiers (such as the Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood
program) who then send out auditors to inspect forests according to
FSC's principles. The FSC certification principles cover environmental,
social and economic criteria, with certain requirements tailored to the
specific needs of each regional ecosystem. Those forest operations that
meet the criteria are allowed to display the FSC label on their wood.
Wood products, such as furniture, made with FSC-certified wood may also
carry the FSC label.
Found in cosmetics, cleaning supplies, solvents used in wood finishes
and in particle board, formaldehyde is classified by the EPA as a
probable human carcinogen. In its liquid state, formaldehyde, present
in the ingredients DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, and
quaternium-15, can be absorbed through the skin and nails. As a
volatile organic compound, or VOC, formaldehyde evaporates when the
product is wet; levels drop sharply once it's dry.
Although this term implies that a product contains no fragrance,
companies often add fragrances to cover up its chemical smell.
Furthermore, the FDA has no definition for the term, and because
fragrances are considered trade secrets, the government does not
require companies to include them in product ingredient lists.
Consequently, consumers may be unable to pinpoint the specific
ingredient causing reactions.
Poisonous gases used for pest control. Phosphene gas and methyl
bromide, the two most commonly used fumigants, are both extremely toxic.
Geoengineering is the deliberate modification of a planet's environment
by the addition or subtraction of a resource or energy input on a
massive scale. Proposed geoengineering projects, often introduced as a
means of combating climate change, have included space mirrors,
sulfur-spraying in the stratosphere, cloud seeding and oceanic carbon
Green collar is any kind of employment that involves products or
services that are environmentally friendly. Presidential candidates in
the 2008 election cycle have endorsed the creation of green collar jobs
to boost the economy, like "solar panel installation, weatherizing
homes, brewing biofuels, building hybrid cars and erecting giant wind
Green computing is the environmentally responsible use of computers and
related resources. Such practices include the implementation of
energy-efficient central processing units (CPUs), servers and
peripherals as well as reduced resource consumption and proper disposal
of electronic waste (e-waste).
Green Data Center
A green data center is a repository for the storage, management, and
dissemination of data in which the mechanical, lighting, electrical and
computer systems are designed for maximum energy efficiency and minimum
environmental impact. The construction and operation of a green data
center includes advanced technologies and strategies. Building and
certifying a green data center or other facility can be expensive up
front, but long-term cost savings can be realized on operations and
Toxic metals or metal compounds that negatively affect health and the
environment. Some heavy metals include: cadmium, lead and mercury.
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters: Used in vacuum cleaners
and air handling systems in order to clean the air in residential and
work settings. They are designed to trap particles as small as 0.3
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
A modified form of regular corn syrup containing increased amounts of
the sugar fructose. HFCS is made when cornstarch is treated with acids
or enzymes, breaking down the starch into sugars, thus enhancing
sweetness and making a syrup that dissolves at lower temperatures.
Hormone Disrupting Compounds
Chemical compounds such as parabens and phthalates which create a
disturbance in hormones that control the nervous system, reproduction
Hypoallergenic (also "dermatologist tested," "allergy tested," "sensitivity tested" or "non-irritating")
For consumers with sensitive skin, moisturizers with any of these
labels may seem like the least irritating option, but claims that these
products produce fewer allergic reactions are unfounded. The FDA warns,
"there are no federal standards or definitions that govern the use of
the term 'hypoallergenic.' The term means whatever a particular company
wants it to mean." There are no organizations behind these claims, and
manufacturers are not required to provide evidence that these products
do, in fact, produce fewer allergic reactions. The FDA also cautions
that nearly all cosmetic products will cause an allergic reaction in
some sensitive individuals.
Naturally occurring or synthetic compound in most foods including milk,
meat, fish and eggs. An example of a synthetic hormone, rBST, is
injected into dairy cows to increase milk production. Health effects of
this hormone in humans are an increase in the presence of insulin-like
growth factors. Naturally occurring hormones, however, are unable to be
A chemical used for insect, specifically roach, control. It is most
common in the form of baits and gels. Hydramethylnon is listed as a
possible human carcinogen and a reproductive toxin.
Currently used as refrigerants, HCFCs deplete the ozone layer and are
being phased out in the United States. The UN Environment Programme
estimates that exposure to the additional UV-B radiation resulting from
10 percent loss of global ozone could lead to 300,000 additional cases
of squamous cell cancer and basal cell cancer and 4,500-9,000
additional cases of potentially fatal melanoma worldwide each year.
Increased exposure to UV-B rays also poses a significant threat to
animal and plant life and consequently many of the earth's food chains.
A synthetic biochemical known as an insect growth regulator, which
attacks the reproductive system of insects, preventing them from
multiplying. It is of low-toxicity, but is believed to cause reactions
in humans, fish and other animals.
This process uses electron beams or radioactive substances to kill
pathogens, retard sprouting or spoiling, and otherwise prolong transit
time and shelf life in meat, eggs, grain, produce, and spices.
Also referred to as isopropyl alcohol and rubbing alcohol, isopropanol
is a potent central nervous system depressant that can cause headaches,
dizziness, nausea, vomiting and eye, nose and throat irritation.
A probable human carcinogen and neurotoxin.
A label applied to cosmetic products that have been produced in
accordance with the Corporate Standard of Compassion for Animals. This
standard was developed by the Coalition for Consumer Information on
Cosmetics, a coalition of eight animal protection groups, including the
American Humane Association and The Humane Society of the United
States. Companies with this logo pledge not to conduct or commission
animal testing on either their products or the ingredients used in
those products. For a complete list of certified companies, see
Used as an insecticide and in prescription medications for head and body lice, lindane is a known hormone disruptor.
Engineered facilities located, maintained and designed to assure
compliance with federal waste disposal laws. Solid waste landfills are
located away from eco-sensitive environments to protect them from
contaminants in water, land and air. Often, they collect hazardous
waste and gas emissions to be converted into alternative energy sources.
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
Energy-efficient lights that consume 80 percent less energy than
conventional, incandescent bulbs. Common in digital clocks, remote
controls, watches and appliances, they are now being produced in bulb
form as a home lighting alternative.
Monoethanolamine (MEA) (also ethanolamine and 2-aminoethanol)
Contact with MEA causes severe eye and skin burns, and inhalation
irritates eyes, skin and respiratory systems and may cause asthma.
Ingestion can cause central nervous system depression, increased blood
pressure, sedation, coma, and death.
A greenhouse gas which stays in the atmosphere for nine to 15 years. It
is efficient in trapping heat and is one of the primary sources of
natural gas. It serves as a primary energy source. Methane is emitted
by humans mainly through fossil fuel production and waste management.
Mad Cow Disease
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease, is a fatal
neurodegenerative disease in cattle that causes a spongy degeneration
in the brain and spinal cord. Consuming beef infected with BSE may
transmit the disease to humans. In humans, the condition is known as
A naturally occurring element from the Earth’s crust found in air,
water and soil. Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain,
heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system of humans.
Mold lives in soils, plants, and moist matter. It produces allergens,
irritants, and in some cases, toxins, known as mycotoxins, that may
cause reactions in humans if exposure occurs. One known mycotoxin is
N,N-diethyl toluamide (DEET)
An insect repellant used widely since the 1950s. Although it is
effective in repelling insects, it can be harmful if ingested, causing
some neurological problems, including lethargy, confusion,
disorientation, and mood swings. It is an eye irritant and may cause
blisters, rashes, or other skin irritations. It has also been found in
low quantities in tap water, evidence of pollution.
Mineral particles that have been fragmented to sizes below 100
nanometers; they are often used in sunscreens and mineral makeup
products because they are less visible when applied to the skin.
Natural Products Association Certified
This certification is applied to products with 95 percent of the
ingredients derived from natural sources (for instance, plants, milk,
honey, beeswax, minerals); synthetic ingredients are allowed only when
no viable natural alternative exists. Regardless of source, the
ingredients must not pose any potential human health problem, and
companies can't process natural ingredients in any way that could
significantly alter their purity.
Toxins which attack the nervous system. They are especially hazardous
to fetuses and children. High exposures can result in brain damage. The
most commonly occurring and dangerous neurotoxins are lead, mercury,
OPs and PCBs.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
Formed from nitrogen and oxide, it is a highly reactive gas. It is made
when fuel is burned at high temperatures. The primary manmade sources
for nitrogen dioxide are motor vehicles and electric utilities. It is a
greenhouse gas which, along with other greenhouse gases, is causing a
gradual rise in the earth’s temperature.
Power management is a feature included in many electrical appliances,
like copiers, computers, monitors and printers, that turns off the
power or switches the system to a standby mode when inactive. Power
management features can save individuals and organizations substantial
energy costs over time. Modern laptops and PCs have integrated power
management control panels that allow a user to fine tune how quickly a
screen turns off.
Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE)
PUE is a metric used to determine the energy efficiency of a data
center. PUE is determined by dividing the amount of power entering a
data center by the power used to run the computer infrastructure within
it. PUE is therefore expressed as a ratio, with overall efficiency
improving as the quotient decreases toward 1. DCIE is the reciprocal of
PUE and is expressed as a percentage that improves as it approaches
100%. PUE was created by members of the Green Grid.
Renewable energy is any energy source that is naturally replenished,
like that derived from solar, wind, geothermal or hydroelectric action.
Energy produced from the refining of biomass is also often classified
as renewable. Coal, oil or natural gas, on the other hand, are finite
Restriction of Hazardous Substances-
The RoHS is a set of criteria formulated by the European Union (EU) to
regulate the use of toxic materials in electrical and electronic
devices, systems, and toys. RoHS is often referred to as the "lead-free
directive," although mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium,
polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)
are all restricted as well.
A silent vampire is any electronic or computing device that still draws
power from an outlet through a charger, even if the device is turned
off or disconnected. Adapters for iPods, cellphones, electric drills
and other devices draw electricity even when not connected to the
device. Use power strips for chargers so that you can make sure that
they are all off;
A slush pile is a mound of mixed snow, ice and ice water -- aka "slush"
-- placed outside of a data center. Chilled melt water is pulled
through a filter and used to cool IT equipment, saving cooling costs.
Standby power is electrical power that a device consumes when not in
present use, but plugged in to a source of power and ready to be used.
Standby power consumption is the amount of such power that is used even
though the power drainage is not apparent. The terms apply to
appliances such as television sets, computers, computer peripherals,
and various other devices, including those that use battery chargers.
Telecommuting is the use of telecommunication to work outside the
traditional office or workplace, usually at home (SOHO) or in a mobile
situation. Telecommuting can reduce greenhouse gases, save gasoline
usage and associated purchase costs and reduce urban traffic
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
An organic substance which can change to a gas form from either the liquid or solid state.
One of many petrochemical solvents commonly found in paint, like
formaldehyde and toluene, which are classified as neurotoxins or
Found in makeup and sunscreen, zinc oxide is the preferable ingredient when looking to choose the proper sun protection.
A white metal insoluble in water, but soluble in acids. It is widely
used as an astringent for mouthwashes. The ingestion of zinc salts can
cause nausea and vomiting.
~Information provided by National Geographic's Green Guide.