8 Eco Terms Everyone Should Know: From COP15 to Astro-Turfing

Guendolyn Joy 2 © studio.es by Vincent BoiteauSustainability has become so ingrained into my life that sometimes I inadvertently assume everyone knows what I’m talking about.

My days are filled with issues such as Climate Change, renewable energy, recycling, LEED buildings, CO2 sensors, de-lamping and composting. The reason for this is because when I’m not writing for EcoSalon, I’m the communications specialist for sustainability at Boston University.

On my way to work last week I was listening to the radio, surfing between Lady Gaga and NPR when I heard the uber-clever green moniker AstroTurfing. Astroturfing, taken from the root AstroTurf (the artificial grass laid down on sports playing fields) refers to events or missions planned by an organization, but masked to appear as grass-roots efforts, which are built on passionate people dedicated to helping a cause.

Here are eight other terms everyone should know that are sure to turn you into an eco-expert:

1. Greenhouse Gas

Chemical compounds that contribute to the greenhouse effect. When in the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas allows sunlight (solar radiation) to enter the atmosphere where it warms the Earth’s surface and is reradiated back into the atmosphere as longer-wave energy (heat). Greenhouse gases absorb this heat and “trap” it in the lower atmosphere.

2. Global Warming

The current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is said to be approximately 385 ppm (parts per million). Before industrialization it was about 280 ppm. As stated in the U.S. Climate Change Conference data, analyses of air contained in ice from the Antarctic ice cap shows that there is far more CO2 in the air today than at any time in the last 650,000 years. The consequence is that the greenhouse effect is becoming stronger, and the earth is becoming warmer.

3. Greenwashing

Using environmental claims, which fall short, to sell a product. Check out the Greenwashing Index for the worst offenders.

4. Sustainability

In 1987, the Brundtland Report, also known as Our Common Future, defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

5. Phantom Energy

Also called Vampire power, this energy is taken from the grid when an appliance is plugged in but not being used. Think printers, cell phone chargers, TVs and computers. One easy way to stop this is by using a Smart Power Strip, which cuts off energy with the flip of one switch.

6. Carbon Footprint

The amount of carbon produced by an individual, organization, or location at a given time. Carbon footprint describes the environmental impact of carbon emissions, measured in units of carbon dioxide.

7. COP15

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, which takes place from December 7-18th in Copenhagen, Denmark, will bring together world leaders to discuss the Climate Change Crisis and the Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.


Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is an internationally-recognized building system aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Image: Vincent Boiteau

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One response to “8 Eco Terms Everyone Should Know: From COP15 to Astro-Turfing”

  1. Very good summary. What is the definition of “carbon credits?” I keep hearing of it and am wondering what it is, and is it legitimate?