Green Speak: 9 Terms for Your Eco-Friendly Vocabulary

Consumers’ interest in being green has never been so high. Know these terms so you can be on the same page.

June 1, 2007

You should never feel out of touch when clients are telling you about their dream green home. That’s why we asked Jessica Jensen, co-founder of green home-improvement Web site Low Impact Living, to share some key terms that every real estate practitioner ought to know. Also see this month's feature, "What's New on the Green Scene?"

EcoBroker.This real estate certification program helps practitioners become experts in helping consumers and communities use energy efficiency and sustainable design. Through EcoBroker educational courses, you acquire knowledge and resources to become a Certified EcoBroker, which gives you a leg up in assisting home owners in purchasing and marketing properties with green features. Classes are available online, and may count as continuing education credits in your state.

FSC-certified wood. A key component of green building is using sustainable wood. Quickly renewable woods like bamboo are inherently sustainable. In selecting other types of hardwoods, it’s important that the wood be grown and harvested in a sustainable manner. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) maintains standards and certifies woods for sustainability.

Geothermal. Geothermal power uses heat from the earth to generate electricity. This is a clean, renewable power source. Geothermal energy is harnessed with a Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) to tap the stored energy beneath the planet’s surface. These pumps can be used to provide heating, cooling, and hot water for residential and commercial buildings.

LEED. LEED is an abbreviation for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED rating system was designed by the U.S. Green Building Council and is the standard for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings. LEED started in the commercial building sector, and a rating system for residential construction is in the works. Architects and builders often refer to themselves as LEED AP; the AP stands for Accredited Professional. This means they have passed the LEED exam and are well-versed in the program’s standards.

Native landscaping. Selecting plants indigenous to your area means they’re better adapted to the local climate, use appropriate amounts of water, resist local pests, and provide food for area wildlife.

Runoff. The waste water that flows from our gardens, lawns, driveways, and streets into our sewer systems carries various pollutants, including fertilizers and pesticides from our yards. The water eventually travels into rivers and oceans where they degrade water quality for humans and animals. To reduce runoff, home owners can make sure they don’t over-water their lawns or accidentally water their sidewalks and driveways. Permeable stone pavers in driveways also help curb runoff.

Solar PV/ Solar Water Heaters. Solar PV stands for Solar Photovoltaic, which are the panels used to create electricity. PV cells are comprised of semi-conductors, most often made of silicon, which convert sun power into electricity. These are different from (and more expensive than) solar water-heating systems. A solar water-heating system is fairly simple with the solar panels typically installed on a roof. The sun then heats the panels; the solar collectors heat a fluid in pipes held in the interior of the panel boxes, and the fluid is transported into the house where it heats water in a storage tank.

Sustainable/Sustainability. Sustainability refers to meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. This involves using, re-using, and conserving natural resources to do the least harm to the natural environment. It’s now used almost interchangeably with “green” and “eco-friendly.”

VOC. An abbreviation for Volatile Organic Compounds, VOCs are emitted as gases from various solids and liquids like wall paint, furniture, and household cleaning supplies. Many chemicals are harmful to human health; some are carcinogenic. But no- or low-VOC products now available represent good non-toxic replacements.

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).


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