Demystifying Sustainability: Common Terms and Phrases Explained

As we all become more conscious of the need to protect our planet, sustainability has become a buzzword that is heard more and more frequently. However, the topic can often seem complex and confusing, with many different terms and phrases floating around and it can be hard to know what information to trust. Here at Romy we value transparency and honesty so we'll try to explain some of the most common sustainability language around to help you out.

1. Sustainability

To put it simply, sustainability refers to the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It can cover a wide range of topics, from environmental conservation to social justice and economic development.

2. Climate Change

Climate change refers to the long-term changes in the Earth's climate, including changes in temperature, weather, and sea levels. These changes are largely caused by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation.

3. Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is energy that comes from sources that are naturally replenished, such as wind, solar, and hydro power. These sources do not emit greenhouse gases and are not depleted by human use, and are therefore considered more sustainable than non-renewable fossil fuel sources like coal and oil.

4. Carbon Footprint

The carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (primarily carbon dioxide) emitted as a result of a person, organisation, event etc. This can include emissions from transport, heating and electricity, waste and supply chain. It’s measured in ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’ aka CO2e

5. Circular Economy

A circular economy is an economic system in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible, with waste and pollution minimised. This is achieved through practices such as recycling, upcycling, and repairing products rather than simply discarding them. The goal is to reduce waste and minimise the use of virgin materials, unlike a linear system where products are made, used, and then discarded.

6. Biodiversity

Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on earth, including plant and animal species, genetic diversity, and ecosystems. It is essential for the health and well-being of our planet, and the services that ecosystems provide such as food, water, and clean air.

7. Life Cycle Assessment

Life cycle assessment is a method used to evaluate the environmental impact of a product or service throughout its entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to production to disposal. This includes assessing the impact of manufacturing processes, transportation, use, and disposal so everything that should be considered when trying to determine if something is sustainable.

8. Carbon Offsetting

Carbon offsetting is a practice that involves balancing carbon emissions by investing in projects that offset your emissions – either through avoiding the release of emissions into the atmosphere in the first place or the process of removing emissions that have already been released, e.g. planting trees.

9. Fair Trade

Fair trade is a certification system that ensures that products are produced and traded in a socially responsible way. This includes ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions for workers, as well as protecting the environment.

10. Zero Waste

Zero waste is a philosophy that aims to eliminate the concept of waste by designing products and systems that do not create waste in the first place. This involves reducing, reusing, and recycling as much as possible, and creating closed-loop systems that eliminate the need for landfill.

11. Greenwashing

The act of falsely promoting a product or company to make people believe that it is doing more to protect the environment than it really is. This can include misleading claims or using vague language to make a product seem more sustainable than it actually is.

We know the last one can be really frustrating and make it seem impossible to make a difference but by understanding more we can be better equipped to make informed decisions about how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Whether it is reducing your carbon footprint, investing in renewable energy, adopting a zero waste philosophy or simply asking more questions before buying, there are many ways that you can make a positive impact on the environment and help to create a more sustainable future.