Air Pollutant

Any substance in air that could, in high enough concentration, harm humans, animals, vegetation, or material.

Air Pollution

The presence of contaminants or pollutant substances in the air that interfere with human health or welfare, or produce other harmful environmental effects.

BIFMA FES (Furniture Emissions Standard)

As of August 11, 2006 the BIFMA FES (Furniture Emissions Standard) is recognized by LEED as equivalent to GREENGUARD. Spec has chosen to test its products to BIFMA FES standards.

Biobased Product

A commercial or industrial product that utilizes biological products or renewable domestic agricultural or forestry materials.


Capable of decomposing by microorganisms under natural conditions and reduced to organic or inorganic molecules which can be further utilized by living systems.


The number, variety, and variability of living organisms.


Material, other than the principal product, generated as a consequence of an industrial process or as a breakdown product in a living system. A secondary and sometimes unexpected or unintended result. California Air Resource Board (CARB): The "clean air agency" in the government of California. The stated goals of CARB include attaining and maintaining healthy air quality; protecting the public from exposure to toxic air contaminants; and providing innovative approaches for complying with air pollution rules and regulations. Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) : The CaGBC was created in 2003 to further the expansion of green building in Canada. Prior to the formation of the Council, Canada had participated in the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) through British Columbia's membership in the USGBC's Cascadia Chapter. The Canadian Green Building Council is dedicated to promoting the LEED rating system.


Any substance that can cause or aggravate cancer.

Clean Air Act

The US federal statute that regulates air emissions form area, stationary and mobile sources. This law authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and the environment.

Closed Loop

A type of manufacturing process that utilizes a cyclical material flow in order to minimize waste.


Possessing the ability to break down into or otherwise become part of, usable compost (e.g. soil-conditioning material, mulch) in a safe and timely manner.


A term used in life-cycle analysis to describe a material or product that is recycled into a new product at the end of its defined life.


A term used to describe the encompassing life cycle stages of raw material extraction and conversion to a bulk form or a generic shape.

Design for Disassembly

The design and engineering of a product so that it can be dismantled for easier maintenance, repair, recovery and reuse of components and materials.

Design for the Environment (DFE)

The systematic integration of environmental attributes into the design of products and processes. There are three unique characteristics of DFE:

  • The entire life-cycle is considered
  • Point of application is clearly in the product realization
  • Decisions are made using a set of values consistent with industrial ecology, integrative systems thinking or another framework


The interacting system of a biological community and its non-living environmental surroundings.


The sum of all external conditions affecting the life, development and survival of an organism.

Environmental Aspect

An element of an organization's activities, products or services that can interact with the environment.

Environmental Management System (EMS)

The part of a company’s overall management system that includes organizational structure, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes, and resources for developing, implementing, achieving, reviewing, and maintaining the environmental policy.

Environmental Policy

A statement by the organization of its intentions and principles in relation to its overall environmental performance, which provides a framework for action and for the setting of its environmental objectives and targets.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The U.S. federal agency established in July of 1970 “to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment — air, water, and land — upon which life depends”; works closely with other federal agencies, tate and local governments and Indian tribes to develop and enforce regulations under existing environmental laws; provides leadership in the nation’s environmental science, research, education and assessment efforts; and is responsible for researching and setting national standards for a variety of environmental programs and delegates to states and tribes; responsible for issuing permits, and monitoring and enforcing compliance.

Environmentally Friendly (Eco-Friendly, Green)

These terms are given to goods considered to inflict minimal or reduced harm on the environment. Labels declaring a product to be environmentally friendly are used across the globe to promote products, but there is no international standard, and many different labels.

Environmentally Preferable

Products or services that have a lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose. This comparison may consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance or disposal of the product or service.


A term used to describe the product fabrication and assembly of institutional furniture. For purposes of the assessment, the entry gate is the receiving dock of the first facility where basic materials used in the manufacture of the furniture (e.g. steel, particleboard, fabric, laminate, etc.) begins the conversion to furniture components. The end gate is the shipping dock where the ready-to-Install furniture is transported for distribution to the end user. The gate-to-gate assessment will include transportation of intermediate materials and components between facilities where more than one physical location is included in the manufacturing process.


An adjective used to describe something that is perceived to be beneficial to the environment.


A certification and labeling program for interior products and building materials in reference to indoor air quality.

Green building

The practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings use resources — energy, water, and materials — while reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal — the complete building life cycle.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG)

Certain gases (including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone and several classes of halogenated carbons that contain fluorine, chlorine and bromine) that allow solar radiation to reach Earth’s surface and become absorbed, yet trap thermal radiation leaving the earth’s surface. Outgoing thermal radiation absorbed by these gases heats the atmosphere. The atmosphere then emits thermal radiation both outward into space and downward to Earth, further warming the surface.

Hazardous Air Pollutant

Those pollutants that cause or may cause cancer, other serious health effects (such as reproductive effects or birth defects) or adverse environmental and ecological effects. The EPA is required to control 188 HAPs including dioxin; asbestos; toluene; metals such as cadmium, mercury, chromium and lead; benzene, which is found in gasoline; perchlorethlyene, which is emitted from some dry cleaning facilities; and methylene chloride, which is used as a solvent and paint stripper by a number of industries. Also known as toxic air pollutants.

Hazardous Material

Any material or substance, which if improperly handled or disposed of, can cause harm to the health and well-being of humans or the environment.

Hazardous Waste

Any waste that exhibits specific hazardous characteristics such as ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity.

Heavy Metal

Any metallic chemical element that has a relatively high density and is toxic at low concentrations. (Examples are mercury, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, thallium and lead). Semi-metallic elements (such as antimony, arsenic, selenium and tellurium) are often included in this classification.

Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)

A compound that consists of hydrogen, chlorine, fluorine and carbon. The HCFCs are a class of replacements for CFCs. They contain chlorine and thus deplete stratospheric ozone,but to a much lesser extent than CFCs. Production of HCFCs are currently being phased out of production.

Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC)

A compound that consist of hydrogen, fluorine and carbon. The HFCs are a class of replacements for CFCs. Because they do not contain chlorine or bromine, they do not deplete the ozone layer.

Incidental Presence

The presence of a regulated metal (e.g., cadmium, lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium) as an unintended or undesired ingredient of a package or packaging component.

Indoor Air Pollution

Chemical, physical or biological contaminants in indoor air.

ISO 9000

A group of ISO standards and guidelines that relate to quality management systems. Currently includes three quality standards: ISO 9001: 2000 establishes requirements; ISO 9000: 2000 and ISO 9004: 2000 establish guidelines. All of these are process standards, not product standards. Compliance results in “ISO 9000 Certification.”

ISO 14000: A group of ISO standards and guidelines that address environmental issues. Includes standards for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) (ISO 14001), environmental and EMS auditing, environmental labeling, performance evaluation and life-cycle assessment. Compliance results in “ISO 14000 Certification.”


The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design: LEED is a Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), providing a list of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. The rating system addresses six major areas:

  1. Sustainable sites
  2. Water efficiency
  3. Energy and atmosphere
  4. Materials and resources
  5. Indoor environmental quality
  6. Innovation and design process

Different LEED versions have varied scoring systems based on a set of required "prerequisites" and a variety of "credits" in the six major categories listed above. In LEED v2.2 for new construction and major renovations for commercial buildings there are 69 possible points and buildings can qualify for four levels of certification:

  • Certified - 26-32 points
  • Silver - 33-38 points
  • Gold - 39-51 points
  • Platinum - 52-69 points

LEED certification is obtained after submitting an application documenting compliance with the requirements of the rating system as well as paying registration and certification fees. Certification is granted solely by the Green Building Council responsible for issuing the LEED system used on the project.

Life Cycle

The total impact of a system, function, product, or service from the extraction of raw materials through its end-of-life management.

Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

A document required by OSHA that contains information about hazardous chemicals in the workplace in order to insure the safety and health of the user at all stages of a material’s manufacture, storage, use and disposal.

National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Air quality standards required by the Clean Air Act that monitor six pollutants, known as “criteria” pollutants, considered harmful to public health and the environment. The Clean Air Act established two types of national air quality standards: primary standards set limits to protect public health, including the health of “sensitive“ populations such as asthmatics, children and the elderly; and secondary standards set limits to protect public welfare, including protection against decreased visibility, damage to animals, crops, vegetation and buildings. The EPA sets and monitors the levels for these standards.

Nonrenewable Energy

Energy taken from finite resources that will eventually dwindle, becoming too expensive or too environmentally damaging to retrieve, as opposed to renewable energy sources, which "are naturally replenished in a relatively short period of time.


A bluish gas that is harmful to breathe. Nearly 90% of the Earth’s ozone is in the stratosphere and is referred to as the ozone layer. Ozone absorbs a band of ultraviolet radiation called UVB that is particularly harmful to living organisms. The ozone layer prevents most UVB from reaching the ground.

Post-Consumer Recycled Content

The recycling of materials generated from residential and consumer waste for use in new or similar purposes, such as converting wastepaper from offices into corrugated boxes or soda bottles into polyester fiber.

Post-Industrial (pre-consumer) Recycled Content

Diverted from the waste stream during the manufacturing process. Excluded is reutilization of materials such as rework, regrind, or scrap generated in a process and capable of being reclaimed within the same process that generated it.


This is generally, the presence of a substance in the environment that because of its chemical composition or quantity prevents the functioning of natural processes and produces undesirable environmental and health effects.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

Synthetic thermoplastic polymer made from vinyl chloride. In addition to its stable physical properties, PVC has excellent transparency, chemical resistance, long-term stability, good weatherability, flow characteristics and stable electrical properties. However, its stability makes it nearly environmentally indestructible. PVC also releases hydrochloric acid and other toxic compounds when produced, used or burned.


The act of retrieving any material from a waste stream in order to save it from loss and restore to usefulness.

Recovered Material

Waste materials and byproducts that have been recovered or diverted from solid waste, but does not include materials and byproducts generated from, and commonly reused within, an original manufacturing process.


Capable of minimizing waste generation by recovering and reprocessing usable products that might otherwise become waste.


To minimize waste generation by recovering and reprocessing usable products that might otherwise become waste (e.g., aluminum cans, paper and bottles, etc.).

Recycled-content Materials

Materials that have been recovered or otherwise diverted from the solid waste stream, either during the manufacturing process (post-industrial) or after consumer use (post-consumer).


Restoring products to usable condition by replacing or repairing parts as needed.

Renewable Energy

Energy from a source that is replenishable and replenished on some reasonable time scale. Potential renewable energy sources include, but are not limited to wind, solar, heat from the earth's interior, oceans, rivers, and biomass.

Renewable Material

A material that is replenishable and replenished on some reasonable time scale. Renewable material sources include, but are not limited to wood, grass fibers, plant-based plastics, and bio-based fuels.

Reusable Packaging

Packaging that has been conceived and designed to accomplish within its lifecycle a minimum number of trips or rotations, is refilled or used for the same purpose for which it was conceived, with or without the support of auxiliary products present on the market enabling the packaging to be refilled: such reused packaging will become packaging waste when no longer subject to reuse.

Social Responsibility (or equity)

The identification of issues, the development of standards, and the implementation of programs that address corporate responsibility for the ethical treatment of employees, communities, and other stakeholders.

Solid Waste

Non-liquid, non-soluble materials from sources ranging from municipal garbage to industrial wastes that may contain complex and hazardous substances. Solid wastes also include sewage sludge, agricultural refuse, demolition wastes and mining residues. Technically, solid waste also refers to liquids and gases in containers.


Of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.

Sustainable Design (Eco-Design, Green Design, Environmental Design)

Sustainable design is an approach that attempts to reduce the overall environmental impact of a product. The aim of sustainable design is to produce products and facilities in a way that reduces use of non-renewable resources, minimizes environmental impact, and relates people with the natural environment. The growing focus on Sustainable design is a reaction to the global "environmental crisis", i.e., rapid growth of economic activity and human population, depletion of natural resources, damage to ecosystems and loss of biodiversity.

Sustainable Development

That which meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (The United Nations Brundtland Commission, 1987).

Sustainable Practice

A practice (such as manufacturing) that maintains a given condition without destroying or depleting natural resources.

Sustainable Product

A product that has no negative impact on natural ecosystems or resources. Sustainable Manufacturing: Manufacturing processes that have no negative impact on natural ecosystems or resources.


The characteristic of a product, material or process to be sustainable.


Presenting an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the environment.

Toxic Waste

If a threshold concentration of one of fourteen substances listed by RCRA is present in an extract of a waste stream, the entire waste stream is classified as toxic waste and is subject to regulation as a hazardous waste (under the RCRA definition, 40 CFR Part 261.24). The list contains several synthetic organic chemicals and toxic metals such as lead, chromium and mercury.

Toxic Air Pollutant

Poisonous substances in the air that come from natural sources (for example, radon gas from the ground) or from manmade sources (for example, chemical compounds given off by factory smokestacks) and can harm the environment or human health

U.S. Green Building Council

A coalition of representatives from the building industry that promotes buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and are healthful places to live and

Universal Hazardous Waste (UHW)

Certain hazardous, widely generated materials such as batteries, pesticides and thermostats. The EPA adopted the Universal Waste Rule (1993), which amended the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations in order to allow for streamlined management of this category of hazardous wastes (58 FR 9346).

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)

Any compound that contains carbon and becomes a gas at room temperature. VOC emissions are regulated because they contribute to smog formation. The most common sources of VOC emissions are from storage and use of liquid and gaseous fuels, the storage and use of solvents and the combustion of fuels and can include housekeeping and maintenance products and building and furnishing materials. In sufficient quantities VOC emissions can cause eye, nose, and throat irritations, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, memory impairment; some are known animal carcinogens; some are suspected or known human carcinogens.


Unwanted materials left over from a manufacturing process, or refuse from places of human or animal habitation.

Waste Prevention

Any change in the design, manufacturing, purchase or use of materials or products (including packaging) to reduce their amount or toxicity before they are discarded. Waste prevention also refers to the reuse of products or materials.

Waste Reduction

Preventing or decreasing the amount of waste being generated through waste prevention, recycling or purchasing recycled and environmentally preferable products.