Biogas is a mixture of gases produced by the fermentation of organic matter such as sewage, municipal waste or energy crops under anaerobic conditions. The gases present in the mixture are methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2) and traces of odorigenic sulphates. The methane contained in the biogas may be used as fuel.
Biomass is usually made up of live or biodegrading plant matter, but can also refer to animal or waste materials. This can be burned to use as fuel in order to generate heat and electricity. Industrial biomass can be grown from numerous types of plants, including miscanthus, switchgrass, hemp, corn, poplar, willow, sorghum, sugarcane.
Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless, non-poisonous gas that is a normal part of Earth's atmosphere. It is produced by amongst other things, animal respiration and the combustion of organic matter. However human-generated Carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels has led to Carbon dioxide being the most significant green house gas in relation to climate change. Fossil fuels such as; oil, coal and natural gas contain large concentrations of carbon, thus the burning of these fuels releases correspondingly huge amounts of carbon dioxide.
CO2 is the chemical symbol for carbon dioxide.
The term used for the combined climate changing potential of emissions of multiple greenhouse gases. Emissions of each gas are converted to an amount of CO2 that would cause the same climate change impact.
Carbon footprint is a yardstick measure of the carbon released into the atmosphere by an individual or company. It is calculated by combining carbon values for actions and activities that result in greenhouse gas production. Anyone can quickly calculate their carbon footprint. Travelling by car, bus, train or plane, heating your home, running electrical appliances etc, all contribute to your carbon footprint.
Carbon neutral is the term used when a business, person or activity has a net zero carbon footprint. This can be achieved by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount being offset, or alternatively buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference so carbon emissions can be neutralised somewhere else in the world.
Carbon offsetting is the act of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through emissions trading. To offset the carbon we release into the atmosphere, we can buy carbon credits or ‘emission reduction credits’. Usually these pay for the planting of trees, which are the world’s great carbon dioxide absorbers. Businesses unable to lower their carbon footprint via efficiency improvements can instead offset their carbon emissions through this means. For example, a factory or production facility which is not able to reduce their own carbon footprint any further through their own actions may voluntarily purchase credits for another party to offset their actions. The goal of carbon offsets is to attain a carbon neutral overall effect.
Certified emission reductions (CERs)
CERs are emission reduction credits produced by a clean development mechanism (CDM) project. These credits are tradable and each CER represents a reduction of one tone of CO2e.
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
CDM is an agreement under the Kyoto Protocol allowing industrialised countries with a greenhouse gas reduction target to invest in projects that reduce carbon emissions in developing countries. This is as an alternative to more expensive emissions reductions in their own countries.
The term "climate change" is sometimes used to refer to all forms of climatic inconsistency, but because the Earth's climate is never static, the term is more properly used to imply a significant change from one climatic condition to another. Climate change events include the El Nino effect and the Dust Bowl, though more recently the term has come to mean modern, man-made global warming and its associated effects.
Being energy-efficient means using less energy overall and minimising energy loss. To do this we can use products and systems that use less energy to perform as well or better than standard products. Household improvements such as improving insulation, draft-proofing, and exercising being fuel efficient all aid being energy-efficient.
The Fairtrade mark is an independent consumer label that promotes standards for international labour. It provides a guarantee that producers are getting a fair deal for their produce. This gives workers economic self sufficiency through fair wages and good employment opportunities in economically disadvantaged populations.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
The FSC is the leading international non-profit organisation promoting responsible management of the world’s forests. It works by independently certifying and labelling timber products sourced from socially and environmentally responsible forestry. Visit www.fsc-uk.org for more information.
A food mile is the term given to the distance our food travels, from where it is grown or produced to where it is bought or consumed. The benefits of buying organic or Fairtrade products should be balanced against food miles. For example, it may be more environmentally friendly to buy non-organic fruit from a local farm than to buy Fairtrade organic fruit from Guatemala.
Fossil fuels are non-renewable energy sources in the form of oil, natural gas and coal, formed over millions of years from the compression and fossilisation of ancient forests (in the case of coal) or prehistoric marine life (oil). They represent massive stores of carbon, which is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide when the fuels are burned.
Global warming is a progressive gradual rise of the earth's surface temperature thought to be caused by the greenhouse effect. There is also evidence that global warming is partly responsible for changes in global climate patterns and more extreme weather events. The temperature of the near-surface air and oceans has been increasing since the mid 20th century and is predicted to continue. Global warming has occurred in the distant past as the result of natural influences, but the term is most often currently used to refer to the warming predicted to occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gases are those which allow the transmission of sunlight but which absorb some of the energy that’s reflected back from the planet’s surface, effectively trapping heat within the troposphere. Greenhouse gases are essential for maintaining habitable temperatures on the planet for plants and animals. However, excess greenhouse gas means excess heat, and a gradual rise in average global temperatures. Greenhouses gases include water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone.
As sunlight hits the Earth’s surface, some energy is reflected back out into space and some is absorbed by the atmosphere. This natural process is the greenhouse effect. The atmosphere’s capacity to absorb heat depends on how much of it is made up of ‘greenhouse’ gases. The Atmosphere is incredibly important it’s what keeps the planet at a habitable temperature.
If the proportion of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere significantly increases, the amount of heat energy retained inside the Earth’s atmosphere will increase, the system will lose balance and average temperatures will rise. That’s what has been happening, and is happening now.
Hybrid cars run on a combination of electricity and fossil fuel. They can operate on battery power in built-up areas and use their conventional engines for open-road journeys and to recharge the batteries. Hybrids are environmentally beneficial in cities because they create no local emissions.
Hydropower, hydraulic power or water power is power that is derived from the force or energy of moving water, which may be harnessed for useful purposes, such as generating electricity.
A protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, formed in 1997 with the aim of fighting global warming via legally binding agreements on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The USA has been notoriously reluctant to ratify the treaty, though many of its states have done so unilaterally.
Food that is grown locally and therefore travels fewer miles (and burns less fuel) between its production and consumption. It also as it is grown in a local area supports local economy.
Nuclear power is produced by a controlled nuclear reaction that creates heat, which is turned into electricity. Nuclear energy is carbon neutral – it does not involve the consumption of fossil fuels – but substantial concerns remain about the disposal of the highly toxic, radioactive waste arising from the reaction, as well as the global security risks of nuclear proliferation.
Organic food is produced adhering to certain organic farming standards. Organic methods include the eradication or restriction of artificial pesticides and fertilizers, genetically modified organisms. Plant growth regulators.
Recycling is the reprocessing of used materials into new products, to prevent the waste of re-useable raw materials. The most common items to recycle are paper, card, plastic, glass, aluminium, dry cell batteries, printer cartridges, clothes, electrical items, mobile phones, books etc.
Renewable energy is that which comes from endless, natural sources such as the wind, the sea and the sun. Fossil fuels, by contrast, are a finite resource.
Buying seasonal food, from crops grown in their natural season on local soil without forced cultivation, saves energy. It cuts the energy spent cultivating crops out of season using artificial lighting and heat, or transporting locally unavailable produce from abroad.
The Soil Association
The Soil Association Organic Certification symbol is the UK's largest and most recognisable trademark for organic produce. Wherever you see it, you can be sure that the food you have purchased has been produced and processed to strict animal welfare and environmental standards. Visit www.soilassociation.org for further information.
The sun’s energy can be harvested on a micro scale by using solar panels to heat water directly or convert sunlight into electricity. Energy is derived from the sun in the form of solar radiation-electromagnetic radiation emitted by the sun. Solar energy is increasingly being harnessed on a major scale in solar farms, using a variety of technologies to concentrate the heat from sunlight to drive a high-pressure steam turbine. This is a form of renewable energy.
Solar power is the conversion of sunlight to electricity. Sunlight can be converted directly into electricity using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly with concentrating solar power (CSP), which normally focuses the sun’s energy to boil water which is then used in turn to provide power.
Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS)
The Voluntary Carbon Standard aims to provide a credible but simple set of criteria that provides confidence and integrity to the voluntary carbon offset industry. Based on the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism, VCS establishes criteria for validating, measuring, and monitoring carbon offset projects. Carbon projects that produce voluntary emission reduction credits must meet minimum criteria to carry the VCS certification. Visit www.v-c-s.org for further information.
Voluntary or Verified Emission Reduction (VERs)
VERs are emission-reduction credits produced by a voluntary carbon project, as opposed to the mandatory Certified Emission Reduction credits generated signatories to the Kyoto Protocol. One VER corresponds to one tonne of CO2e emission reductions
Wind power is electricity generated by wind turbines, often built in clusters called wind farms. Power generation depend on wind conditions. Wind farms are either land-based or offshore, offshore locations generally have stronger winds, but construction and maintenance is more difficult.
A wind turbine is a rotary device that converts kinetic energy from the wind into electricity.