Definitions - b

Background Extinction Rate

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Background Level

The average amount of a substance present in the environment. Originally referring to naturally occurring phenomena. Used in toxic substance monitoring.

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This is one of nature’s most sustainable resources, grown without pesticides or chemicals, 100% biodegradable and naturally regenerative. Bamboo is actually a tropical grass with an extensive root system that sends out an average of four to six new shoots per year, naturally replenishing itself and growing to heights of 60 feet or more. Some bamboo species grow up to four feet per day and can be harvested every three to four years. There are over 1,000 documented uses of bamboo, from furniture to ply boards that match the properties of conventional wood to a replacement for disposable plates and utensils.

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Barra System

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Base Load

The average amount of electric power that a utility must supply in any period.

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Basel Convention

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Baseline Emissions

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Benefical Organism

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A toxic, six-carbon aromatic component of gasoline. A known carcinogen.

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A metal hazardous to human health when inhaled as an airborne pollutant. It is discharged by machine shops, ceramic and propellant plants, and foundries.

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Betz Coefficient

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Biochar is charcoal created by pyrolysis of biomass. The resulting charcoal-like material can be used as a soil improver to create terra preta, and is a form of carbon capture and storage. Charcoal is a stable solid and rich in carbon content, and thus, can be used to lock carbon in the soil. Biochar is of increasing interest because of concerns about mitigation of global warming being caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

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Material that can be broken down into simpler substances (elements and compounds) by bacteria or other decomposers. Paper and most organic wastes such as animal manure are biodegradable.

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Biodegradable Pollutants

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Biodynamic Argiculture

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A biofuel produced by the fermentation of plants rich in sugar/starch (e.g. sugar cane, corn).

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Gas or liquid fuel made from plant material (biomass). Includes wood, wood waste, wood liquors, peat, railroad ties, wood sludge, spent sulfite liquors, agricultural waste, straw, tires, fish oils, tall oil, sludge waste, waste alcohol, municipal solid waste, landfill gases, other waste, and ethanol blended into motor gasoline.

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Biogeochemical Cycle

The biophysical environment is the symbiosis between the physical environment and the biological life forms within the environment, and includes all variables that comprise the Earth's biosphere.

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Biological Oxygen Demand

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Biological Pest Control

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Biological Treatment

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Biomass Energy

Energy produced by combusting biomass materials such as wood. The carbon dioxide emitted from burning biomass will not increase total atmospheric carbon dioxide if this consumption is done on a sustainable basis (i.e., if in a given period of time, regrowth of biomass takes up as much carbon dioxide as is released from biomass combustion). Biomass energy is often suggested as a replacement for fossil fuel combustion.

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Entire community of living organisms in a single major ecological area.

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The living and non-living components and processes of the ecosphere. Biophysical measurements of nature quantify the ecosphere in physical units such as cubic metres, kilograms or joules.

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In essence the Biosphere is all the ecosystems that exist in a planet. Including how they interact, evolve and change over time.

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Bioswales are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. They consist of a swaled drainage course with gently sloped sides (less than six percent) and filled with vegetation, compost and/or riprap. The water's flow path, along with the wide and shallow ditch, is designed to maximize the time water spends in the swale, which aids the trapping of pollutants and silt. Depending upon the geometry of land available, a bioswale may have a meandering or almost straight channel alignment. Biological factors also contribute to the breakdown of certain pollutants.

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Technology that use living organisms to produce products such as medicines, to improve plants or animals, or to produce microorganisms for bioremediation.

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Bisphenol-a (BPA) is an industrial chemical best known for making polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Found in hard plastic water bottles and baby bottles, in coatings inside metal food and drink cans, and in paints, adhesives, dental sealants, computers, and other products. BPA is an estrogen-mimicking chemical that, in tests on animals, has been shown to interfere with the reproductive system.

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Black Body

In theory, a body that absorbs and emits 100% of the electromagnetic radiation that strikes it and therefore appears black. Graphite comes close, with all but 3% absorption.

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Bladder Tank

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Bleached Board

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Bliss Point

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Blown In Insulation

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Body Burden

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Northern; cold temperate Northern Hemisphere forests that grow where there is a mean annual temperature < 0°C.

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Bottle Bank

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Box Schemes

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Brackish Water

Mixed fresh and salt water.

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Brakedrum Windmill

A home-built wind generator design by Hugh Piggott of Scotland.

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Breakpoint Chlorination

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Bright Green

Term coined by World-changing writer Alex Steffen to refer to those who believe the way to achieve sustainability is through technological innovation. As opposed to dark greens and light greens.

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Brominated Flame Retardants

Chemicals added to plastics, textiles, furniture foam and padding, and other products to prevent them from catching fire. BFRs, as they are known, are long-lived poisons that build up in fat. In animal studies, they have been linked to hormonal and neurological disorders.

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Brown Goods

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Brown Search

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A plant cultivated for its triangular grains, which are protected by a hull. This crop is generally grown without herbicides and pesticides.

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Building Envelope

The entire perimeter of a building enclosed by its roof, walls and foundation. Properly designed, the envelope can minimize temperature gain or loss and moisture infiltration.

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Building Orientation

Building Orientation refers to positioning of a property or building with respect to the Sun, usually done to maximize solar gain at the appropriate time of year when required. This is to reduce heating costs and improve quality of living in the property concerned.

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Building Paper

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Building-Related Illness

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The accidental harvest of one organism instead of another, such as crustaceans caught in shrimp trawls and dolphins trapped instead of tuna.

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