Definitions - s

Sanitary Landfill

A solid waste disposal area that protects the environment from leachate.

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Any organism, esp a fungus or bacterium, that lives and feeds on dead organic matter.

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A land which is without trees but with much grass either tall or short (such as the African savannah).

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Savonius Rotor

A type of vertical axis wind turbine that uses half-drum shaped blades to catch the wind and turn a shaft. These generally produce high torque but at low speed, so good for water pumping but they are occasionally used for producing electricity.

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Scientific Method

The principles and empirical processes of discovery and demonstration considered characteristic of or necessary for scientific investigation, generally involving the observation of phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis concerning the phenomena, experimentation to demonstrate the truth or falseness of the hypothesis, and a conclusion that validates or modifies the hypothesis.

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An air pollution device that uses a spray of water or reactant or a dry process to trap pollutants in emissions.

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Sea Breeze

Local coastal wind that blows from the ocean to land. Sea breezes usually occur during the day because the heating differences of land and sea cause pressure differences. Cooler heavier air from the sea moves in to replace rising warm air on the coastline. See land breeze.

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Second Order Consumer

A Second Order Consumer is a consumer in a food chain that consumes the First Order Consumers. They in turn can be consumed by a Third Order Consumer and so on.

In our ecology a second order consumer would be birds, small mammals, and small or medium sized fish.

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Sedimentation Tanks

Wastewater tanks in which floating wastes are skimmed off and settled solids are removed for disposal.

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Septic Tank

Underground tank for treatment of wastewater from a home in rural and suburban areas. Bacteria in the tank decompose organic wastes and the sludge settles to the bottom of the tank. The effluent flows out of the tank into the ground through a field of drainpipes.

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The proportion of sunlight energy that a photovoltaic cell converts to electrical energy.

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Settled Science

Settled Science is a phrase often encountered in newspapers and press reports, usually associated with climate change articles and reports. Settled Science is used to indicate that the science of climate change is 'settled' and therefore further discussion on the point is pointless as the underlying science is so strong as to not require any more discussion.

The real problem is that proper science is never 'settled' rather it moves and advances as new findings are made, even when what was effected was considered solid fact (like the Earth being flat and the center of the universe). Therefore to say any science is settled is a gross misrepresentation of the process, rather the results of current science can be said to at best to be in 'general agreement' for a theory or law that has been around for many years (i.e. it has survived many competing theories or ideas). In this regard, given the relative infancy of climate science compared to the other science fields, it is hard to say anything is in long term general agreement; rather there are several competing theories or mind sets in play that come and go as more research is done.

Also science itself progresses on the basis of theories being present, examined, reproduced and either shown to be true (findings are consistent) or false (unable to reproduce findings). The process itself never settles; rather on the basis of reproducible evidence different theories progress or decline over time. Therefore if a scientific point is not up for discussion as it is considered settled, take this as in indication the point itself could be either be weakly proven or ill defined; good science welcomes well formed debate and independent examination.

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Shale Gas

Carbon Pollution refers to the human produce Co2 that is meant to be harming the environment.

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Shale Oil

Oil obtained from bituminous shale, most often by a technique called fracking.

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Sick Building Syndrome

Building whose occupants experience acute health and/or comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent therein, but where no specific illness or cause can be identified. Complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may spread throughout the building.

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Slow Food

Slow Food describes a movement created “to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world,” as defined on the movement’s website. More broadly, it places an emphasis on local and seasonal produce and an adherence to regional cultures. Its goals also include lobbying against the use of pesticides and genetic engineering of food.

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Sea Level Pressure.

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Smart Eco

Smart Eco refers to the usage of computerization and ecologically focused system design to create locally controlled environments that have a reduced impact on the global environment. Examples of this include: computer controlled irrigation systems that monitor weather conditions to minimize water usage; consumer appliances that are aware of power availability and adjust accordingly, and environmental controls that use passive design techniques to maintain a stable temperature.

This is also a variation of Ecosmart.

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Smart Eco Homes

A smart eco home is one which is designed to minimize its environmental impact through its lifetime. This includes the process of building and material selection. 

Such smart eco homes also have a low ongoing energy requirement for heating and cooling due to the usage of energy efficient design techniques such as Passive Solar. The 'smart' part comes from combining this with controlled technical components of the building, such as a solar panels, solar hot water heating and controlled operation of services in the house to reduce energy consumption whilst maintaining a comfortable living environment.

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Smart Grid

Smart grid is an umbrella term to describe new energy grid technologies that provide utilities, grid operators, and energy consumers with real time information on energy use and the ability to automatically manage energy supply and demand.

For example, advanced smart grids allow energy firms to reduce demand on the grid by automatically turning off non-essential appliances, such as washing machines or electric car rechargers, during periods of peak demand.

The technology also provides energy users with real time information on how much power being used at a given time, and enables grid operators to more easily draw on energy from micro-generation technologies, such as solar panels or small wind turbines.

Also known as the "energy internet", smart grids are regarded as essential to improving energy efficiency and supporting the roll out of electric cars and micro-generation technologies.

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Smart Meter

A smart meter is a form of electricity consumption meter that is able to measure your electricity usage in multiple time bands and is computer based. Also they will usually support 'feed in' measurement of locally generated electricity back into the electrical supply grid; i.e. any spare electricity generated by solar panels.

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Air pollution typically associated with oxidants.

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Sodium Lauryl Sulphate

Used widely as a major ingredient in cosmetics, skin care products, toothpaste, shampoos and other foaming products. Industrial uses of SLS include garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers and car wash soaps. SLS is also used in testing-labs as the standard skin irritant to compare the healing properties of other ingredients.

According to the American College of Toxicology, both SLS and SLES can cause malformation in children's eyes. Other research has indicated SLS may be damaging to the immune system and may cause potentially carcinogenic nitrates and dioxins to form in the bottles of shampoos and cleansers by reacting with commonly used ingredients found in many products. Also, large amounts of these nitrates may enter the blood system from just one shampooing. Studies have indicated that SLS easily penetrates through the skin and enters and maintains residual levels in the heart, the liver, the lungs and the brain.

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Sodium Perborate

Sodium perborate is a white odorless crystalline compound soluble in water. Its chemical formula is NaBO3.

It is an important ingredient of many laundry detergent powders, laundry bleach additive products and automatic machine dishwash powders. Sodium perborate is also used as a tooth whitener in toothpastes, as an antiseptic, as a deodorant, and as a reactive agent (reagent) in industral processes.

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Soil Erodibility

An indicator of a soil's susceptibility to raindrop impact, runoff, and other erosive processes.

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Solar Chimney

A solar chimney — often referred to as a thermal chimney — is a way of improving the natural ventilation of buildings by using convection of air heated by passive solar energy. A simple description of a solar chimney is that of a vertical shaft utilizing solar energy to enhance the natural stack ventilation through a building.

In its simplest form, the solar chimney consists of a black-painted chimney. During the day solar energy heats the chimney and the air within it, creating an updraft of air in the chimney. The suction created at the chimney's base can be used to ventilate and cool the building below.

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Solar Constant

The average amount of solar radiation that reaches the earth's upper atmosphere on a surface perpendicular to the sun's rays; equal to 1353 Watts per square meter or 492 Btu per square foot.

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Solar Conversion

A Solar Conversation is basically the act of fitting Solar system to a property to utilize the Sun directly, such as fittings Solar Panels and Solar water heating. In addition this could cover fitting indirect solar systems, such as roof space heat recovery systems.

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Solar Cooling

The use of solar thermal energy or solar electricity to power a cooling appliance. Photovoltaic systems can power evaporative coolers ("swamp" coolers), heat-pumps, and air conditioners.

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Solar Energy

Electromagnetic energy transmitted from the sun (solar radiation). The amount that reaches the earth is equal to one billionth of total solar energy generated, or the equivalent of about 420 trillion kilowatt-hours.

Solar energy is the major driver of Earth's environment. About one 1kw per hour per meter square makes it way to the ground. Changes in solar energy over extended periods contributes to environmental shifts (Ice Ages).

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Solar Gain

Solar gain (known also as solar heat gain or passive solar gain) refers to the temperature increase in a space, object, or structure caused by solar radiation. The amount of solar gain increases with the strength of the Sun, and with the ability of any intervening material to transmit or resist the radiation.

Objects struck by Sunlight absorb the short-wave radiation from the light and re-radiate the heat at longer infrared wavelengths. Where there is a material or substance between the Sun and the objects struck that is more transparent to the shorter wavelengths than the longer, then when the Sun is shining the net result is an increase in temperature - hence solar gain.

Solar gain is also a problem for Solar Panels, as when they increase in temperature they progressively lose their ability to convert solar light into electrical power. So Solar Panels need to be kept cool to operate at peak performance.

Wikipedia Entry

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Solar Grove

A solar grove is basically a set of solar panel arrays  so installed as to allow the ground under them to be used as shade. For instance with an open car park this allows electricity to be generated whilst keeping the cars below cool, so saving on air conditioning costs for each car.

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Solar Home

A solar home refers to a house that has been designed specially to benefit from passive solar design principals; i.e. using the Sun to provide heat in winter, whilst avoiding it heating up the house excessively in Summer.

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Solar Hot Water

This refers to the act of using solar energy to heat water. Usually by means of putting a solar panel on a roof through which runs the water to be heated, which is then fed in a circuit to some form of insulated water storage for later use.

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Solar Hot Water System

A solar hot water system consists of a collector, heat transfer circuit and hot water storage system. These can either be combined into one system or into 3 separate components depending on your exact needs. There are many different commercial suppliers.

See Solar Water heating, how it works and the options available article for more information.

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Solar Orientation

Solar Orientation refers to the solar alignment of a structure. Usually this used as one measure to determine the structures ability to harness solar energy. Most often used with respect to solar panels or buildings.

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Solar Panel

Electrical device consisting of a large array of connected solar cells.

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Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar Panel Efficiency is a percentage measure of how Solar Energy from the Sun hitting a solar panel is ideally converted into useful electrical power. This is often given assuming perfect conditions; i.e. no shade, maximum sun and cool. In practice the actual rate of conversion can be somewhat different due to:

  • Shading - even partial shading can have a dramatic effect on the energy produced.
  • Heat - the hotter a solar panel becomes the less efficient it is at converting solar energy into electrical energy.
  • Sun Strength - akin to shading, but if the Sun is behind clouds or low in the sky you will get dramatically less power.

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Solar Power

Solar Power refers to the act of using the Sun's energy to produce a power source, usually in the form of electricity. This is usually done using solar panels, although it can also be done using a solar mirror/concentrator to heat water to steam to power a turbine.

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Solar Power Generation

Solar Power Generation is the act of using a system that is powered by the Sun to produce typically electrical power.

Most often this is achieved using Solar Panels to generate the electrical energy required directly. 

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Solar Power System

A solar power system is one which is primarily powered by solar energy.

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Solar Powered

Describes an object which is either solely or completely powered from the Sun. It may require direct Sun light to work or stores the solar energy in a battery to use later, such as solar powered garden lights.

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Solar Resource

The amount of solar insolation a site receives, usually measured in kWh/m2/day, which is equivalent to the number of peak sun hours.

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Solar Roof Tiles

A Solar Roof Tile is a roof tile engineered to function as a roof tile and also as a solar panel at the same time. This way the 'look' of the roof is not adversely impacted by a separate set of solar panels and existing roofing structures can be used to support the new tiles.

The downside with such an approach is that you have no ability to adjust the solar alignment of the tiles to better harness the Sun. 

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Solar Shades

Solar Shades are movable semi-transparent coverings to windows that block out most of the Sun without obstructing the view. They have several benefits:

  • Reduced solar gain within a room, making it easier to keep at a comfortable temperature;
  • Reduction in light glare
  • Privacy - as often those outside cannot see in through the shade.
Shades can either be movable (like a roller blind) or fixed.

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Solar Thermal Collector

A device designed to receive solar radiation and convert it into thermal energy. Normally, a solar thermal collector includes a frame, glazing, and an absorber, together with the appropriate insulation. The heat collected by the solar thermal collector may be used immediately or stored for later use.

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Solar Water Pump

A Solar Water Pump is a water pump which is solely powered by Solar Panels, so as a result only runs during the day. This typically used for raising water into a holding tank to then allow water to distributed by gravity as needed, such as water from a well or river.

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Solvent Extraction

A method of separation used to purify vegetable oils.

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Source Reduction

Refers to products that result in a net reduction in the generation of waste compared to their previous or alternate version and includes durable, reusable and re-manufactured products; products with no, or reduced, toxic constituents; and products marketed with no, or reduced packaging.

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Special Waste

Items such as household hazardous waste, bulky wastes (refrigerators, pieces of furniture, etc.) tires, and used oil.

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Dirt or rock removed from its original location, destroying the composition of the soil in the process; as in strip-mining, dredging, or construction.

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Sea Surface Temperature

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Stack Effect

Flow of air resulting from warm air rising, creating a positive pressure area at the top of a building and negative pressure area at the bottom. This effect can overpower the mechanical system and disrupt building ventilation and air circulation.

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Stand-alone System

Energy generated by a stand-alone system is stored in batteries and then subsequently used. Also known as “off-grid,” these systems are not connected to the utility grid.

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The removal or destruction of all microorganisms, including pathogenic and other bacteria, vegetative forms, and spores.

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Storage Density

The capacity of a battery, in amp-hours, compared to its weight or volume. Measured in watt-hours per kilogram or watt-hours per litre.

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Second layer of the atmosphere, extending from about 19 to 48 kilometers (12 to 30 miles) above the earth's surface. It contains small amounts of gaseous ozone (O3), which filters out about 99 percent of the incoming harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Most commercial airline flights operate at a cruising
altitude in the lower stratosphere.

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The volume of water that moves over a designated point over a fixed period of time.

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Strip Mining

Cutting deep trenches to remove minerals such as coal and phosphate found near the earth's surface in flat or rolling terrain.

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Minimum food and shelter necessary to support life.

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Area on the surface of the earth between tropic and temperate regions, approximately between 40 degrees N. and S.

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Sugar Addiction

Sugar addiction begins when you crave anything that contains this sweet ingredient. Eating sugar triggers production of natural opioids in your brain; such hormones aid in relieving the pain and are triggered in the same way one would consume illegal drugs, leading to a form of 'high'.

According to researchers, the tongue has two sweet receptors, which evolved during early times, when our ancestors ate a low-sugar diet (sugar was hard to obtain, so when it was found as a concentrated energy source you were 'rewarded'). Today, we still have the same tonues, we have not adapted to the presence of many sweet treats. This is why when the receptors in your tongue are highly stimulated, it results in your brain sending out excessive reward signals whenever you eat something with sugar in it, which end up overriding your self-control mechanisms. This leads to addiction

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Sulfate Aerosols

Particulate matter that consists of compounds of sulfur formed by the interaction of sulfur dioxide and sulfur trioxide with other compounds in the atmosphere. Sulfate aerosols are injected into the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels and the eruption of volcanoes like Mt. Pinatubo. Recent theory suggests that sulfate aerosols may lower the Earth's temperature by reflecting away solar radiation (negative radiative forcing). General Circulation Models which incorporate the effects of sulfate aerosols more accurately predict global temperature variations.

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Sulfur Cycle

Cyclic movement of sulfur in different chemical forms from the environment, to organisms, and then back to the environment.

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Sulfur Dioxide

A compound composed of one sulfur and two oxygen molecules. Sulfur dioxide emitted into the atmosphere through natural and anthropogenic processes is changed in a complex series of chemical reactions in the atmosphere to sulfate aerosols. These aerosols are believed to result in negative radiative forcing (i.e., tending to cool the Earth's surface) and do result in acid deposition (e.g., acid rain).

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Sun Orientation

Sun Orientation refers to the alignment of a building or structure with respect to the transit of the Sun across the sky. The orientation determines which walls or windows receive light during the day. This is an important factor in passive solar building design.

You can read more about passive solar and Sun orientation in this article .

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Super Grid

Super Grid is a term referring to continent-wide energy grids that link far flung renewable energy sources with population centers.

Proposals for a European Super Grid, for example, would see solar farms in North Africa, wind farms in the North Sea and Russia, hydro electric facilities in Scandinavia, and geothermal power plants in Iceland all transmit energy to Europe.

Supporters of the proposals argue that spreading the energy grid across such a wide area and sourcing energy from a variety of different renewable sources would overcome concerns over reliability that can undermine efforts to increase renewable energy capacity.

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Insulating a building to minimize the amount of heat that can escape from (or, in a hot climate, enter) a building.

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One of the new generation of glazing technologies, superwindows are double or triple-glazed window sandwiches which contain a center sheet of coated mylar "low-emissivity' film and are filled with argon or krypton gas. This construction and the coatings on the film allows short-wave radiation (visible light) to pass through, but reflects long-wavelength radiation (infrared or heat) so heat can- not pass through. R-values of 4.5 or more are achieved.

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Sustainable Architecture

A general term that describes environmentally-conscious design techniques in the field of architecture. Sustainable architecture is framed by the larger discussion of sustainability and the pressing economic and political issues of our world. In the broad context, sustainable architecture seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings by enhancing efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy, and development space. Most simply, the idea of sustainability, or ecological design, is to ensure that our actions and decisions today do not inhibit the opportunities of future generations.

This term can be used to describe an energy and ecologically conscious approach to the design of the built environment.

Wikipedia Entry

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Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is the act of development (as in industrial development, be it farming, manufacturing, commerce, etc) performed in such a way it is:

  • Green,
  • Clean,
  • Sustainable, and,
  • Balanced
What this means is that man is seen as an integral part of the environment and ecology of the world, and therefore has just as much right as anything else to interaction with and utilization of the environment. Although, through our intelligence and science we can choose to interact in a way which creates net gains for all parties - including the environment.

Core to this is recognition of the whole chain of cause and effect, it is not good enough to clean up one sector of the environment by ignoring another; for instance buying none renewable solar panels made in China (one of the most polluted countries globally) to make yourself more locally 'Green'  is not globally a net gain to the environment.

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Sustainable Energy

Sustainable energy refers to energy sources which are in themselves sustainable; e.g. they are not considered finite.

Typically these consist of: Hydro, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and tidal.

Note: it is important when considering the technologies that utilize sustainable energy sources that the total lifetime cost is fully considered (e.g. from manufacturer, deployment, ongoing maintenance, to final disposal). Although the energy source many not be finite, the lifetime of operation of the technology to access them is finite and this should be considered. Basically there is no point in picking a sustainable energy source using a technology which requires constant maintenance or replacement, there is no net benefit to the environment or the consumer of the energy (higher costs and less reliable).

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Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism is where the operator and resort or service provider have made steps to ensure the act of tourism has minimal impact on the local environment and society.

This is often a bit of mixed blessing as sustainable tourism and 'eco tourism' has often been applied to businesses which are not really all that eco at the end of day. So therefore do make the effort to double check all claims and validate any recommendations.

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Sustainable Yield

The amount of a naturally self-reproducing community, such as trees or fish, that can be harvested without diminishing the ability of the community to sustain itself.

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A swale is a low tract of land, especially one that is moist or marshy. The term can refer to a natural landscape feature or a human-created one. Artificial swales are often designed to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration.

See Wikipedia entry

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Synthetic crude oil made from coal of from oil shale.

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Synthetic gas or synthetic oil. Fuel that is artificially made as contrasted to that which is found in nature. Synthetic gas made from coal is considered to be more economical and easier to produce than synthetic oil. When natural gas supplies in the earth are being depleted, it is expected that synthetic gas will be able to be used widely as a substitute fuel.

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Synthetic gas make from coal.

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Systemic Pesticide

A chemical absorbed by an organism that interacts with the organism and makes the organism toxic to pests.

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Click on a letter to see all the terms and definitions that begin with that letter.

A free Android app containing all these definitions is now available, called the Green Dictionary. Click here to see the entry on the Android market; or click here if on an Android phone.