The Green Glossary: Sustainability Words To Help You Make Smart Choices

There's a lot of jargon regarding sustainability, so it's essential to understand eco-friendly words to make the best choices that contribute to a cleaner planet.

Words like "green" and "eco-friendly" are high on the Federal Trade Commission's no-no list, so we must be careful about how we use them. These broad and all-encompassing terms make product claims nearly impossible to substantiate.

We've created this glossary to help you understand the eco-lingo and common sustainability words used. 


Bagasse, or 'sugarcane pulp,' is a by-product of sugarcane harvesting and looks like cardboard.

It's a diverse and easily malleable plant material used to create products such as food containers. 

As a by-product, this material is sustainable and home-compostable.


A common sustainability word, 'biodegradable' describes products that can be broken down via microorganisms like bacteria. 

While microorganisms can assist in breaking down a biodegradable product, it's not always possible. 

Biodegradable plastics often still reach our oceans, and consumers aren't aware of the required timeframe or possible toxic impacts of the degradation.


Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you'll find in one area. It's the variety of animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms that make up our natural world. 

Like an intricate web, each species and organism works in ecosystems to maintain balance and support life.

Carbon Balanced Printer Slider

Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint is an individual or company's total carbon dioxide emissions — the less unnecessary carbon dioxide generated from our actions, the better.

Many brands and companies actively take measures to reduce their carbon footprint created by manufacturing.

Carbon-Balanced Print

When the CO2 created from print production is at an absolute minimum, the emissions are balanced through the carbon-balanced printer scheme.

This scheme funds the World Land Trust to protect our biologically significant and threatened rainforests.

Print on carbon-balanced paper and showcase a carbon-balanced print logo to show authenticity.

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When choosing to use carbon-balanced paper and printing, you can be confident knowing it's one of the most sustainable print solutions available.


Carbon-balancing is when an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide removal or reduction offsets the carbon dioxide emissions produced.

Carbon neutral is a registered trademark of Natural Capital Partners. Carbon-balanced paper and print is a registered trademark of World Land Trust.

Carbon Sinks

A carbon sink is any system that absorbs more carbon than it emits, such as forests, soil and oceans.


A closed-loop cycle happens when items are returned to their natural state. This system ensures that produced items will never end up in a landfill.

But isn't recycling a closed-loop system? Sadly, recycling should be, but the process is energy-intensive and only a small percentage of products are recyclable.

Brands and companies should design their products with renewable resources and compostable materials to achieve a fully circular system.


Circular Economy

A circular economy is an economic system designed to maximise the use and circulation of resources while minimising waste, pollution and the depletion of natural resources.

Products, materials and resources are used for as long as possible through reusing, repairing and recycling.


Composting is when natural products are disposed of in a way that they break down and become healthy fertiliser or new soil. Compostable items break down within months into healthy soil rich with microorganisms.

Products such as paper and food are compostable. A few examples of non-compostable products are plastics, glass and metal, which should be recycled.

In theory, packaging labelled as compostable is made from vegetable matter like potato or cornstarch, which entirely breaks down.


Conservation is the careful management and protection of natural resources, including plants, animals, habitats and ecosystems, to ensure their sustainable use and preservation for present and future generations.


Deforestation involves removing a forest or trees from the land and conversion to non-forest use. 

Deforestation can involve the conversion of forest land to farms, ranches or urban use. The most concentrated deforestation occurs in tropical rainforests.

Through carbon-balanced printing, we have enabled the WLT to protect 42 acres of threatened tropical habitats. 



Eco-friendly is a broad term for minimising environmental harm and reducing ecological impact through our actions. 

Unlike "organic," which must be approved by the USDA, eco-friendly is non-specific and often used as a greenwashing word. 

There are no requirements for having this word associated with your brand, so when you see a product claiming to be eco-friendly, it's worth researching how.


Energy efficiency refers to an item or task that uses less energy, reducing its carbon footprint.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

The FSC is an international non-profit organisation established in 1993 to promote sustainable forestry management.

The FSC sets standards on forest products to be environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable, along with certifying and labelling them as eco-friendly.


Greenwashing describes the vague terms many manufacturers and brands use to make their products appear green and sustainable.


LED stands for Light Emitting Diode.

LED lights last longer and are more energy-efficient, even though they are slightly more expensive to purchase.

Linear Economy

A linear economy refers to when resources are extracted, used to create products and then disposed of as waste after their initial use.

In a linear economy, the flow of resources follows a one-way trajectory from extraction to disposal, resulting in the depletion of finite resources and an increase in pollution and waste generation.

Net Zero 

Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

We reach net zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away. For the UK, the aim is to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.


Microplastics are the microscopic remnants of plastics that break down in our landfills and oceans.

Microplastics are a growing concern from water bottles, packaging materials, synthetic clothing and tyres.


Permaculture is an innovative framework for creating sustainable ways of living. It takes a more mindful approach to gardening, living, cooking and connection with nature and others.

Permaculture living can be done anywhere, from cities to the seaside, and can be harnessed through gardening, agriculture, and foraging.

Polylactic Acid (PLA)

PLA is a compostable plastic made from plant-based materials — most commonly cornstarch.

PLA is used to create products such as food containers, cups, trays, utensils and cutlery and can be used to produce biodegradable fabrics for clothing.

Recycled Paper

Paper that is reconstituted into paper again.

Paper is regarded as one of the world's great sustainable products, but paper choice can influence how sustainable a printing method is.

It's believed that we should only use recycled paper to be more green. The truth is virgin fibres are needed to maintain the paper cycle. The paper cycle can only be maintained with new fibres from new trees.

Recycled fibres degrade after several uses and the paper industry needs fresh fibre to keep the renewable cycle going. You can use virgin or recycled paper if the new fibres are from sustainably managed forests.


Rewilding is all about restoring wild nature. The goal of rewilding is to promote biodiversity, enhance ecosystem resilience and restore ecological balance by allowing natural processes to occur with minimal human intervention.


Being sustainable refers to practices, processes and actions that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainability encompasses environmental, social and economic dimensions, aiming to balance the needs of people and the planet to ensure long-term viability and resilience.

Triple Bottom Line

The triple bottom line aims to measure a company's financial, social and environmental performance over time.


Despite best intentions, wishcycling is when sustainably-focused consumers place questionable items in recycling bins in hopes of being recycled.

While doing so comes from good intentions, it often causes more harm than good.

World Land Trust (WLT)

World Land Trust is an international conservation charity that protects the world’s most biologically significant and threatened habitats acre by acre.

By printing with us, you’ll be supporting WLT through carbon-based printing. You'll also receive a certificate to state the amount of CO2 balanced and the area of land protected as a result of your positive action.

Zero Waste

Zero waste refers to minimising waste generation and the environmental impact of consumption by redesigning products, systems and processes.  

The aim is to emulate natural cycles, where all resources are reused, recycled or composted, eliminating the need for disposal in landfills or incinerators.

Know Who to Trust With Your Printing Requirements

Being environmentally friendly won't impact your print quality and can significantly benefit your business. 

But first, you need to know what to look out for. This checklist is the perfect companion for print buyers and marketing professionals.

We've made it easier to decide what you need from your print to ensure you make the best decision possible for the planet and your business. 

Sustainability Checklist

Explore the best of sustainable
Printing Tips

You’re probably well aware of the growing importance and demand of eco-friendly products.

Modern technology has made these kinds of items increasingly cheaper to produce and more visually appealing. They’re a great way of lowering your business’ environmental impact - but how exactly do you produce the best kind of print using these methods?

Our checklist will give you the best advice for creating an impactful sustainable print solution.