Green Technology: An A-to-Z Guide


Edited by: Dustin Mulvaney

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      About the Editors

      Green Series Editor: Paul Robbins

      Paul Robbins is a professor and the director of the University of Arizona School of Geography and Development. He earned his Ph.D. in Geography in 1996 from Clark University. He is general editor of the Encyclopedia of Environment and Society (2007) and author of several books, including Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction (2010), Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemical Make Us Who We Are (2007), and Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction (2004).

      Robbins's research centers on the relationships between individuals (homeowners, hunters, professional foresters), environmental actors (lawns, elk, mesquite trees), and the institutions that connect them. He and his students seek to explain human environmental practices and knowledge, the influence nonhumans have on human behavior and organization, and the implications these interactions hold for ecosystem health, local community, and social justice. Past projects have examined chemical use in the suburban United States, elk management in Montana, forest product collection in New England, and wolf conservation in India.

      Green Technology General Editor: Dustin Mulvaney

      Dustin Mulvaney is a Science, Technology, and Society postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. His current research focuses on the construction metrics that characterize the life-cycle impacts of emerging renewable energy technologies. He is interested in how life-cycle assessments focus on material and energy flows and exclude people from the analysis, and how these metrics are used to influence investment, policy, and social resistance. Building off his work with the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition's “just and sustainable solar industry” campaign, he is looking at how risks from the use of nanotechnology are addressed within the solar photovoltaic industry. Mulvaney also draws on his dissertation research on agricultural biotechnology governance to inform how policies to mitigate risks of genetically engineered biofuels are shaped by investors, policymakers, scientists, and social movements.

      Mulvaney holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master of Science in Environmental Policy and a Bachelor's Degree in Chemical Engineering, both from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Mulvaney's previous work experience includes time with a Fortune 500 chemical company working on sulfur dioxide emissions reduction, and with a bioremediation start-up that developed technology to clean groundwater pollutants like benzene and MTBE.


      What sets humans apart from other living organisms on our planet is the use of technology. Technology's etymology derives from the Greek root techne, which means craft or art, and the root – ology conveys a discipline or field of study. We use technology to grow and prepare food, clothe and house our families, distribute our resources through markets and other financial mechanisms, transport us across the planet and beyond, and to keep us busy and entertain us. Technology has improved the living standards and life expectancy of humans, albeit unevenly. However, technology has given humans the ability to alter and transform Earth in ways previously unimaginable. We can put humans into space, turn mountains into valleys, and transport oil from miles below the sea. Our civilization's rapacious appetite for things and energy has brought considerable disturbance to the Earth's climate and ecosystems, particularly from industrial processes and land use change for agriculture. The evolution of technology has been anything but green.

      Yet many argue that it will be green technology that saves human civilization and the planet as it replaces conventional technologies with more environmentally benign ones. As the human–environment relationship evolves, it is possible that technologies can be deployed to make that relationship more sustainable. Renewable energy promises to lessen our impacts to the extent to which it can be deployed. More efficient resource utilization through phenomena like industrial symbiosis and cradle-to-cradle design will lead to materials reuse and recovery, and will lower rates of raw material acquisition. Smart grids, for example, are designed to utilize energy more efficiently and encourage more energy conservation. It is also argued that green markets will drive change and innovation as the environmental externalities created by the economy are internalized, and as market prices reflect the environmental costs of doing business.

      This volume's articles explore subjects related to our understanding of the ways that technologies coproduce human civilization and vice versa. There are explicit definitions of particular green technologies: for example, types of solar photovoltaic cells, algae biofuels, and white roofs. But the volume also integrates concepts and frameworks for looking at the interface between technology, society, and the environment. Many of these frameworks are derived from the related fields of the history of technology, science and technology studies, and industrial ecology. These intellectual traditions have deep roots in Marxism and other classical sociological, historical, and anthropological traditions.

      Marx argued that technological development in capitalist society is exploitative and alienating. But he remained committed to the idea that working-class struggles can regain control of technological development to suit the purpose of the masses. More contemporary scholars reject the teleology of Marx, and destabilize the notion that technologies are motivated by, and behave in intended ways. Actor-network theory, for example, is a framework that emphasizes contingency and unintended consequences in technological design and deployment.

      From what green technology has to offer, it remains difficult to distinguish fact from fiction, and utopian visions from the status quo. Clean coal, for example, is cast as a green technology based on reduced carbon emissions, but how does coal impact the environment through its life cycle? To what extent does solar photovoltaic technology adoption simply let people off the hook for their energy (over)consumption? With the lower carbon emissions involved with nuclear power, does this make it a green technology? Geoengineering likewise promises to bring us out of the climate change quagmire, but could also have uncertain and possibly severe impacts. Nanotechnology might be green for one person's ecological footprint, but it might also create occupational burdens in the manufacturing phase. Which technologies have impacts that are considerable and real? Can they be designed to mitigate these impacts?

      Other green technologies are less embroiled in controversy. Green manufacturing, which embraces principles of product stewardship and ecological design, is one important development in green technology deployment. Green chemistry, which looks to substitute toxic chemicals for safer ones, also fits the green technology rubric, as does industrial symbiosis, which looks to employ principles of ecological to industrial systems. Design for recycling practices asks manufacturers to consider the end of life of their products to improve the ease of recycling and to avoid the issues associated with e-waste.

      However, truly green technology might be something more transformative. It would change our behaviors and even our needs, instead of simply trading out one technology for one with lower impacts, a notion described as ecological modernization. Taken quite literally, the notion implies that the modernization of industrial society is becoming more and more ecologically minded, even though in practice it more closely resembles technological substitution. Likewise, a truly green technology would be one that is participatory in design and implementation.

      Some argue that technologies need to be small, low impact, and decentralized to be green. E. F. Schumacher argued that “small is beautiful.” These are echoes from the appropriate technology movement that advocates decentralized solar power, rainwater harvesting systems, biogas, and Earthships. They argue that some centralized technologies like nuclear power have authoritarian tendencies.

      There are many questions regarding green technology. What does it mean? How do we assess its impacts? Who gets to define, develop, and benefit from green technology? We hope this volume helps the intrigued reader think through these questions. Answers to these questions are not entirely straightforward as technologies are entangled in politics, culture, and the economy, in addition to the biophysical systems that support human civilization. Yet embracing green technology is possible and even defensible as long as the social and environmental dimensions are carefully evaluated. But even then, technologies can have implications that are not by design.

      DustinMulvaney General Editor

      Reader's Guide

      List of Articles

      List of Contributors

      Badurek, Christopher A., Independent Scholar

      Boslaugh, Sarah, Washington University in St. Louis

      Bridgeman, Bruce, University of California, Santa Cruz

      Bumpus, Adam G., Independent Scholar

      Das, Kasturi, Research and Information System for Developing Countries

      Denault, Jean-Francois, Independent Scholar

      Dimpfl, Mike, Independent Scholar

      Elmer, Vicki, University of California, Berkeley

      Finco, Marcus Vinicius Alves, Federal University of Tocantins

      Francis, Sabil, University of Leipzig, Germany, École Normale Supérieure, Paris

      Gachechiladze-Bozhesku, Maia, Central European University, Hungary

      Gebeshuber, Ille, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

      Gibbs, Beverley J., University of Nottingham

      Gill, Gitanjali Nain, University of Delhi

      Goodier, Chris, Loughborough University

      Gordon, Richard, University of Manitoba

      Haik, Yousef, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

      Harper, Gavin D. J., Cardiff University

      Harrell, Cassandra R., Knox College

      Helfer, Jason A., Knox College

      Hosansky, David, Independent Scholar

      Hostovsky, Charles, University of Toronto

      Jarvie, Michelle Edith, Independent Scholar

      Jeon, June, Independent Scholar

      Johansson, Mikael, University of California, Santa Barbara

      Kaldis, Byron, The Hellenic Open University

      Kera, Denisa, National University of Singapore

      Khetrapal, Neha, Indian Institute of Information Technology

      Kinsella, William J., North Carolina State University

      Kte'pi, Bill, Independent Scholar

      Lanfair, Jordan K., Knox College

      Lepsoe, Stephanie, Independent Scholar

      Lin, Juintow, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

      Liu, Jingfang, University of Southern California

      Loy, Taylor, Independent Scholar

      Macqueen, Mark O., Aramis Technologies

      Maycroft, Neil, University of Lincoln

      McKenna, Russell, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

      Moran, Sharon, Independent Scholar

      Mullaney, Emma Gaalaas, Pennsylvania State University

      Nascimento, Susana, Lisbon University Institute

      Nash, Hazel, Cardiff University

      Nash, Michael A., University of Washington, Seattle

      Ogale, Swati, Independent Scholar

      Ohayon, Jennie Liss, University of California, Santa Cruz

      Panda, Sudhanshu Sekhar, Gainesville State College

      Paul, Pallab University of Denver

      Purdy, Elizabeth Rholetter, Independent Scholar

      Robinson, Robert C., University of Georgia

      Sakellariou, Nicholas, University of California, Berkeley

      Salmond, Neil, Independent Scholar

      Salsedo, Carl A., University of Connecticut

      Schroth, Stephen T., Knox College

      Smith, Dyanna Innes, Antioch University New England

      Surak, Sarah M., Virginia Tech

      Teel, Wayne, James Madison University

      Tuters, Marc, University of Amsterdam

      Tyman, Shannon, University of Washington

      Vadrevu, Krishna Prasad, University of Maryland, College Park

      Watson, Derek, Independent Scholar

      Whitt, Michael J., Knox College

      Woodworth, A. Vernon, Boston Architectural College

      Young, Cory Lynn, Ithaca College

      Zehner, Ozzie, University of California, Berkeley

      Green Technology Chronology

      c. 500,000 b.c.e.: Human beings first use fire.

      12,000–6,000 b.c.e.: During the Neolithic Revolution early humans learn to domesticate plants and animals, developing agriculture and the beginnings of settlements in the Fertile Crescent. Previously gathered plants are sowed and harvested, while wild sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle are herded instead of hunted.

      c. 6500 b.c.e.: The first known application of metal working with copper begins in the Middle East.

      4000–3000 b.c.e.: In a seemingly simultaneous innovation, fledgling civilizations in Europe and the Middle East use oxen to pull sledges and plow fields.

      3200 b.c.e.: The wheel is used in ancient Mesopotamia.

      c. 3000 b.c.e.: Mules are used as cargo animals in the Middle East, fueling the earliest long-distance trade routes.

      c. 3000 b.c.e.: Chinese, Egyptian, Phoenician, Greek, and Roman settlements use heat from the sun to dry crops and to evaporate ocean water, producing salt.

      1200 b.c.e.: Ancient Egyptians show knowledge of sailing, but ancient Phoenicians become the first to efficiently harness the power of the wind, using early sailboats to develop an extensive maritime trading empire.

      1000 b.c.e.: Egyptians use petroleum-based tar to help preserve the human body during the process of mummification.

      1000 b.c.e.: The first known consumption of fossil fuels occurs in China. Coal is unearthed, and likely used to smelt copper in rudimentary blast furnaces.

      600 b.c.e.: A rudimentary form of a magnifying glass is used to concentrate the sun's rays on a natural fuel, lighting a fire for light, warmth, and cooking.

      200 b.c.e.: Greek scientist Archimedes is said to have used the reflective properties of bronze shields to focus sunlight and set fire to Roman ships, which were besieging Syracuse. In 1973, the modern Greek Navy re-creates the legend, successfully setting fire to wooden boats 50 meters away.

      100 c.e.: The Greeks invent the waterwheel.

      100–300: Roman architects build glass or mica windows on the south-facing walls of bathhouses and other buildings to keep them warm in the winter.

      500: Roman cannon of law, the Justinian Code, establishes “sun rights” to ensure that all buildings have access to the sun's warmth.

      500–900: The first known windmills are developed in Persia; uses include pumping water and grinding grain.

      700: In Sri Lanka, the wind is used to smelt metal from rock ore.

      1088: A water-powered mechanical clock is made by Han Kung-Lien in China.

      1300s: The first horizontal axis windmills, shaped like pinwheels, appear in Western Europe.

      1306: England's King Edward I unsuccessfully tries to ban open coal fires in England, marking an early attempt at national environmental protection.

      1600s: The Dutch master drainage windmills, moving water out of lowlands to make farmland available. During the Protestant Reformation, they use windmill positions to communicate to Catholics, indicating safe places for asylum.

      1792: The first electrochemical cell is developed by Alessandro Volta.

      1810: Ned Ludd leads a group of weavers to sabotage machines that were set to take the artisan skill and labor out of making textiles, popularizing the term Luddite.

      1816: Scottish clergyman Robert Stirling receives a patent for the first heat engine using a process that improves thermal efficiency, now called the Stirling Cycle. He calls his invention the Heat Economiser.

      1833: English chemist and meteorologist Luke Howard describes the “urban heat island” effect in The Climate of London, noting that the city “partakes much of an artificial warmth, induced by its structure, by a crowded population, and the consumption of great quantities of fuel.”

      1900: Ferdinand Porsche builds the first hybrid electric car.

      1920: In response to the perceived failures of existing federal laws to deal with mining of coal and oil resources, the United States passes the Mineral Leasing Act to regulate mining on public lands. The law governs deposits of coal, oil, gas, oil shale, phosphate, potash, sodium, and sulfur.

      1947: The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is formed to coordinate industrial and commercial standards.

      1954: American photovoltaic technology makes a giant leap when scientists at Bell Labs develop the world's most efficient solar cell at 6 percent efficiency, enough power to run everyday electrical equipment.

      1969: Scottish landscape architect Ian McHarg publishes Design With Nature, a landmark work on ecological planning.

      1970: The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act establishes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

      1970: The U.S. Clean Air Act requires Best Available Control Technology to limit air pollution emissions.

      1973: Ernst Friedrich Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered criticizes the assumption that economic development requires adoption of large-scale Western technologies and a lifestyle based on acquisition of consumer goods.

      1976: The U.S. Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is passed to manage solid and hazardous waste.

      1980: The Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act is passed, enabling federal laboratories in the United States to transfer technology to industry, sparking concerns about the university-industrial complex.

      1992: U.S. President Clinton's administration develops the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program to promote energy-efficient devices.

      1993: The U.S. Green Building Council is founded as a nonprofit trade organization that promotes self-sustaining building design, construction, and operation. The council develops the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system and organizes Greenbuild, a conference promoting environmentally responsible materials and sustainable architecture techniques.

      1996: William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel develop the concept of the “ecological footprint,” which signifies all the resources used by a particular population or species in their book Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth.

      2001: The U.S. Green Building Council founds the Green Building Certification Institute to certify Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) professionals who are qualified to evaluate the sustainability of buildings.

      2002: William McDonough and Michael Braungart popularize the term “cradle to cradle,” which was introduced by Walter Stahel in the 1970s. “Cradle to cradle” refers to the principle that companies should be responsible for recycling the materials from their products after they are discarded.

      2002: The European Union introduces the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directives regulations that govern the disposal of electrical and electronic equipment, including establishment of collection centers where consumers can deposit discarded goods (rather than putting them in the trash), with the joint purposes of encouraging recycling and reducing the pollution caused by heavy metals and other hazardous materials.

      2003: Zipcars, the world's largest car-sharing program, introduces hybrids to its Seattle fleet.

      2005: The European Union Emission Trading Scheme, a carbon-trading scheme involving 25 of the then-27 European Union countries, officially begins.

      2006: The New Oxford American Dictionary selects “carbon neutral” as its word of the year. Ironically, there is no single accepted definition of the term that refers in general to the achievement of net zero greenhouse gas emissions through reducing emissions and purchasing carbon offsets: the question is the scope of the emissions included in the calculations. For instance, should a company include the emissions related to raw materials that they purchase, or is that part of someone else's business?

      2008: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs the two laws that comprise the state's landmark green chemistry initiative.

      2008: Honda offers the first fuel cell car, the FCX Clarity, for lease.

      2009: First Solar, a photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer, uses cadmium telluride thin-film technologies, and becomes the world's largest PV company based on megawatts (MW) of modules sold.

      2009: San Francisco, California, passes the most stringent recycling and composting ordinance in the United States. Several other cities have mandatory recycling but San Francisco is the first to require composting as well.

      2010: U.S. PV manufacturer Solyndra is the first PV company to secure a Department of Energy loan guarantee to develop its new CIGS (copper indium gallium diselenide) technology.

      DustinMulvaneyUniversity of California, Berkeley
    • Green Technology Glossary


      Actor-Network Theory: In social studies of science and technology, the term is used to describe an analytical approach that shows how networks of relations between material and discursive explain society.

      Air Pollution: Contaminants or substances in the air that interfere with human health or produce other harmful environmental effects.

      Alternative Energy: Usually environmentally friendly, this is energy from uncommon sources such as wind power or solar energy, not fossil fuels.

      Annual Solar Savings: The annual solar savings of a solar building is the energy savings attributable to a solar feature relative to the energy requirements of a nonsolar building.

      Appropriate Technology: A normative approach to designing and implementing technological systems, often simpler, less capital- and energy-intensive ones.


      Backflow/Back Siphonage: A reverse flow condition created by a difference in water pressures that causes water to flow back into the distribution pipes of a drinking water supply from any source other than the intended one.

      Batch Heater: This simple passive solar hot water system consists of one or more storage tanks placed in an insulated box that has a glazed side facing the sun.

      Best Available Technology: A term used to refer to the most effective measures (according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidance) for controlling small or dispersed particulates and other emissions from sources such as roadway dust, soot and ash from woodstoves, and open burning of brush, timber, grasslands, or trash.

      Biogas: A combustible gas created by anaerobic decomposition of organic material, composed primarily of methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide.

      Biomass: Any organic matter that is available on a renewable basis, including agricultural crops and agricultural wastes and residues, wood and wood wastes and residues, animal wastes, municipal wastes, and aquatic plants.


      Cadmium Telluride: A thin-film semiconductor used in photovoltaic technologies, typically paired with cadmium sulfide.

      Carbon Footprint: A popular term describing the impact a particular activity has on the environment in terms of the amount of climate-changing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases it produces. A person's carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases that his or her way of life produces overall. It is also a colloquialism for the sum total of all environmental harm an individual or group causes over their lifetime. People, families, communities, nations, companies, and other organizations all leave a carbon footprint.

      Carbon Offsets: Financial instruments, expressed in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, that represent the reduction of carbon dioxide or an equivalent greenhouse gas. Carbon offsets allow corporations and other entities to comply with caps on their emissions by purchasing offsets to bring their totals down to acceptable levels. The smaller voluntary market for carbon offsets exists for individuals and companies that purchase offsets in order to mitigate their emissions by choice. There is a great deal of controversy over the efficacy and truthfulness of the offsets market, which is new enough that, in a best-case scenario, the kinks have not yet been worked out, while in the worst, it will turn out to be a dead end in the history of environmental reform.

      Chemical Stressors: Chemicals released to the environment through industrial waste, auto emissions, pesticides, and other human activity that can cause illnesses or death in plants and animals.

      Clean Power Generator: A company or other organizational unit that produces electricity from sources that are thought to be environmentally cleaner than traditional sources. Clean or green power is usually defined as power from renewable energy such as wind, solar, and biomass energy.

      Concentrating (Solar) Collector: A solar collector that uses reflective surfaces to concentrate sunlight onto a small area, where it is absorbed and converted to heat or, in the case of solar photovoltaic (PV) devices, into electricity.

      Contingency Plan: A document setting out an organized, planned, and coordinated course of action to be followed in case of a fire, explosion, or other accident that releases toxic chemicals, hazardous waste, or radioactive materials that threaten human health or the environment.

      Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide: A thin-film semiconductor used in the photovoltaic industry, typically paired with cadmium sulfide or zinc compounds.

      Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Cell: A type of photovoltaic cell made from a single crystal or a polycrystalline slice of silicon. Crystalline silicon cells can be joined together to form a module (or panel).


      Dioxin: Any of a family of compounds known chemically as dibenzo-p-dioxins. Concerns about it arise from its potential toxicity as contaminants in commercial products. Tests on laboratory animals indicate that it is one of the more toxic anthropogenic (man-made) compounds.


      Earthship: A type of sustainable design for housing utilizing passive solar heating and recycled materials for construction found in the U.S. Southwest desert, often associated with a particular design from Taos, New Mexico.

      Energy: The capability of doing work; different forms of energy can be converted to other forms, but the total amount of energy remains the same.

      Energy Star: A joint program formed between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to identify and label high-efficiency building products.

      Epidemiology: Study of the distribution of disease or other health-related states and events in human populations, as related to age, sex, occupation, ethnicity, and economic status in order to identify and alleviate health problems and promote better health.

      Episode (Pollution): An air pollution incident in a given area caused by a concentration of atmospheric pollutants under meteorological conditions that may result in a significant increase in illnesses or deaths. May also describe water pollution events or hazardous material spills.

      Exposure: The amount of radiation or pollutant present in a given environment that represents a potential health threat to living organisms.

      Extended Producer Responsibility: A mode of product stewardship that encourages sustainable design by making manufacturers responsible for their products at the end of their useful like.


      Federal Implementation Plan: Under current U.S. law, a federally implemented plan to achieve attainment of air quality standards, used when a state is unable to develop an adequate plan.

      Finished Water: Water is “finished” when it has passed through all the processes in a water treatment plant and is ready to be delivered to consumers.

      Fluorocarbons (FCs): Organic compounds analogous to hydrocarbons in which one or more hydrogen atoms are replaced by fluorine. Originally used in the United States as a propellant for domestic aerosols, FCs are still found in coolants and some industrial processes. FCs containing chlorine are called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). They are thought to be allowing more harmful solar radiation to reach the Earth's surface by modifying the ozone layer.

      Fuel Economy Standard: The Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standard (CAFE) made effective in 1978. It enhanced the U.S. fuel conservation effort imposing a miles-per-gallon floor for motor vehicles.

      Fugitive Emissions: Emissions not caught by a capture system.


      Geothermal Energy: Any and all energy produced by the internal heat of the Earth.

      Global Warming: An increase in the near-surface temperature of the Earth. Global warming has occurred in the distant past as the result of natural influences, but the term is most often used to refer to the warming predicted to occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases. Scientists generally agree that the Earth's surface has warmed by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past 140 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently concluded that increased concentrations of greenhouse gases are causing an increase in the Earth's surface temperature, and that increased concentrations of sulfate aerosols have led to relative cooling in some regions, generally over and downwind of heavily industrialized areas.

      Greenhouse Effect: The warming of the Earth's atmosphere attributed to a buildup of carbon dioxide or other gases; some scientists think that this buildup allows the sun's rays to heat the Earth, while making the infrared radiation atmosphere opaque to infrared radiation, thereby preventing a counterbalancing loss of heat.

      Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Any emissions that are released by humans (though naturally occurring in the environment), mainly through the combustion of fossil fuels, and that have a warming potential as they persist in the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect.

      Greenwashing: A marketing ploy for businesses to jump onto the green movement bandwagon. They are not genuinely interested in sustainability, but are simply trying to improve their standing with the public by paying lip service. A company interested in “going green” for public relations reasons is greenwashing.


      Heat Absorbing Window Glass: A type of window glass that contains special tints that cause the window to absorb as much as 45 percent of incoming solar energy, to reduce heat gain in an interior space.

      HEPA: A high-efficiency particulate air filter.

      High-Level Nuclear Waste Facility: Plant designed to handle disposal of used nuclear fuel, high-level radioactive waste, and plutonium waste.

      Household Hazardous Waste: Hazardous products used and disposed of by residential as opposed to industrial consumers. Includes paints, stains, varnishes, solvents, pesticides, and other materials or products containing volatile chemicals that can catch fire, react or explode, or that are corrosive or toxic.

      Hybrid Vehicle: Vehicle that uses both a combustible form of fuel (gasoline, ethanol, etc.) and an electric motor to power it. Hybrid vehicles use less gasoline than a traditional combustion engine, and some even have an electric plug-in to charge the battery.


      Incident Command Post: A facility located at a safe distance from an emergency site where the incident commander, key staff, and technical representatives can make decisions and deploy emergency manpower and equipment.

      Insolated Solar Gain System: A type of passive solar heating system where heat is collected in one area for use in another.

      Irradiation: Exposure to radiation of wavelengths shorter than those of visible light (gamma, x-ray, or ultraviolet), for medical purposes, to sterilize milk or other foodstuffs, or to induce polymerization of monomers or vulcanization of rubber.

      ISO: The International Organization for Standardization is an international organization that coordinates industrial and commercial standards for products and practices.


      LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): An organization that has created the Green Building Rating System that encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria.

      Life-Cycle Analysis: The assessment of the environmental impacts of a product across all stages of its development, from resource extraction through production, use, and disposal.

      Lifetime Exposure: Total amount of exposure to a substance that a human would receive in a lifetime (usually assumed to be 70 years).


      Materials Recovery Facility (MRF): A facility that processes residentially collected mixed recyclables into new products available for market.

      Maximally (or Most) Exposed Individual: The person with the highest exposure in a given population.

      Megawatt: One thousand kilowatts, or 1 million watts; standard measure of electric power plant generating capacity. It is assumed that 1 MW is enough to power 700 to 1,000 homes.

      Module: The smallest self-contained, environmentally protected structure housing interconnected photovoltaic cells and providing a single DC electrical output; also called a panel.


      Net Metering: A method of crediting customers for electricity that they generate on site in excess of their purchased electricity consumption. Customers with their own generation offset the electricity they would have purchased from their utility. If such customers generate more than they use in a billing period, their electric meter turns backward to indicate their net excess generation. Depending on individual state or utility rules, the net excess generation may be credited to the customer's account (in many cases at the retail price), carried over to a future billing period, or ignored.

      Net-Zero Energy: Characteristic of a building that produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis, usually through incorporation of energy production from renewable sources such as wind or solar.

      NIMBY: An acronym for “not in my backyard” that identifies the tendency for individuals and communities to oppose the siting of noxious or hazardous materials and activities in their vicinity. It implies a limited or parochial political vision of environmental justice.

      Nuclear Reactors and Support Facilities: Uranium mills, commercial power reactors, fuel reprocessing plants, and uranium enrichment facilities.


      Panel (Solar): A term generally applied to individual solar collectors, and typically to solar photovoltaic collectors or modules.

      Persistent Toxic Chemicals, Persistent Pollutants: Detrimental materials, like Styrofoam or DDT, that remain active for a long time after their application and can be found in the environment years, and sometimes decades, after they were used.

      Photochemical Smog: Air pollution caused by chemical reactions of various pollutants emitted from different sources.

      Photovoltaic (Solar) Cell: Treated semiconductor material that converts solar irradiance to electricity. When grouped, they are called solar arrays, modules, or panels.

      Planned Obsolescence: The art of making a product break/fail after a certain amount of time: not so soon that you will blame the manufacturer, but soon enough for you to buy another one and make more profit for them.

      Point-of-Use Treatment Device: Treatment device applied to a single tap to reduce contaminants in the drinking water at the faucet.

      Pollution: 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. Under the U.S. Clean Water Act, for example, the term has been defined as the man-made or man-induced alteration of the physical, biological, chemical, and radiological integrity of water and other media.

      Pollution Prevention: Identifying areas, processes, and activities that create excessive waste products or pollutants in order to reduce or prevent them through alteration, or eliminating a process. Such activities, consistent with the U.S. Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, are conducted across all EPA programs and can involve cooperative efforts with such agencies as the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy.

      Polychlorinated Biphenyls: A group of toxic, persistent chemicals used in electrical transformers and capacitors for insulating purposes, and in gas pipeline systems as lubricant. The sale and new use of these chemicals, also known as PCBs, was banned in the United States by law in 1979.

      Postconsumer Waste: In the recycling business, material that has already been used and discarded by consumers, as opposed to manufacturing waste. Using products with “postconsumer” recycled content actually keeps waste out of landfills and incinerators, unlike “postindustrial” recycled content, most of which would get recycled anyway.

      Pyrolysis: A means of heating organic matter to decompose in the absence of oxygen. Used to make biochar.


      Radioactive Waste: Any waste that emits energy as rays, waves, streams, or energetic particles. Radioactive materials are often mixed with hazardous waste from nuclear reactors, research institutions, or hospitals.

      Refuse Reclamation: Conversion of solid waste into useful products; such as composting organic wastes to make soil conditioners, or separating aluminum and other metals for recycling.

      Reverse Osmosis: A treatment process used in water systems by adding pressure to force water through a semipermeable membrane. Reverse osmosis removes most drinking water contaminants; also used in wastewater treatment. Large-scale reverse osmosis plants are being developed.


      Science and Technology Studies: A field of inquiry that is concerned about the role of culture, politics, and society on science and technology, and vice versa.

      Semiconductor: Any material that has a limited capacity for conducting an electric current.

      Silicon: A chemical element, of atomic number 14, that is semi-metallic, and an excellent semiconductor material used in solar photovoltaic devices; commonly found in sand.

      Single-Crystal Material: In reference to solar photovoltaic devices, a material that is composed of a single crystal or a few large crystals.

      Smart Grid: An electricity generation infrastructure that utilizes information technology to improve the efficiency of the system.

      Smog: Air pollution typically associated with oxidants.

      Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES): SMES technology uses the superconducting characteristics of low-temperature materials to produce intense magnetic fields to store energy.

      Sustainability: Process designed to give support or relief to, carry, withstand, and meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future to meet its needs.


      Technology-Based Standards: Industry-specific effluent limitations applicable to direct and indirect sources developed using statutory factors, but not including water-quality effects.

      Temperature Coefficient (of a Solar Photovoltaic Cell): The amount that the voltage, current, and/or power output of a solar cell changes due to a change in the cell temperature.

      Teratogen: A substance capable of causing birth defects.

      Teratogenesis: The introduction of nonhereditary birth defects in a developing fetus by exogenous factors such as physical or chemical agents acting in the womb to interfere with normal embryonic development.

      Thermodynamic Cycle: An idealized process in which a working fluid successively changes its state (from a liquid to a gas and back to a liquid) for the purpose of producing useful work or energy, or transferring energy.

      Thermodynamics: The study of the transformation of energy from one form to another, and its practical application.

      Toxicity: The degree to which a substance or mixture of substances can harm humans or animals.

      Tracking Solar Array: A solar energy array that follows the path of the sun to maximize the solar radiation incident on the cell's surface.

      Turbine: A device for converting the flow of a fluid (air, steam, water, or hot gases) into mechanical motion.


      Unglazed Solar Collector: A solar thermal collector that has an absorber without a glazed covering, like those used to heat swimming pools.


      Variance: Government permission for a delay or exception in the application of a given law, ordinance, or regulation.

      VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): Gases emitted from liquid or solid substances that may cause short-term and long-term harmful health effects. Examples of products containing VOCs include paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions.

      Vulnerability Analysis: Assessment of elements in the community that are susceptible to damage if hazardous materials are released.


      Waste Minimization: Measures or techniques to reduce waste generated during industrial production processes; also refers to recycling and other efforts to reduce the amount of waste.

      Water Pollution: Includes chemicals and debris that render water unusable for natural habitat, human consumption, and recreation.

      Water Turbine: A turbine that uses water pressure to rotate its blades, usually for generating electricity.

      Water Wheel: A wheel that is designed to use the weight and/or force of moving water to turn it, primarily to operate machinery or grind grain.

      DustinMulvaneyUniversity of California, Berkeley
      Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (, U.S. Energy Information Administration (

      Green Technology Resource Guide


      Allen, Edward. How Buildings Work: The Natural Order of Architecture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

      Anastas, Paul and John Warner. Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

      Baker, Nick. Passive and Low Energy Building Design for Tropical Island Climates. London: Commonwealth Secretariat Publications, 1987.

      Beauchamp, T. and J. Childress, eds. Principles of Biomedical Ethics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008.

      Beck, Ulrich. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992.

      Behling, Sophia and Stefan. Sol Power: The Evolution of Solar Architecture. Munich: Prestel, 1996.

      Bell, Daniel. The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. New York: Harper Colophon, 1974.

      Berry, R. The Ethics of Genetic Engineering. London: Routledge, 2007.

      Bijker, W. E. Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs: Toward a Theory of Sociotechnical Change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995.

      Bijker, W. E., T. P. Hughes, and T. J. Pinch. The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987.

      Bijker, W. E. and J. Law. Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Socio-Technical Change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992.

      Bookchin, Murray. Post-Scarcity Anarchism. Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2004.

      Burley, J., ed. The Genetic Revolution and Human Rights. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1999.

      Burley, J. and J. Harris, eds. A Companion to Genethics. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2002.

      Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.

      Chiras, Dan. The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy: Achieving Energy Independence Through Solar, Wind, Biomass and Hydropower. Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2006.

      Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.

      Drexler, Eric K. Engines of Creation: Challenges and Choices of the Last Technological Revolution. New York: Doubleday, 1986.

      Dyson, A. and J. Harris, eds. Ethics and Biotechnology. London: Routledge, 1994.

      Ellul, Jacques. The Technological Society. New York: Vintage Books, 1964.

      Ellul, Jacques. The Technological System. New York: Continuum, 1980.

      Feenberg, Andrew. Questioning Technology. London: Routledge, 1999.

      Finegold, D., et al. Bioindustry Ethics. Oxford, UK: Elsevier, 2005.

      Fox, Michael and Miles Kemp. Interactive Architecture. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009.

      Glicksman, Leon R. and Juintow Lin. Sustainable Urban Housing in China: Principles and Case Studies for Low-Energy Design. New York: Springer, 2006.

      Glover, J. Choosing Children: Genes, Disability, and Design. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

      Glover, J. What Sort of People Should There Be? New York: Penguin, 1984.

      Goodman, Paul. New Reformation: Notes of a Neolithic Conservative. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010.

      Goodship, Vanessa, ed. Management, Recycling and Reuse of Waste Composite. Cambridge, UK: Woodhead, 2009.

      Gordijn, B. and R. Chadwick, eds. Medical Enhancement and Posthumanity. Dordrecht, Holland: Springer, 2008.

      Gordon, Richard and Joseph Seckbach, eds. The Science of Algal Fuels: Psychology, Geology, Biophotonics, Genomics and Nanotechnology. New York: Springer, 2010.

      Harris, J. Clones, Genes and Immortality. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1998.

      Harris, J. Enhancing Evolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

      Heidegger, M. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.

      Herlock, J. H. Cogeneration: Combined Heat and Power Systems: Thermodynamics and Economics. Oxford, UK: Pergamon Press, 1987.

      Herring, Horace and Steve Sorrell, eds. Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Consumption: The Rebound Effect. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

      Hodge, R. Genetic Engineering. New York: Facts on File, 2009.

      Hubbard, R. and E. Wald. Exploding the Gene Myth. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1994.

      Jenkins, Joseph. The Humanure Handbook. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 1999.

      Kitcher, P. The Lives to Come. New York: Penguin, 1997.

      Kuhse, H. and P. Singer, eds. Bioethics: An Anthology. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2006.

      Kurzweil, Raymond. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking Press, 2005.

      Lechner, Norbert. Heating, Cooling, Lighting: Sustainable Design Methods for Architects. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009.

      Lehmann, J. and S. Joseph. Biochar for Environmental Management. London: Earthscan, 2009.

      Lucena, Juan. Defending the Nation: Policymaking in Science and Engineering Education from Sputnik to the War Against Terrorism. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2005.

      Mann, Charles. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. New York: Vintage, 2006.

      Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1964.

      Mazria, Edward. The Passive Solar Energy Book. New York: Rodale Press, 1979.

      McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point Press, 2002.

      McHarg, Ian L. Design With Nature. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 1992.

      Milani, Brian. Designing the Green Economy: The Postindustrial Alternative to Corporate Globalization. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000.

      Nussbaum, M. and C. Sunstein, eds. Clones and Clones. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.

      Ramlow, Bob and Benjamin Nusz. Solar Water Heating: A Comprehensive Guide to Solar Water and Space Heating Systems. Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2006.

      Reiss, M. and R. Straughan. Improving Nature? Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

      Rogers, G. and Y. Mayhew. Thermodynamics: Work and Heat Transfer. Harlow, UK: Longman Scientific, 1996.

      Ruse, M and C. Pynes, eds. The Stem Cell Controversy. New York: Prometheus Books, 2003.

      Sandel, M. The Case Against Perfection. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

      Shapin, Steven. The Scientific Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

      Shiva, V. Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999.

      Singer, P. and H. Kuhse. Should the Baby Live? Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1985.

      Singer, P. and A. M. Viens, eds. The Cambridge Textbook of Bioethics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

      Steinbock, B. The Oxford Handbook of Bioethics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2009.

      Stitt, Fred A. Ecological Design Handbook: Sustainable Strategies for Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design, and Planning. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.

      Van Der Ryn, Sim and Stuart Cowan. Ecological Design. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2007.

      Williams, Daniel Edward. Sustainable Design: Ecology, Architecture, and Planning. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2007.

      Williams, P. Waste Treatment and Disposal. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 1998.

      Winner, Langdon. Autonomous Technology: Technics out of Control as a Theme in Political Thought. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977.

      Wisnioski, Matthew. Engineers for Change: America's Culture Wars and the Making of New Meaning in Technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.

      Yeang, Ken. Ecodesign: A Manual for Ecological Design. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008.

      Zehner, Ozzie. Coming Clean: The Dirty Truth About Clean Energy and the Real Future of Environmentalism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011.

      Zerzan, John, ed. Against Civilization: Readings and Reflections. Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2005.


      Annual Review of Energy and the Environment

      Bioresource Technology

      Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy

      Corporate Social Responsibility and Environment Management

      Developing World Bioethics

      Engineering Studies

      Environmental and Resource Economics

      Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture

      Environmental Quality Management

      Harvard Environmental Law Review

      History and Technology

      Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

      Nature Photonics

      Science, Technology and Human Value

      Social Forces

      Social Studies of Science

      Stanford Environmental Law Journal

      Technology and Culture

      Water Science and Technology: Water Supply


      Biochar Fund

      Carbon Footprint Calculator

      Carbon Tax Center


      Global Footprint Network

      Green Electronic Council

      The Greener Blog

      Greenhouse Gas Protocol

      Green Technology: Strategy and Leadership for Clean and Sustainable Communities

      The Greenwashing Index

      Industry and Technology: EU Ecolabel

      International Biochar Initiative

      Occupational Safety and Health Administration

      Scientific American: Green Technology

      United Nations Development Programme

      United Nations 2015 Millennium Development Goals

      U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

      Yale Environment 360: Opinion, Analysis, Reporting and Debate

      Green Technology Appendix

      Biofuels Digest

      This is the website published by Ascension Publishing and edited by Jim Lane that, according to the Internet analysis services Alexa and Quantcast, is the most widely read biofuels daily in the world with readers in over 200 countries. It collects information from many sources and also publishes new material by the editor with a strong emphasis on industry news. The scope is international and includes opinion pieces, columns, news, financial analysis, policy information, research, and demand-side information about consumers and fleets. There is also a data section that includes studies and reports (many from outside sources such as the General Accounting Office and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and many of which are downloadable) on topics such as the impact of biofuels on the green jobs economy and the technical feasibility of using biomass to replace 30 percent of the current U.S. petroleum consumption. There is also a jobs section and information about the stocks that make up the Biofuels Digest Index

      GreenBuilding: Improved Energy Efficiency for Non-Residential Buildings

      This is the website of the GreenBuilding Programme (GBP) begun by the European Commission in 2004 to promote voluntary and cost-effective integration of renewable energy and improved energy efficiency in nonresidential buildings in Europe. The website includes basic information about green buildings and organizes technical and policy information as well as links to relevant outside organizations in categories or “Key Messages”: sustainable summer comfort, heating, combined heat and power, solar hot water and heating, air conditioning, lighting, office equipment, and benchmarking. It also includes announcements on upcoming GreenBuilding events, contacts in different countries, a link to subscribe to the GreenBuilding quarterly newsletter, information about becoming a GreenBuilding Partner or Endorser, and an index of best practice documents related to sustainable building.

      Green Chemistry

      This is the website maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which provides basic information about green chemistry (sustainable chemistry) and EPA activities to promote green chemistry. The website also includes information about EPA programs and partnerships such as the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge competition, the Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship in Green Chemistry, the Kenneth G. Hancock memorial Award in Green Chemistry, cooperative activities with the American Chemical Society and the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute. Information about grants and fellowships in green chemistry includes the Technology for a Sustainable Environment program, the EPA's Small Business Innovation Research Program, various National Science Foundation programs, and Technology Vision 2020. One section of the website is devoted to the P2 (Pollution Prevention) Recognition Project that honors companies for developing technologies and innovative chemistry, which aids in preventing pollution, including information about past winners and their projects. The website includes brief descriptions of and links to educational materials for green chemistry produced by other organizations, including Beyond Benign (for K–12 educators), Greener Education Materials for Chemists (including lab exercises, lecture materials, and multimedia content), the Green Chemistry Education Network, and the University of Scranton.

      National Geographic Society: Energy

      This the website created by the National Geographic Society that presents information for the general reader on various topics related to the environment and energy. A particular feature of this website is the inclusion of high-quality photography and graphics, video, and/or interactive interfaces for many of the topics covered. Information is organized into general information about energy plus major sections on biofuels, fuel cells, hydropower, solar energy, wind power, and geothermal energy. Many other topics are also covered, including energy conservation, freshwater and energy, wind power, nuclear power, and greenhouse gases. A 2010 Greendex Map of the World provides interactive information on how different countries stack up on consumer behaviors, knowledge, and attitudes related to conservation. The website also includes buying guides for different types of products and features such as quizzes and calculators (for instance, to calculate your water footprint) to help users judge their own environmental knowledge and behavior.

      Renewable & Alternative Fuels

      This is the website created and maintained by the U.S. Energy Information Administration that contains basic information about renewable energy (including estimates of current use in comparison to total energy use in the United States), reports on different forms of renewable energy, and data and statistics about its use. Data is categorized as U.S. or international and is organized into categories, including total capacity, generation and consumption; biomass; geothermal; hydro; solar; wind; alternative transportation fuel and alternative fueled vehicles; and ethanol. A kids’ page offers more basic information and definitions about different types of renewable energy and how much they are used in the

      United States along with games and activities, tips for saving energy, and a teacher's section including several energy conversion calculators and a glossary of terms. Numerous reports and analyses are available on the website, and historical summary data is available going back to 1949 (in some cases) on topics such as renewable energy production and consumption by primary energy source, estimated number of alternative fuel vehicles in use, and shipments of solar thermal collectors and photovoltaic cell and module shipments.

      Society for Sustainable Mobility

      This is the website of a nonprofit organization established in 2005 that seeks to combine open design (including open source, public license technology) with sustainable technologies and sound business strategy to create a transportation alternative to conventional automobiles. Although the Society for Sustainability Mobility (SSM) engages in other sustainability activities, they are best known for developing the KernelTM Crossover, a hybrid-electric vehicle developed by an international team of engineers and that is expected to go into production in 2011. The website includes information about the open design process (analogous to open-source software, all design and test data is available for free on the Internet), general and technical data about the KernelTM Crossover (which is projected to operate at higher than 100 miles to the gallon-equivalent fuel economy and achieve a top speed of 125 miles per hour), a FAQ section about open design, electric cars, participating in the design process and SSM, and a blog that collects information about electric vehicles and other sustainability issues.

      SarahBoslaughWashington University in St. Louis
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