Skip to main content



The term abatement means to reduce.  Within the confines of sustainability it may refer to a reduction of waste, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and any other undesirable materials.

Acid Precipitation

Acid precipitation refers to any form of precipitation such as rain, hail, fog or snow that is high in acid pollutants such as sulphuric and nitric acid.

Action Plan

An action plan is a strategy consisting of one or more actions with a singular goal or series of planned outcomes. Action planning plays an important role in implementing measures to improve the environment.

Activated Sludge

Activated sludge is a wastewater treatment process in which microorganisms are used to metabolise and break down organic matter.

Active Solar

Active solar refers to technology that is used to convert sunlight energy into more useable forms such as electricity or heat.


The term adaptation refers to the slow genetic changes that occur within an organism that make it more fit for survival within its environment.  Adaptation includes changes to part or the whole of an organism, and can refer to the organism’s current state of being adapted or the evolutionary processes that lead to adaptation.

Adaptive Capacity

Adaptive capacity is the ability of a system to adapt and change in the face of large-scale environmental changes. This can be applied to both ecological systems and human social systems (society).


Affluenza is a term that combines the words affluence and influenza, and is intended to describe the social epidemic of overconsumption and wasteful practices.


The process of establishing forest where none existed previously is called afforestation.


An agrichemical is any substance used to help advance an agricultural ecosystem, or have an impact on the organisms that live on farms. Agrichemicals include the following main products:

  • Fertilisers
  • Pesticides (including: insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and nematicides)
  • Soil conditioners
  • Alkaline and acidifying agents
  • Chemicals used to treat farm animals like antibiotics and hormones.

Agrichemicals have been widely used for many years to assist with the growth of crops and farm animals for food. However, many of these chemicals cause substantial environmental and ecological damage and in some instances the long term effects are still being determined. Many agrichemicals are toxic and can pose significant environmental and/or health risks, particularly in the event of accidental spills. In many countries, the use of agrichemicals is highly regulated.

Fertilisers are substances added to agricultural land to encourage plant growth and increase crop production.  They can be chemically based (synthetic) or be made from living materials like animal manure or compost. Most fertilisers contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (in varying amounts as required by the soil type).  Globally it is estimated that about 138 million tonnes of fertilisers are used each year.

Pesticides are used to eradicate agricultural pests, any living thing that causes injury or disease to crops. Many different kinds of pesticides are used in agriculture, and they are generally categorised into groups according to the pest they are targeting:

Insecticides: are used to kill insects that eat crops or stored agricultural produce. Other pesticides target creatures like snails, slugs, rodents, and birds.
Herbicides: are used to kill weeds, or any unwanted plant that impedes the growth of crops. 
Fungicides: are used to protect plants from fungal diseases.
Nematicides: are used to kill plant-parasitic nematodes (like roundworm or threadworm).

Very large quantities of pesticides are used globally.  Approximately 2 to 3 billion kilograms of pesticides are used each year, at a total cost of about $20 billion US dollars. 

Soil conditioners
Soil conditioners are products that are added to soil, usually to increase its ability to hold water and/or oxygen. Materials like peat, manure, sewage sludge, and shredded greenwaste are the most common.

Alkaline and acidifying agents
Plants that are grown in soil that is too alkaline or too acidic cannot obtain the necessary nutrients they need to grow.  Soils that are too acidic are often treated with calcium – from limestone or crushed shells like mussel shells to reduce the acidity.  Alkaline soils are much less common, but if they are present, sulphur or acidic organic matter can be added to assist.

Agrichemicals used to treat farm animals
A large number of agrichemicals can be given to farm animals.  Antibiotics are used to control infectious diseases and parasites that often occur when animals are raised under extremely crowded conditions. Hormones are often given to animals to increase growth and productivity, such as the bovine growth hormone given to cows.



Agricultural Pollution

Agricultural pollution refers to any byproducts (living or non-living) of farming that lead to environmental degradation, damage to ecosystems, or negative impacts to human health. 

Agricultural Runoff

When byproducts of farming are introduced to waterways as part of the hydrologic (water) cycle it becomes known as agricultural runoff.


See Agrichemicals


Agroforestry is the practice of combining livestock and varied plants in order to promote diversity, increase productivity, and use resources in a more sustainable way.


Agronomy integrates many scientific disciplines to facilitate better food management practices for the agricultural industry including elements such as the nutrient content of foods, and environmental impacts of farming.

Air Contaminants

Air contaminants are any type of material in the air such as particles, liquids or gases that contain harmful chemical properties and have the potential to be harmful to human health.

Air Pollution

Air pollution refers to any material within the air column or atmosphere found in high enough concentrations to cause harm to humans or damage to ecosystems.

Algae Biodiesel

Algae biodiesel is a fossil fuel alternative energy source that relies on algae as a main component.

Algal Bloom

An algae bloom occurs when there is rapid increase in the population of typically microscopic algae. In some cases the water becomes discoloured due to the pigments within the algae.

Alternative Energy

Any substitute for fossil fuel that is intended to lessen concerns that surround the use of fossil fuels can be considered alternative energy.

Alternative Fibres

Alternative fibres are materials that can be used to replace wood products in paper production with a view to limiting agricultural waste and ecosystem damage.

Alternative Natural Materials

Any naturally occurring materials that can be used to replace traditional building materials such as metal, are alternative natural materials.  Examples include rock or adobe (clay, sand, water and organic materials), and the purpose of using them is to promote sustainability and increased efficiency.

Alternative Transportation

Alternative transportation is any method of conveyance that does not involve single occupancy modes of fossil fuel reliant travel. Such alternatives might include public transport, cycling, carpooling or walking.

Ambient Air Monitoring

Ambient air monitoring is a systematic approach to the long-term assessment of the type and amount of certain pollutants present in outdoor air.


Any impacts or effects from the human influence on nature are known as anthropogenic effects.

Appropriate Durability

Selecting materials that will last through or beyond their intended use is appropriate durability.


Aquaculture or aquafarming is the practice of raising aquatic organisms under controlled conditions.

Arctic Shrinkage

Arctic shrinkage refers to a series of climate changes including rising temperatures and melting sea ice.

Artificial Reefs

Artificial reefs are structures built by humans and strategically placed in the ocean to promote coral growth and biodiversity generally.  Other benefits include erosion control and a natural buffer against extreme storm events.

Artisan or Handmade - Self Certified – Sustainability Standard

Handmade or artisan is a sustainability standard that an trader might claim.

Handmade products range from small production home businesses to highly crafted goods like furniture or artwork and are created in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high quality componentry.

By purchasing hand made, you are supporting someone making quality items - handmade with love, creativity and uniqueness. Traders who produce or sell artisan goods honour the craftsmanship and skill that goes into making a one of a kind product.

Australian Components Self Certified - Sustainability Standard

Australian Components Self Certified is a sustainability standard that an trader might claim.

The percentage shown indicates the approximate amount of the product that is made or grown in Australia and may be anywhere from 60% to 90%. Anything that is 91% or above is claimed as Australian - Self Certified. Anything from 60% to 90% is rounded to the nearest 60, 70, 80 or 90%.


Australian Designed Self Certified – Sustainability Standard

Australian Designed Self Certified is a sustainability standard that an trader might claim. 

Australian Designed Self Certified specifically means that the business' designer is Australian, based in Australia. The product itself may or may not have been manufactured in Australia and be made of Australian components.

Australian Made or Grown Self Certified – Sustainability Standard

Australian Made or Grown Self Certified is a sustainability standard that an trader might claim.

Australian means that a trader has made at least 91% of their product in Australia or grown 100%. Australian made supports local workers and keeps profits at home.