Sustainability Terms Glossary for Beginners

“Let’s circle back.”

“We need to dive deeper on this issue."

“Where can we find synergies?”

“Let’s book a call to discuss how we can get the ball rolling on the discussion about potentially making this idea a possibility, at some point in the future.” 


Much like learning corporate-speak, there are a lot of sustainability terms out there. 

Sustainability and climate change are in the atmosphere (pun intended 🌱). But what do terms like “climate change” and “fossil fuels” really mean?

Once you understand the lingo, you can put action in place today to become more sustainable tomorrow.

So today, we’re coming to you with sustainability 101: the terms you need to build a kinder, greener tomorrow. 


Carbon Footprint

Your carbon footprint is the total of the carbon dioxide emissions from daily activities that require fossil fuels, including driving a car, eating, taking a plane, turning on a light, and more. 

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, our climate warms as more of it is added to the atmosphere. 

According to the UCAR (the center for science education), each person produces about 16 tons of carbon dioxide annually, in the US.


Carbon Neutral

Carbon Neutral is a term used to describe the state of a company, service, or product where the carbon emissions needed to create that entity are balanced out by funding an equivalent amount of renewable energy.


Carbon Offset Credits

Carbon offset credits is a term often used in conjunction with carbon neutrality as carbon offset credits neutralize the environmental impact of the production of products. Carbon offset projects, funded by carbon credits, include reforestation and alternative energy. 

We’re proud to partner with GreenPrint and IMPACT COLLECTIVE to be a carbon neutral company. Learn more about our partnership here. 


Carbon Sequestered 

Carbon sequestration is when plants and or soil capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Essentially, we need trees to trap and store CO2 from the atmosphere to mitigate climate change.

More trees = more carbon sequestered = positive impact on climate change.

As of June 2021, Natreve has offset 2,145 metric tons of CO2. To learn more about what that means (and what that looks like!) check out this blog


Circular Economy 

A circular economy is a closed-loop system that involves sharing and circulating resources. Think of it as the hand-me-downs that came from your cousins to your older siblings, then to you, then were cut up and used as cleaning rags around your house. The item was used for many purposes, for as long as possible.  This is compared to a linear economy where an item is used and discarded, becoming waste instead of reused, repurposed, or recycled. 


Climate Change 

Raising the Earth's average temperature is what we know as global warming or climate change. These are shifts that happen over time and are both natural and human-led. The use of fossil fuels that produce heat-trapping gasses is one of the main human-led contributions to climate change. 


Fossil Fuels 

Sorry, Dr. Ross Geller, but we’re not talking dinosaurs here. Fossil fuels include coal, petroleum, and natural gas and produce energy. Commonly used to fuel cars and make many commonly used items like some clothing and beauty products. 


Global Warming

Global warming is a rise in the Earth's average temperature. Also known as climate change. 


Greenhouse Gas 

Greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide are the main cause of climate change.

If you’ve ever walked into a greenhouse on a sunny day or sat in a sunroom too long, you have experienced, first hand, what’s meant by “greenhouse gas.”

Greenhouse gasses absorb and radiate heat. Gasses like oxygen and nitrogen make up most of our atmosphere, but our atmosphere also contains greenhouse gasses, like carbon dioxide.



Greenwashing is providing misleading information making a brand, company, product, or item sound more environmentally sound than it is.  The use of the term “clean” or “green” comes to mind. Like a game of telephone where the message gets diluted, confused, or downright incorrect, greenwashing is essentially taking liberties with language. 


Natural Resources

Resources that exist without any action or input from humans, such as trees and water, are known as natural resources.  



A package is “recyclable” when the materials can be processed by the proper facility and used again for something new.  The downside of recyclable packaging is recycling programs and availability vary widely. So while something is recyclable in theory, it may not get recycled in practice. Knowing where to recycle and what you can recycle can be confusing. To learn more about recycling, check out this blog



“The future of humanity and indeed, all life on earth, now depends on us.”


Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the future. The concept of sustainability is based on three pillars:


And in case you need more terms to add to your corporate-speak library, sustainability pillars are also known as the following, which you will often see your favorite organizations mention on their website or in their corporate sustainability statement. This is also known as the “triple bottom line” (count that as one more to add to your corporate vocabulary list). 


What is a sustainability term you know now that you didn’t know before? Or is there one you would add to the list? 


Let us know by sending us a DM on Instagram or a message on Facebook. We’d love to hear from you.