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Term Term description

The planet on which we live; the third planet from the sun in our solar system.

Earth's crust

The outermost layer of the Earth. The crust is divided into two types: oceanic crust and continental crust. Oceanic crust is found below the sea level and continental crust is found under land masses.

Eastern Orthodox

A Christian church founded on the teachings and life of Jesus Christ and characterized by sacramental worship, multiple traditions of spiritual practice, and organized in a loose federation of patriarchies according primacy of honor to the patriarch of Constantinople.


Changes in the shape of Earth’s orbit.


The sonar-like system used by dolphins, bats, and other animals to detect and locate objects by emitting usually high-pitched sounds that reflect off the object and return to the animal's ears or other sensory receptors.


A scientist who studies the environment and the way that plants, animals, and humans live together and affect each other.


A branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments.


A specific biological community and its interacting physical environment.

ecosystem services

Natural processes by which the environment produces services and resources such as clean water and air, crops, timber, fisheries, pollination of native and agricultural plants, oxygen production, carbon dioxide uptake, decomposition of dead matter, soil stabilization, etc.


The zone of transition that lies at the border between two ecosystems. For example, the ecotone at the border of a grassland and a forest is characterized as having vegetation found in both ecosystems, as well as a few species that thrive primarily within the ecotone.


The ratio of energy output to energy input.


A product label which identifies overall, proven environmental preference of a product or service within a specific product/service category.

El Niño-Southern Oscillation
A naturally occurring phenomenon that involves fluctuating ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. The pattern generally fluctuates between two states: warmer than normal central and eastern equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures (El Niño) and cooler than normal central and eastern equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures (La Niña).
electricity grid

An electrical grid is an interconnected network of electricity-conducting wires strung on a series of towers for delivering electricity from suppliers to consumers.

electromagnetic spectrum

The entire range of electromagnetic waves (waves that contain an electric field and a magnetic field and carry energy and travel at the speed of light) from low to high frequency.


A negatively charged subatomic particle that orbits around the nucleus of an atom.


A homogeneous chemical substance made of the same type of atoms, each of which has the same number of protons in its nucleus. Each element has particular properties, and atoms of different elements combine to form the molecules that make up and drive chemical and biological interactions.


The amount of water used in the entire process of producing, retailing, and consuming a product.


A species of plant, animal or fungi that is native to a specific region or environment and not occurring naturally anywhere else.


Smaller symbiotic partners living inside a host organism, establishing endosymbiosis.


The ability to bring about changes or to do work.

Energy Justice and Peace

A reflection of the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace" on how energy is linked to justice and peace.



enriched uranium

A type of uranium in which the percent composition of uranium-235 has been increased through the process of isotope separation. Enriched uranium is an important component of civil nuclear energy programs, and highly enriched uranium is used in nuclear weapons.


The natural world, as a whole or in a particular geographical area, especially as affected by human activity.

environmental ethic

The study and practice of actions that contribute to the well-being of the natural world and human society.

environmental justice

Sustainable treatment of the natural world and fair treatment of all human beings in acquiring the goods of the earth necessary for life.

environmental science

The study of the structures and processes of the natural world and the impact human beings have on them.

environmental sustainability

The use of natural resources without compromising the ability of the resource to remain healthy and able to support its role in ecosystem structure and function and meet the reasonable needs of future human generations.


Any of the proteins produced in living cells that act as catalysts in the metabolic processes of an organism. For example, enzymes break down the large molecules found in food into smaller molecules so they can be digested.


Erosion is the act in which soil and rock is worn away, often by water, wind, or ice. These forces carry the rocks and soil down a gravity gradient to low points in the landscape where they are ultimately deposited.


Of, relating to, or formed in an estuary.


An estuary is a body of water formed where freshwater from rivers and streams flows into the ocean, mixing with the seawater. Estuaries and the lands surrounding them are places of transition from land to sea, and from freshwater to saltwater.

ethical foundations

The theoretical positions taken on the nature and value of persons, society, and the natural world that form the basis of any moral theory.

ethical norms

Moral criteria in the form of principles, goals, and virtues used to evaluate the rightness, goodness, or virtuous quality of human action.

ethical sourcing

Conducting manufacturing business according to high standards of integrity and ethics and in compliance with local laws, regulations and industry standards, ensuring that the products being sourced are created in safe facilities by workers who are treated well and paid fair wages to work legal hours. Ethical sourcing implies that the supplier is respecting the environment during the production and manufacture of the products.


The study and practice of actions that contribute to the well-being of persons, human society, and the natural world.


An organism consisting of a cell or cells in which the genetic material is DNA in the form of chromosomes contained within a distinct nucleus. Eukaryotes include all living organisms other than the eubacteria and archaebacteria.


Any of various single-celled or multicellular organisms of the domain Eukaryota, characterized by cells that contain a distinct membrane-bound nucleus and by the occurrence of DNA transcription inside the nucleus and protein synthesis in the cytoplasm, in contrast to prokaryotes.


The process by which a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients (such as phosphate and nitrate) that stimulate the growth of algae and other aquatic plant life, usually resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen. Eutrophication can happen naturally over time, but is often acerbated by anthropogenic nutrient runoff from waste water and fertilized farm fields.


A process by which pollution from such sources as sewage effluent or leachate from fertilized fields causes a lake, pond, or fen to become overrich in organic and mineral nutrients, so that algae and cyanobacteria grow rapidly and deplete the oxygen supply.


The process through which a liquid is changed to vapor (gas phase).

evaporative cooling

Reduction in temperature resulting from the evaporation of a liquid, which removes latent heat from the surface from which evaporation takes place.


The process of transferring moisture from the earth to the atmosphere by the evaporation of water from pores, called stomata, or the leaves of the plants.


The process through which populations of organisms change in genetic characteristics over time, often resulting in adaptation to a given set of environmental conditions.


A rigid external covering for the body in some invertebrate animals, especially arthropods, providing both support and protection.


A scientific procedure undertaken to make a discovery, test a hypothesis, or demonstrate a known fact.


The act, process, or practice of experimenting.

externality costs

Factors of economic production whose costs are not reflected in the market price of goods and services.


The irreversible disappearance of a species; species have gone extinct at a relatively constant rate over geologic time. Periods of greatly accelerated extinction rates - mass extinctions - have occurred periodically throughout  the history of life on Earth due to  meteor impacts and other extreme events. The biosphere is currently experiencing a mass extinction event caused by human activity.

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