Sustainability Glossary

Biodiversity

Every living thing that makes up an ecosystem, including plants, bacteria, animals, and humans. Each member of the community provides its own unique benefit to the health of the ecosystem.

“In nature, nothing exists alone.” - Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Carbon Neutral

The point where an entity is offsetting all the carbon and greenhouse gases it is producing by both reducing its direct emissions and offsetting the resulting emissions.


Carbon Offsets

Investments in carbon sinks or technology that reduces potential carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. Examples of carbon offsets are sustainable forestry, landfill gas capture, methane capture, and regenerative agriculture.


Carbon Sinks

An ecosystem that absorbs more carbon or other greenhouse gases than it releases, such as healthy forests, the ocean, and thoughtfully managed soil systems.


Circularity

A concept that waste can be designed out and goods can instead be cycled back into the economy.

“Circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.” - Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Code of Conduct

Fair working guidelines that are agreed upon by a company and its suppliers, enforced by the supplier, and verified by third-party audits. It defines standards for fair, safe and healthy working conditions and environments.


Conservation

Tending to protect a system’s functionality for future use. It’s about looking beyond immediate needs and ensuring the well-being of future generations.

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” - Edward Abbey, The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West

Continuous Improvement

The idea that there is no final solution to the issues we face and that companies can always take steps to improve how they treat the people and planet.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” - Lao Tzu

Due Diligence

Measures taken by a company to ensure that every supplier meets certain quality, environmental and social standards. The due diligence process helps avoid and address any potential negative impacts in the supply chain and requires clear communications between suppliers and companies.


Ecological Footprint

A measurement of a community’s impact on nature. This measurement includes everything from water consumption to carbon to deforestation. It is a crucial metric to truly understand and mitigate the overconsumption of precious natural resources.


Ecosystem

A region where a biological community and its physical environment work together to create a living system. Each part of an ecosystem is reliant on the other parts to sustain it.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” - John Muir

Greenwashing

Through marketing misinformation or deliberate falsification of facts, greenwashing is when a company isn’t practicing sustainability, but pretending it is. Ironically, many companies spend more money marketing sustainability than actually investing in sustainable practices. Greenwashing is not only disingenuous, it is also illegal per the Fair Trade Commission’s Green Guide.


Lifecycle

A series of stages that something passes through during its time as a functional being starting from the raw materials it is made from. A cotton dress’s life, for example, begins as a cottonseed and ends when its last user disposes of it.


Living Wage

Compensation that covers all essentials for a worker and their family to live a decent life as well as extra for unforeseen expenses.


Organic

In agriculture, organic refers to production methods that improve soil fertility and biological diversity and do not include artificial agents. In post-farm clothing production, organic means processes that do not include substances that are toxic or detrimental to ecosystems.

“The health of soil, plant, animal, and man is one and indivisible.” - Albert Howard, the father of organic farming

Recycle

To turn waste or other byproducts into another product, often through energy and chemical processes that reduce the functionality of the raw material in the original item. Recycling increases the lifecycle of raw materials for usually one or two more uses.


Regenerative

Tending to reinvigorate a system by expanding, improving and supporting its health and productivity. A regenerative practice touches upon every part of the farming process, and supports not just a healthy earth, but a healthy farming community as well. Where organic means, simply, to not add toxic elements to the environment, regenerative farming goes even further - instead of not causing harm, you are actively healing.


Sustainable

Tending to maintain the current, natural state of a system.


Transparency

The act of being open and honest about the processes and people involved in making a product. This includes everything from workers’ wages to the chemicals used to dye fabric. Transparency is the basis of creating communication between all people and processes involved in the lifecycle of a dress.


Traceability

The extent to which a product’s lifecycle can be tracked, such as where the raw materials came from and what factories or studios were involved in producing it.


Upcycle

To turn waste or other byproducts into new goods, thus increasing both the functionality and lifecycle of the raw materials used in the original product.

“If products were well designed in the first place, it could become a nutrient in the biosphere… instead of contaminating the biosphere and entire ecosystem [as waste]” - William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Upcycle: beyond sustainability - designing for abundance

Workers’ Rights

According to the International Labor Organization, “all workers have the right to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labor, the abolition of child labor and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.” As Aldo Leopold said,

“We can only be ethical to something we can see, feel, love and otherwise have faith in.”