Ecomedia Letter: c

Cap and Trade

A system for regulating carbon emissions. A governing body sets a "cap", or limit, on the carbon emission a company may emit. "Trade" refers to the buying and selling of carbon "credits", for instance a company using less than their allowance can sell to a company that needs extra credits.

Captain Planet

Created in 1990, Captain Planet is a character, television show and video game developed with an idea to make environmental awareness fun. The premise is saving the environment by working together.


Common form of transportation that until recent years were unavoidable polluters. An increasingly abundant selection of new hybrid and alternative powered cars are a clear choice in the move toward sustainability.


Carbon is an element that occurs in all organic compounds. The reason it is such an environmental buzzword is that its natural cycle is being thrown out of balance due to the alarming rate at which CO2 is being released into the air by humans burning fossil fuels. This is the primary cause of another "buzzword", global warming.

Carbon Credit

A unit used to measure a permissible amount of carbon emission. One carbon credit is equal to one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2). Credits can be traded between companies. See "Cap and Trade". Carbon is poised to become one of the world's biggest commodities as governments begin implementing mandatory caps on emissions and new businesses emerge with the aim of creating credits (by planting trees, building wind farms, etc) to sell.

Carbon Cycle

The natural process by which carbon atoms circulate through the ecosystem, between organisms and the atmosphere.

Carbon Dioxide

See CO2

Carbon Emission

Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) created by the burning of fossil fuels, for instance by vehicles, airplanes and industrial production. Usually measured in metric tons.

Carbon Footprint

The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by a given person, group, building, company, country, etc. One's "footprint" refers to the impact left on the environment by their actions.

Carbon Market

The newly emerging market for the trading of carbon credits. For instance a company which has calculated its carbon footprint to be 5 tons of CO2, or 5 credits, might purchase those credits from an organization taking measures which reduce carbon, creating a balance, or offset, for their emissions.

Carbon Neutral

Being carbon neutral means either producing no carbon dioxide or "canceling" the CO2 produced, so that the net increase in CO2 to the atmosphere is zero. This is often achieved by offsetting, either with direct carbon-reducing actions or the purchase of carbon credits from an organization doing carbon-reduction activities.

Carbon Offset

Financial instruments that are measures in carbon dioxide tons equivalent. They allow for businesses, government or any organization to trade the amounts of greenhouse gases produced and amounts saved or offset. They may relate to any greenhouse gas, but are always measured in carbon dioxide equivalent. It usually works companies that produce a lot of gases buying credits from projects that try to reduce the amount of carbon releases into the atmosphere. They can be anything from keeping forests intact to generating clean energy such as through wind farms.

Carbon Sink

A large amount of stored carbon. The carbon is 'sunk' into that place and is out of the carbon cycle. The ocean and the rainforests are both large carbon sinks.

Carbon Store

A way in which carbon is essentially 'stored' and is out of the carbon cycle. Trees act as carbon stores until they are burnt or biologically decompose. Coal, oil and natural gas are all carbon stores until they are burnt and release carbon back into the atmosphere.

Carbon Tax

A tax that aims to introduce the 'polluter pays principle' and relates the cost of climate change to those releasing the most carbon. It also aims to discourage practices where large amounts of carbon dioxide is released and encourages more efficient energy, less vegetation destruction and a switch to renewable energy sources.

Carpooling & Rideshare

Sharing rides is not new to soccer moms, but think how much less traffic and fumes there would be at rush hour if half the "single" passenger cars were left in the garage. Many cities have highway lanes restricted to vehicles with 3 or more passengers to encourage this practice.

Cash For Clunkers

An American government rebate scheme for trading in old cars for rebates on new cars. The scheme ran for one summer in 2009. The aim was to get fuel inefficient and polluting cars off the road and less polluting cars on the road.


Celebrities, famous for some reason not necessarily linked to talent or merit. Being green is great for celeb PR and being trendsetters, they have a role to play in shifting attitudes.


Something that has met the requirements of a certification scheme examples include ISO 14000 for environmental management systems and ecotourism certificates.


An organization that certifies a product, service or process in some way.


Chlorofluorocarbons are chemical compounds that were commonly used in refrigeration, propellants (in many spray cans), and solvents. They deplete the ozone layer and were controlled by the International Montreal Protocol.

Chain of Custody (e.g. wood)

The tracking of a product from the very beginning (e.g. growing) through the processing of the product to the finial product. The Forest Stewardship Council does this for timber and paper products. Often would challenge even the best bureaucrats in the amount of regulations and paperwork involved.

Chemical Free

Usually refers to the absence of the addition of chemicals to a product. Although it gets a little tricky as even natural products contain chemicals, although not industrially produced.


Eat, drink, be merry! The gift giving season is a time of massive consumerism. Consider what you give and ask Father Christmas for. Try to buy sustainable gifts, give services or experiences (e.g. tickets to a show, spa packages), and something that you are sure will be used or is wanted.

City & Urban

Built up areas that are high in population density in comparison to surrounding areas. Usually defined by census or demographic statistics. Globally urban areas are growing.

Clean Air

Air without pollution of any form including particulate matter, chemical or biological matter. Air that does not adversely affect the health of humans, animals or the environment.

Clean Coal

The idea that technology can make the burning of coal an energy source without the usual pollutants. It usually relies on the pumping of carbon dioxide back underground so it doesn't enter the atmosphere.

Clean Tech

A range of technology that aims to reduce wastes and uses renewable technology to lessen environmental impacts.


A concerted effort to physically clean an area of pollution. Most well known are beach cleanups such as the International Costal Cleanup held during October annually globally, so check your area to join in.

Clear cutting

The cutting of the majority of the trees in an area, leaving the landscape drastically changed from forest to flattened exposed ground, eliminating chances of continued habitation and increasing the likelihood of erosion.

Climate Change

The altering of the earth's climate due to human influence. The burning of fossil fuels, mainly carbon dioxide which has drastically increased since the industrial revolution is the main cause. Also the release of methane from rice paddy fields, cows, and thawing of permafrost is another of the 'greenhouse gases' driving climate change.

Climate Policy

The political policy and governing laws of a government towards issues to do with climate change such as targets of greenhouse gas emissions, the sources of energy, international agreements on climate change and climate change refugees.

Climate Refugee

People forced to move from their homes and territories due to sea level rise or altering of the environment due to climate change. This is already happening in some South Pacific Islands.

Climate Talk

International talks between governments discussing how to deal with climate change.


A scandal which began in Nov 2009 in which computers were hacked and files of climate scientists were leaked. Some leaked documents were used by skeptics of climate change as evidence of skewing of data and a conspiracy to make human-caused climate change seem larger than believed to be.


Carbon dioxide, one carbon atom and 2 oxygen atoms. It is one of the inputs to photosynthesis, the main process plants use to make energy and is a bi-product of animal and human respiration. The more amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, the more energy is reflected back into the atmosphere, thus increasing the temperature of the climate globally.


A fossil fuel in the form of black rock extremely rich in carbon that was formed around 300 million years ago from compressed biological material. It is mined and burnt mostly in electric power plants, where it releases carbon dioxide as well as other pollutants.

Coal Ash

The left over waste from burning coal. It contains some dangerous chemicals that could harm life. Some of it is re-used in products such as road paving, some is sent to landfill and some is left in tailings dams (big human-made ponds on or near mine sites).

Combined Heat & Power (CHP)

A way of using heat and power of electricity generation together to make the most efficient use of the fuel source. It aims to reduce what may normally be lost. Also known as cogeneration.


The interconnection of people who depend on each other for social, economic and spiritual connections. We're all in some sort of community be it our neighbors, those in our industry or those we meet online! Becoming environmentally active in your community no matter the size is a step in the right direction.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Is a form of supporting local agriculture by the community. It can involve young people training to be farmers and often involves members of the community pre-ordering amounts of produce to receive weekly to guarantee farmers sales of produce.


Combining biodegradable components of trash such as food scraps (excluding meat), paper and garden waste so that they break down overtime. The resulting compost can be added to gardens to enrich the soil.


If you're on this website you must be on one now, although computers also exist at a huge range of scales including little ones in your handheld calculators to huge industrial servers and data processors. Computers use a lot of energy and have relatively short life spans and are generating a lot of E-waste.

Conflict-free Diamond

Diamonds that have been certified as being from a mine that respects human rights. The processes developed to regulate this by the UN is called the Kimberly Process.


The movement to keep and improve existing wild areas, specific species of plants and animals and the processes those areas may provide. For example conserving crane habitat could conserve the crane, plants and animals that live in the area and the clean river water that the area filters.


Something that is unwanted in another material. Often used to describe human-made chemicals into soil or water sources.


Cooking and food preparation is a major source of energy use and waste in the home. Check the efficiency of your appliances and how you use them and try to reduce your food waste.

Cool Roof

A roof that is physically cool will help save energy making it helpful in cooling the surrounding area and reducing climate change. Roofs should aim to reflect light back into the atmosphere. An expert in 2009 stated that having all roofs and pavements light colored would be the equivalent of taking all cars off the road for 11 years in energy saving!

Cooperative / Co-op

A way of running an organization or business for the mutual benefit of all involved. It involves democratically controlled power structures and a concern for community.

Coral Bleaching

Corals live by establishing a symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship with tiny animals called Symbiodiniums. When the relationship breaks down to these Symbiodiniums the corals lose their brilliant colors and die. This bleaching is caused by stress and changes in their environment such as differences in light, exposure to air and temperature of the water. Coral reefs are at risk of extinction due to changes in the ocean especially from climate change impacts.


The stopper in your wine or champagne bottle is a sustainable product! Cork is also used for bulletin boards and flooring. It is harvested from trees without killing the tree, and can be re-harvested about every 9 years. It is light, waterproof and can be reused.

Cottage Industry

Business and industries usually using traditional skills and craftsmanship based in homes rather than commercial or industrial premises.

Cradle to Cradle

A system of looking at products. It classifies materials according to how they are produced and can be reintroduced into nature. Then it looks at how the materials in the product can be reused or recycled again or how they can be introduced into nature.

Cradle to Grave

The concept of looking at a product through its entire life cycle and how it impacts the environment. This includes where materials come from, how the product gets manufactured, consumer use and disposal. (also see Life Cycle Analysis)

Cross Ventilation

Designing a building so that air from the outside on two sides of a room is allowed in to create airflow. The airflow should cool the room naturally and reduce the need for energy-consuming electronics such as air conditioning.


A product or process that aims to cause no animal cruelty. Cosmetics for example are sometimes tested on animals and a cruelty-free product would not be animal tested.

Cultural Impact Assessment

An assessment of what cultural impact a development or activity will have on an area. It will look at both negative and positive potential impacts and aims to consult and involve local people in the decision-making process. It incorporates traditional and modern knowledge.

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