What does it mean to be green?

Posted on Thursday Aug 17, 2017 at 04:10PM in General

     Here at Hill & Markes we are dedicated to Sustainability practices. We have our own LEED Certified building, we carry a comprehensive line of Sustainable and Compostable products, and we love going green. So now that we have gone through all the growing pains of becoming a sustainable facility, we want to pass our knowledge on to our customers. To start, we have to define what sustainability means. What do we mean when we talk about IAQ, PET, and waste?

So we've compiled a list of the need-to-know terms about sustainability. 


BAGASSE: The biomass remaining after sugar cane is crushed. This renewable material is used in the manufacture of cups, containers and other foodservice disposables, as a tree-free alternative for making paper and as fuel for sugar mills.

BIO-BASED PRODUCTS : Most cleaning products are made from fossil fuels, which are valuable but non-renewable natural resources. Alternatively, bio-based products are composed in whole or in significant part of biological products or renewable agricultural materials that can be continually produced without diminishing supply.

BIODEGRADABLE PRODUCTS: Products that are made from materials that will disintegrate over  time without adverse effects to the soil, water or atmosphere. 


CARBON FOOTPRINT: The total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses emitted over the full life cycle of a product or service. Greenhouse gasses contribute to global warming and climate change.

CARBON OFFSET: Carbon offsetting is the act of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through emissions trading. For example, a factory or production facility may not be able to reduce its own carbon footprint any further through its own actions, so it may voluntarily purchase credits for another party to offset its actions. The Kyoto Protocol has sanctioned carbon offsets. The goal of carbon offsets is to attain a carbon neutral overall effect.

CERTIFICATION: This is the process by which a third party, typically a non-profit, evaluates a product or process according to a specific standard to certify that the product or service meets certain requirements. Certifcation has become an important tool used to accelerate the adoption of Green cleaning.

COMPOSTING: The accelerated biological decomposition of organic material—such as food scraps, yard trimmings, and manure—in the presence of warmth, moisture, oxygen and/or bacteria.

CRADLE-TO-CRADLE: Cradle-to-cradle is a way of thinking about life cycles. If the grave of one  cycle can be its own cradle or the cradle of another, the life cycles are called cradle-to-cradle.

CRADLE-TO-GATE : Cradle-to-gate is the LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) of the efficiency of a product or service until it is produced or delivered. It shows the environmental performance as it is. It often is  used for environmental product declarations (EPD). 

Oxidation in Action on an Apple


DEGRADATION: The reduction of the size of the molecules of a material (such as plastic) to  particles through the action of oxidation or other specific conditions.


ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY PACKAGING: A common Green packaging term. It signifies that a company has significantly reduced the resources required to make packaging products.

ENVIRONMENTALLY PREFERABLE PURCHASING: EPP is the purchasing of products or services that reduce an organization’s negative impact on health and the environment.


GREEN: A term used interchangeably with environmentally preferable. The definition comes from Presidential Executive Order 13101, which defines Green as "products or services that reduce the health and environmental impacts compared to similar products and services used for the same purpose."

GREEN CLEANING: Cleaning that protects health without harming the environment. Green cleaning includes all products used in the cleaning process, with an overall goal of creating healthy, high-performing buildings with minimal impact on the environment.

GREENWASHING: Green advertising, labeling and other sales or promotional activities that use misleading, vague, irrelevant or unsubstantiated environmental claims to sell a product or service. Greenwashing confuses consumers and creates a serious disadvantage for companies and products trying to reduce negative health and environmental impact.

Green Seal Check out some of our great Green Seal Products!

IAQ:  Indoor Air Quality deals with the content of interior air that could affect the health and comfort of building occupants. The IAQ may be comprised of microbial contaminants, chemicals or any mass or energy stressor that can induce negative health effects


LIFE CYCLE: The comprehensive examination of a product’s environmental and economic aspects and potential impacts throughout its lifetime, including raw material extraction, transportation, manufacturing, use and disposal. 


NETGREEN: Network Services’ NetGreen program provides information and direction to customers to better enable them to take advantage of the social, environmental and economic opportunities associated with Green and sustainability.


PET (POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE): PET is not toxic and has no toxic components, though if burned it will emit CO2 and water with some carbon monoxide. It is a material currently used to manufacture soda and water bottles and is one of the most recycled plastics.

PLA (POLYLACTIC ACID): PLA is biodegradable and has good chemical resistance with low  taste and odor properties. PLA has high clarity and is thermoformed under high heat and pressure. It seals well to itself but not to other substrates. It can be used to create foodservice disposables such as cups and plates. PLA is often made from corn starch or sugar cane.

POLLUTION PREVENTION: Practices that reduce or eliminate the creation of pollutants  through either increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, energy, water or other  resources or protection of natural resources by conservation. It is preferable to prevent  pollution from happening instead of solving the problem after it has been created.

POLYSTYRENE: A material commercially manufactured from petroleum that does  not biodegrade.

POST-CONSUMER MATERIALS/WASTE: Materials or finished products that have served their intended use by a consumer and have been diverted or recovered from waste destined  for disposal.

PRE-CONSUMER MATERIALS/WASTE: Materials generated in manufacturing and converting processes such as manufacturing scrap and trimmings that are reintroduced as material used  in the manufacturing process.

PRESIDENTIAL EXECUTIVE ORDER 13101: Defines environmentally preferable products as "products or services that reduce the health and environmental impacts compared to similar products and services used for the same purpose."

At-Your-Disposal Recycling Center Check out all our recycling bins to help get you started!


RECYCLED PACKAGING (100%): Material is made completely from recycled materials. These recycled materials could be any combination of post-consumer materials and post-industrial raw materials.

RECYCLING: The series of activities including collection, separation and processing by which materials are recovered from the waste stream for use as raw materials in the manufacture of new products.

REDUCE: Using less of a product in order to lessen the impact on the environment.

RENEWABLE RESOURCE: A natural resource that can be replenished by natural means at rates comparable to its rate of consumption.

REUSE: Reusing products or byproducts from processes for the same function, a similar function or a new function.


SOURCE REDUCTION: Reducing the amount of materials entering the waste stream from a  specific source by redesigning products or patterns of production or consumption.

STEWARDSHIP: Embracing responsibility for the long-term viability of the environment.

SUSTAINABILITY: Sustainability is the capacity to maintain a certain process or state indefinitely.  As it pertains to people, sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING: Packaging that is sourced responsibly, designed to be effective and  safe throughout its life cycle and meets market criteria for performance and cost. It is made entirely  by using renewable energy and once used is recycled efficiently to provide a valuable resource for  subsequent generations.

SUSTAINABLE PROCESSES: Using resources to meet existing needs while ensuring adequate resources for later generations.


TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE: This term refers to the results of organizations along three dimensions— socially just, environmentally sound and economically profitable. Truly sustainable organizations can generate positive results along all three metrics.


VIRGIN MATERIALS: Resources extracted from nature in their raw form, such as timber  or metal ore.

VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUND (VOC): Any organic compound, such as solvents, that participates in atmospheric photochemical reactions—except those designated by the EPA  as having negligible photochemical reactivity.


WAL-MART PACKAGING SCORECARD: A measurement tool that allows suppliers to evaluate themselves/their products based upon specific metrics. Known as the 7 R’s of packaging, these  metrics include:

      Remove Packaging: Eliminate unnecessary packaging, extra boxes or layers

      Reduce Packaging:  "Right-size" packages and optimize material strength

      Reuse Packaging: Reuse pallets and reusable plastic containers (RPC)

      Renewable Packaging: Use materials made of renewable resources; select biodegradable or compostable materials

      Recyclable Packaging: Use materials made of high recycled content without compromising quality

      Revenue: Achieve all above principles at cost parity or cost savings

      Read: Get educated on sustainability and how we can all support it  

WASTE: Unwanted materials left over from a manufacturing process. Waste is also the refuse from places of human or animal habitation.

WASTE GENERATION: The weight or volume of materials and products that enter the waste stream before recycling, composting, landfilling or combustion takes place. Also can represent the amount of waste generated by a given source or category of sources.

WASTE REDUCTION: Using source reduction, recycling or composting to prevent or reduce  waste generation.

WASTE STREAM: The total flow of solid waste from homes, businesses, institutions and manufacturing plants that is recycled, burned or disposed of in landfills, or segments thereof such as the “residential waste stream” or the "recyclable waste stream."

Andrea Toole - Hill & Markes Digital Product Specialist

About the Author

Andrea Toole (most know her as Andii) is a recent transplant to Upstate New York from Colorado. Though she graduated from Colorado State University with a Business and Marketing Degree, she usually lives in spreadsheets, statistics, and code - only occasionally coming up for a breath of creative fun.

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