National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

A federal law enacted in 1969 requiring review for any “major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment…” (link to NEPA Statute).  Environmental review under NEPA can be triggered by major policy changes, public or private projects funded by, and private projects permitted by a federal agency.  NEPA also created the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which creates minimum standards... Read More

Cap and Trade

Cap and Trade is a market based policy tool, which sets a cap on the amount of emissions from a group of sources with the end goal of reducing the overall pollution in a nation, region, or industry. The intention is to incentivize a reduction in emissions and penalize those who don’t comply. Participants in Cap and Trade receive allowances and can design their own compliance strategy giving them flexibility to sell and purchase emissions,... Read More

Benefit Corporation / B Corporation

A type of corporation designed to be “purpose-driven” and operated in the interests not only of shareholders, but of their workers, their communities, and their environment.  It provides a new type of corporate structure with the objective of allowing companies to work towards societal goals, along with increasing shareholder value, without opening themselves up to traditional “breach of fiduciary duty” lawsuits from... Read More

Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer

The protocol was signed in Montreal, Canada, in 1987, as an adjunct to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer.  The protocol has been ratified by all nations recognized by the UN, as a commitment to eliminate products containing halogenated hydrocarbons which are believed to be responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer.  Read More

Social Justice

Social justice is an interactive process, not an outcome, in which members of a community seek: fair (re)distribution of resources opportunities and responsibilities challenge the roots of oppression and injustice empower all people to exercise self-determination and realize their full potential and build social solidarity and community capacity for collaborative action (School of Social Welfare, University of California, 2011). It is based off... Read More

Sustainability Champion

An individual who seeks to lead change in an organization to transform that organization into a smarter, more successful, and more sustainable enterprise.  This individual may exist at any level within an organization and in any type of organization, from the Chief Executive Officer to administrative assistant, from Mayor to city staffer, from university president to student leader. The term was coined by Bob Willard, author of The Sustainability... Read More

Earth Overshoot Day

Earth Overshoot Day is the day each calendar year when the human demand, the natural resources we consume and the carbon dioxide emissions we create, exceeds the planet’s ability to regenerate those resources and reabsorb the carbon emissions generated during the same calendar year. Our first Overshoot Day occurred in the 1970’s and the date has come earlier and earlier each year.  Earth Overshoot Day for 2010 was August 21st.  It is calculated... Read More

The Kaya Identity

Developed by Yoichi Kaya, an engineer at Tokyo University, and a team of carbon experts, the Kaya Identity is an equation for computing the total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions caused by humans or a specific country. The formula determines the total CO2 emissions by calculating the product of population, GDP per capita, energy use per unit of GDP, and carbon emissions per unit of energy consumed: Carbon Dioxide Emissions = population* per capita... Read More

Food System

The food system includes all processes involved in providing for human caloric and nutritional needs: growing, harvesting, processing (or transforming or changing), packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming, and disposing of food and food packages. It also includes the inputs needed and outputs generated at each step. The food system operates within and is influenced by social, political, economic and natural environments. Each step is... Read More

Genuine Progress Indicator

The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) is a measure of economic progress that takes into account whether a countries economic growth has resulted in the improvement of well being and quality of life for the people living there. The more commonly known and widely used economic progress indicator is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which only takes into account the total value of goods and services exchanged, and does not distinguish between less... Read More