A history of green terminology

With “green” sweeping the industry, here is a short history of the words often used when discussing this topic.

Ecology: Many people believe the word ecology was invented in the 1970s at an Earth Day celebration. The word, however, was coined by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel in 1866 more than a century earlier. Derived from the Greek words oikos, meaning household, and logos, meaning knowledge, ecology refers to the scientific study of organisms and their interactions with the environment.
 
Think globally, act locally: Some trace the origin of this phrase to “health food” stores that popped up during the early 1970s. Although the phrase was conceived in 1972, it has nothing to do with natural food. It evolved from a United Nations conference on the environment held in 1972 in Stockholm, Sweden.
 
Sustainability: The term sustainability, referring to the careful use of resources today so that they will be available for future generations, was created in 1987 by the UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development. Although the word is relatively new, the concept goes back thousands of years. Many indigenous peoples shared a belief that we do not inherit the earth from our parents — but borrow it from our children.
 
Green: “The reason the word green is used to define the environmental movement is a bit muddled,” says Mike Sawchuk, vice president of Enviro-Solutions, a manufacturer of Green cleaning products. “Some believe it evolved from the German word Grün used by the German Green Party in the 1970s. One of the goals of that party was protecting the environment.”

Future green terminology: In recent years, “greenwashing” and “green gap” have entered the vocabulary. Greenwashing is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, whereas green gap refers to the corporate gap between “talking” green and actually “walking” green.

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