Green Glossary - W

Glossary Index


Green Glossary - W
1. Unwanted materials left over from a manufacturing process. 2. Refuse from places of human or animal habitation.
Waste Coal
The low-energy-value discards of the coal mining industry. Waste coal is called "culm" in the eastern Pennsylvania anthracite coal region and "gob" or "boney" in the bitiminous coal mining regions (western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and elsewhere). Waste coal piles accumulated mostly between 1900 and 1970. The piles look like hills or small mountains that are dark and barren. Hundreds of millions of tons of waste coal and rock litter the landscape in mining states. Waste coal piles leach iron, manganese and aluminum pollution into waterways and cause acid drainage that kills neighboring streams. These piles sometimes even catch fire, releasing toxic pollution into the air.
Waste Load Allocation
The maximum load of pollutants each discharger of waste is allowed to release into a particular waterway. Discharge limits are usually required for each specific water quality criterion that is being violated, or that is expected to be violated. The terms also applies to a portion of a stream's total assimilative capacity assigned to an individual discharge.
Waste Minimization
Measures or techniques that reduce the amount of wastes generated during industrial production processes; term is also applied to recycling and other efforts to reduce the amount of waste going into the waste stream.
Waste Recycling
A method of recovering waste to use them as resource materials. It involves the reuse of wastes or the collection and treatment of a waste product for use as a replacement of all or part of the raw material in the manufacturing process. Waste recycling lessens new products and consumables that need to be produced, contributing to source reduction and reducing energy consumption.
Waste Reduction
Waste Stream
Waste Treatment
Subjecting waste substances to physical, chemical, biological or thermal processes at a location off the facility site prior to final disposal. Treatment is done in order to make sure waste has minimal or zero impact to the environment. In many countries waste treatment is required by law.
Waste Wood
A term used, particularly in the UK, to describe wood refuse that typically comes from packaging, construction and demolition. Domestic or household waste wood usually comes from old furniture, do-it-yourself construction and discarded wood materials from home renovations. Waste wood comprises a big chunk of annual waste. But instead of being disposed-of in landfills, they can now be used as a source of biomass energy.
Waste-to-Energy Facility/Municipal-Waste Combustor
Water Cycle
Involves the circulation, recycling and conservation of the earth's water which is crucial to sustaining all forms of life in the planet. The total amount of water in the earth does not change. It does however, change itself in form -- from solid ice, liquid or gas vapor -- to replenish water resources in the course of the water cycle, also known as hydrologic cycle.
Water Filter
Water filters remove contaminants from untreated water through the use of a granular bed of sand or other suitable media that retains the contaminants while permitting the water to pass through. Modern water filters typically use several stages of carbon and multimedia filters to ensure the removal of all pollutants. The first filtration stage will remove the most concentrated chemicals, like chlorine, while subsequent stages will remove smaller and more evasive chemicals, like pesticides.
Water Filtration
A type of physical process used to remove impurities from water to make it suitable for consumption. Most raw water is filtered for drinking, but filtration may also be needed so that the raw water can be used for medical, chemical and industrial purposes.
Water Pollution
The contamination of water with chemicals or other foreign substances that can harm the health of humans, animals and plants. Water pollutants include fertilizers and pesticides from agricultural runoff, sewage and food waste, lead, mercury and other metals, industrial discharge of chemical waste and leaks from hazardous waste sites.
Water Softener
Water softeners remove calcium and magnesium from hard water by replacing the calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions. Because sodium does not separate and scale on pipes or react badly with soap, both problems of hard water are solved. From a health perspective, calcium and magnesium are better and healthier for our body systems than sodium. Water filters will generally solve the same problems as water softeners, without adding sodium to the water.
Water Solubility
The maximum concentration of a chemical compound which can result when it is dissolved in water. If a substance is water soluble, it can very readily disperse through the environment. This is why the water solubility of pollutants, contaminants and chemicals determines how damaging it can be to a natural water area.
Water Table
The level of ground water or the upper surface of the zone of saturation of groundwater above an impermeable layer of soil or rock (through which water cannot move) as in an unconfined aquifer. This level can be very near the surface of the ground or far below it.
A region or area over which water flows into a lake, reservoir, stream, or river. Ecologists define it as "an area of land that drains water, sediment, and dissolved materials to a common outlet." It is essentially a water course that inextricably links living things within a wide geographical area. For this reason, the state of a watershed becomes a crucial environmental issue. A watershed provides water for drinking, recreation, and agriculture, and is a rich source of biological diversity that includes habitat for many threatened and endangered species--such as salmon and trout.
Wave Dragon
An ocean wave energy-harnessing technology currently being used in Denmark. The Wave Dragon machine is a floating, slack-moored energy converter that can be deployed in a single unit or in arrays of Wave Dragon units resulting in a power plant with a capacity comparable to traditional fossil fuel based power plants. Technology such as Wave Dragon offers clean, renewable energy with less environmental impact than conventional power plants.
Wave Energy
Power derived from forces produced by ocean waves. Waves are caused by the wind blowing over the surface of the ocean. In many parts of the world, the wind blows with enough consistency and force to provide continuous waves. Wave power devices can extract energy from the surface motion of these waves as well as from pressure fluctuations below their surface. Wave energy technology is still undergoing further development, but estimates see potential world-wide electricity contribution to reach between 10 to 15 percent of yearly demand. Wave energy could play a major part in efforts to combat climate change, displacing 1 – 2 billion tons of carbon emissions per year from conventional fossil fuel sources.
Action of the wind, waves, and water on a substance, such as rock, frost or even oil, that leads to disintegration or deterioration of the substance. Weathering is a natural process that impacts soil, rock formations and ice. In the event of oil spills, weathering contributes to disintegrating crude oil that has been accidentally spilled.
Any unwanted plant that is considered a nuisance, unsightly, or limits the growth of other plants by blocking light or using up nutrients from the soil. Weeds are a particular nuisance in farm and garden environments.
Wet Mill
An ethanol production facility in which the corn is first steeped in water before processing. In addition to ethanol for fuel, wet mills have the ability to create co-products such as industrial starch, food starch, high fructose corn syrup, gluten feed and corn oils.
Rich land habitats saturated by surface or ground water, often abundant in plant and animal life. Marshes or swamps, shallow lakes, coasts, estuaries and flood plains are examples of wetland habitats. These ecosystems are crucial for millions of migratory birds, fish, amphibians, insects, plants and trees. In every country and climatic zone, from the polar regions to the tropics, wetlands provide the basis for human survival and development. Despite their value to the earth's environmental health, wetlands are the most highly threatened ecosystems on the planet.
White Roofs
Also known as "cool roofs," white roofs are painted in a light color in order to reflect the sun's rays and help keep buildings cooler when the weather is hot. Not all white roofs are actually pure white, but the color must meet a certain reflective index. Some environmentalists believe that bigger clusters of white roof buildings can contribute to lowering urban heat.
Natural land habitat that remains in basically undisturbed condition, with very few to hardly any trace of human activities. Wilderness areas can be found in protected areas, preserves, estates, national parks and in some urban areas--along rivers, gulches or undeveloped land. Wilderness areas are vital for the survival of animals, biodiversity, conservation, ecology, as well as human recreation.
Wildlife Refuge
Undisturbed habitat set aside to protect certain species of fish or wildlife. In the US, a wildlife refuge is administered at the federal level by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Ideally, the wilderness area must be large enough to sustain its plant and animal population to provide a complete, uncompromised ecosystem.  Examples of wildlife refuges include the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Wind Farm
A cluster of wind turbines used to harness power for producing electricity. Individual wind turbines are interconnected in a medium voltage power harnessing system, whose electrical current is boosted using a transformer. A wind farm may use between a few dozen to several hundred wind turbines and cover hundreds of square miles of land. Parts of the land can be used for agriculture. Wind farms do not consume fuel and do not emit pollution.
Wind Turbine
A wind turbine is a device that converts the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical energy that can be used to drive equipment such as pumps. The addition of a generator allows the wind’s kinetic energy to be converted into electricity.
Windrow Composting
Windrow composting spreads organic materials into long, semi-circle shaped piles which are mechanically turned using heavy equipment to maintain even decomposition. Piles generally range from 4-8 feet in height and 14-16 feet in length. The relative simplicity of windrow composting makes it ideal for processing high volumes of materials, particularly yard trimmings, on larger tracts of land. However, onsite leachate must be carefully managed, as well as blowing debris and odor.
World Commission on Protected Areas or WCPA
A global network of scientists and experts on habitat protection administered by the IUCN Program on Protected Areas. The WCPA is comprised of over 1,400 members from 140 countries. They help governments and institutions plan protected areas and integrate them into all sectors. The WCPA provides strategic advice to policy makers to strengthen support and investment in protected areas which include national parks.
World Health Organization or WHO
The United Nations organization responsible for global health matters, leading health research agenda, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends. The WHO plays a role in identifying and addressing environmental health threats such as those posed by pollution, chemicals and pandemics.
World Heritage Site
An area that is recognized for its natural or cultural significance in the international community. World heritage sites are under the responsibility of The World Heritage Convention founded by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972. A country nominates a site to the convention and a decision wether or not to include it in the world heritage list is made by an international 21-member committee. Since 2005, 788 sites have made it to the list.
World Wildlife Fund or WWF
One of the world's leading conservation organizations, the WWF network spans 100 countries, supported by more than 6 million members worldwide. Using a science-based approach, WWF proclaims to preserve the global environment by: "protecting natural areas and wild populations of plants and animals, including endangered species; promoting sustainable approaches to the use of renewable natural resources; and promoting more efficient use of resources and energy and the maximum reduction of pollution."
Worm Bin
Like a compost bin, a worm bin is used as a repository for food scraps and other organic waste materials to be converted into organic fertilizer. As the name implies, a worm bin uses live worms to digest organic wastes in a process known as vermicomposting. Worm bins contain certain types of worm species in order to break down the waste material into organic soil conditioners.