Explore Monmade’s glossary of terminology frequently used in our sustainablyMonmade initiative and throughout our website and product literature.

Antimicrobial coatings

An antimicrobial coating is an application of a chemical agent on a surface that can stop the growth of disease-causing micro-organisms. Antimicrobial coatings are used widely to protect surfaces and humans. Apart from increasing the surface’s durability, appearance, corrosion resistance, etc., these coatings also protect from harmful disease-causing microbes. These coatings include self-cleaning coatings and coatings with antimicrobial additives. The safety level, industry norms and the specific use of the coated object are kept in mind when choosing the most suitable antimicrobial coating. Environmental benefits could include reducing the need for harsh cleaning agents and disinfectants, lower maintenance costs, and lower infection rate in occupants in public facilities.


Artisan producer

Artisan producers include designers, artists, craftspeople, and manufacturers utilizing their own facility and/or maker space and/or third-party manufactures to create products. They use varying combinations of traditional handwork processes and advanced manufacturing. They often create products on demand and do not hold excess inventory. Monmade represents artisan producers and, depending on their methods for creating products, may refer to them in varying ways; these terms include artisan manufacturers, artists, artisans, product designers, or simply, producers.


Bio-based materials

A bio-based material is made from substances derived from living (or once-living) organisms, or occur naturally or are synthesized by natural materials. Bio-based materials are perceived as potentially greener alternatives than their petroleum-based counterparts. Examples include wood, paper, leather, and cellulose. Bio-based materials are often biodegradable, but not always.


Biodegradable materials

Biodegradable refers to the ability of materials to break down and return to nature. In order for packaging products or materials to qualify as biodegradable, they must completely break down and decompose into natural elements within a short time after disposal – typically a year or less. The ability to biodegrade within landfills helps to reduce the buildup of waste, contributing to a safer, cleaner, and healthier environment. Materials that are biodegradable include corrugated cardboard and even some plastics.



Biomass refers to organic material such as wood or crop waste that can be burned to generate thermal energy.


Carbon footprint

Carbon footprint is measuring the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities of a particular individual, organization or community. For some companies, it measures the impact of their activities that produce CO2 emissions (expressed as a weight in tons) through the burning of fossil fuels in the manufacturing process.


Carbon impact assessment

A carbon impact assessment, also known as a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions assessment, evaluates the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the manufacture of a product or any given activity that contributes to global warming.


Carbon offsets

A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide (or other greenhouse gases) made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere. Offsets are measured in tons, and one ton of carbon offset represents the reduction of one ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases. There is a voluntary market demand for carbon offset credits generated by individuals and companies who purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions to meet carbon-neutral, net-zero or other established emission reduction goals.



Co-generation is the re-use of otherwise wasted heat from another source of electricity generation and put to productive use.  It is most efficient when heat can be used on-site or very close to it.


Compostable materials

Compostable means that a product is capable of breaking down into natural elements through a biological process in a compost environment to yield CO2, water, inorganic compounds and biomass leaving no visible or toxic residue. Because it is broken down into its natural elements it causes no harm to the environment and the breakdown process usually takes about 90 days. All compostable material is biodegradable, but not all biodegradable material is compostable.



Declare, a program of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), is an ingredients label for building products paired with an online database of healthy materials for building project specifications. It allows manufacturers of ecologically sound products to demonstrate market leadership in the growing movement toward product transparency and health in the built environment and provides them an expanded point of entry into the world’s most groundbreaking sustainable building projects. All published Declare labels can be viewed on the Declare Database, which is a free tool that allows project teams to easily search for products by manufacturer, CSI division, and declaration status.



An eco-label is an information label about environmental claims made by producers and their products. Producers must go through a verification process, usually referred to as a certification to prove compliance with an industry standard and earn the right to sell their products as certified with a consumer-facing eco-label. Eco-labels are voluntary and are a form of sustainability measurement intended to help consumers make informed decisions about environmental concerns.  There are different levels of eco-label certifications. A first-party certification is a self-certification by the producer making the environmental claim. A second-party certification is made by another company/organization about a product, but the producer might be affiliated or have an involvement in the certification. The highest level of eco-label is a third-party certification done by an independent company/organization that certifies products and has no affiliation or connection to the producer receiving the certification. See Monmade’s Eco-Label Reference List for examples of eco-labels applicable to the producers and products we represent, as well as additional eco-labels commonly used by the construction and design industries.



An EcoDistrict is a community that prioritizes a holistic model of sustainable planning at the neighborhood scale. The goal of creating an EcoDistrict is to support sustainable development practices which are utilized to build on a community’s strengths, identify ways to bring opportunity for growth into the neighborhood, and prioritize equity, resiliency, and climate protection in the planning process. The EcoDistrict planning process joins resident-driven leadership with professional community designers to work as a team to create a pathway towards development that reflects community needs.


EPD – Environmental Product Declaration

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is an independently verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable information about the life-cycle environmental impact of products. The relevant standard for Environmental Product Declarations is ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 14025, where they are referred to as “type III environmental declarations”. An EPD is created by an organization to declare the environmental impact of their product and conducted by a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) practitioner.


Green cleaning

Green cleaning refers to using cleaning methods and products with environmentally friendly ingredients and procedures which are designed to protect human health and environmental quality. Green cleaning techniques and products avoid the use of products that contain toxic chemicals (some of which emit volatile organic compounds) and are usually made of natural ingredients.


Greenhouse gas emissions

The top types of greenhouse gas emissions from the building and design industry are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases (often used in heating and cooling mechanisms). The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.


HPD – Health Product Declaration

The Health Product Declaration (HPD) provides a standardized way of reporting the material contents of building products, and the health effects associated with these materials. HPD’s are used to indicate the impact on human health & safety, and indoor air quality in interior environments. They inform owners, occupants, consumers, contractors, or anyone else coming into contact with the materials, to understand the health concerns over the chemicals used in building materials. The ultimate goal of HPD is transparency and full disclosure to support innovation in healthier and safer materials by manufacturers.


Heat-island effect

Heat islands are urbanized areas that experience higher temperatures than outlying areas. Structures such as buildings, roads, and other infrastructure absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural landscapes such as forests and water bodies.


Historic district

historic district (or heritage district) is a section of a city or town that contains older buildings considered valuable for historical or architectural reasons. In some jurisdictions, historic districts receive legal protection from certain types of development considered to be inappropriate.


Indoor air quality

Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later. Indoor air pollutants can cause immediate effects, such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and aggravated or worsened asthma symptoms among asthmatics. These effects are the result of toxins found in building materials, cleaning supplies, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).



Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a green building certification program used worldwide. It was developed by the non-profit US Green Building Council (USGBC) and includes a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, interiors, and neighborhoods which aims to help building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently.


LEED-ND – LEED for Neighborhood Development

LEED for Neighborhood Development (ND) is a specialized rating system within the suite of LEED certification options that applies to new land development projects or redevelopment projects containing residential use, non-residential use, or a mix.  Neighborhoods are opportunities for urban change, innovation, and revitalization. At the neighborhood level, LEED-ND strategies will support safe affordable housing, climate protection, and improved public health.


Life-cycle analysis

Life-cycle analysis (LCA) is a method used to evaluate the environmental impact of a product through its life-cycle encompassing extraction and processing of the raw materials, manufacturing, distribution, use, recycling, and final disposal.


LMI – Low- or Moderate-Income Area

Low- or Moderate-Income Area (LMI) determination is based on the census tract income level for assigned to an area based on the tract median income of the residents in that census tract. The U.S. Census Bureau divides all United States geographies into census tracts and collects data about each individual census tract; tracts can be considered upper, middle, moderate, or low income.

A moderate-income census tract indicates that the tract median family income of the households or residents in the census tract are between 50% and 80% of the HUD area median income for the larger metropolitan statistical area (MSA) where the census tract is located.

A low-income census tract indicates that the tract median family income of the households or residents in the census tract are below 50% of the HUD area median income for the larger MSA where the census tract is located. If a census tract is not located in an official MSA and is in a rural county for example, the tract median family income is measured against the median income of all the other non-MSA counties in the state where the census tract is located.


Non-renewable resource

A non-renewable resource (also called a finite resource) is a natural resource that cannot be readily replaced by natural means at a quick enough pace to keep up with consumption. Earth minerals, metal ores, fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas), and groundwater are all considered non-renewable resources.


Pittsburgh 2030 District

The Pittsburgh 2030 District is an internationally recognized, locally driven strategic initiative of the Green Building Alliance (GBA) that supports building owners and managers as they strive toward 50% reductions in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 2030, while improving indoor air quality. The district connects property partners with community and resource partners, driving industry-leading performance through peer-to-peer learning, technical training, and data benchmarking.


Product life-cycle

A product life-cycle is the amount of time a product goes from being introduced into the market until it’s taken off the shelves. There are four stages in a product’s life cycle — introduction, growth, maturity, and decline.


Renewable energy

Renewable energy is energy that has been derived from the earth’s natural resources that are not finite or exhaustible, such as wind and sunlight. Renewable energy is an alternative to traditional energy that relies on fossil fuels, and it tends to be much less harmful to the environment.


Renewable resource

A renewable resource is a natural resource that will replenish to replace the portion depleted by usage and consumption, either through natural reproduction or other recurring processes in a finite amount of time in a human timescale. Renewable materials are those which can be manufactured or generated quickly enough to keep pace with how fast they are used up.


Recycled/reclaimed materials

Recycling or reclaiming is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products. Recycled material is the output from the recycling process that goes into a new product and measured in a percentage. Reclaimed materials are typically those that have been previously used in another product, which are then altered, adapted, or re-sized, but are not reprocessed, for a new product. Recycling or reclaiming materials for use in products reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators.



A product is recyclable if it can be broken down and reprocessed for materials. The ability to recycle a material depends on its ability to reacquire the properties it had in its virgin or original state.


Sustainable Materials

Sustainable materials include natural, bio-based, renewable, reclaimed, recycled, upcycled materials and/or content; see supporting definitions of material types referenced here.



Upcycling (see also reclaimed materials) is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. Recycling involves the destruction/reprocessing of waste in order to create something new, whereas upcycling takes waste and creates something new from it in its current state.


VOC – Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs are a large group of chemicals that are found in products we use in buildings and our homes, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.