Robert Allen

Glossary of Terms


Alpaca: A South American hoofed animal with a long, soft fleece coat. The alpaca fleece fiber is similar to wool, but is lighter in weight, silkier and warmer.

Association for Contract Textiles: A not-for-profit trade association that addresses a variety of issues related to contract fabrics. Membership includes principal members, associate members, and industry partners and individuals. Principal members are textile wholesalers directing all or the majority of their business to the contract interiors market; associate members are furniture manufacturers; and industry partners and individuals are suppliers to the principal member companies.


Bamboo: Treelike tropical and semitropical grasses with woody stems that are typically hollow. Although the process of turning bamboo into a viscose yarn requires significant chemical input, bamboo has many eco-friendly characteristics that make it a sustainable fiber. For example, bamboo has a rapid growth and harvest cycle, typically does not require fertilizers or pesticides and requires little irrigation with sufficient rainfall. Last but not least, bamboo takes in more greenhouse gases than an equivalent stand of timber trees and releases more oxygen into the atmosphere.

Biodegradable: Exhibiting the capability of being broken down (or decomposed or metabolized) by microorganisms and reduced to organic or inorganic molecules which can be further utilized by living systems. (Source: ACT*)

By-product: Anything produced in an industrial or biological process in addition to the principal product; a secondary and sometimes unexpected or unintended result. (Source: ACT*)


Certified Organic: Items that have been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations.

Closed-loop: A type of manufacturing process that utilizes a cyclical material flow in order to minimize waste. (Source: ACT*)

Compostable: Possessing the ability to break down into, or otherwise become part of, usable compost (e.g. soil-conditioning material, mulch) in a safe and timely manner. (Source: ACT*)

Cradle-to-cradle: A term used in life-cycle analysis to describe a material or product that is recycled into a new product at the end of its defined life. (Source: ACT*)


Downcycling: Recycling material in such a way that most of its basic characteristics are lost.

Dye: A liquid containing coloring matter, for imparting a particular hue to cloth, paper, etc.


Eco-Efficiency: Reducing the ecological impact of goods and services while at the same time producing and delivering desirable, competitively priced goods and service.

Ecological and Toxicological Association of Dyes and Organic Pigments Manufacturers (ETAD): Swiss-based organization formed in 1974 to represent the interests of these industries on matters relating to health and environment. ETAD is an international organisation and its currently 45 member companies are based in 16 countries worldwide. The aim of ETAD is to minimize possible negative effects on health and the environment arising from manufacture and use of synthetic organic colorants and to ensure information on the best practicable protection is provided to the purchasers of these products.

Environment: The complex of physical, chemical and biotic factors (such as climate, soil and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival. (Source: ACT*)

Environmental Management System (EMS): An industry-developed and driven management structure that prioritizes compliance with environmental policy objectives and targets effective implementation of environmentally-focused procedures; a key feature of an EMS is the preparation of documented systems, procedures and instructions to ensure effective communication and continuity of such implementation. ISO 14001 specifies the actual requirements for an EMS standard and is the most widely recognized system of this type. (Source: ACT*)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The U.S. federal agency established in July of 1970 to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment air, water, and land upon which life depends; works closely with other federal agencies, state and local governments and Indian tribes to develop and enforce regulations under existing environmental laws; provides leadership in the nation's environmental science, research, education and assessment efforts; and is responsible for researching and setting national standards for a variety of environmental programs and delegates to states and tribes; responsible for issuing permits, and monitoring and enforcing compliance. (Source: ACT*)


Fabric content: The type of yarns/fibers used in the fabric.

Finishing: A coating application to a fabric which can improve its appearance or provide a protection.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): An international organization, the FSC brings groups together to find solutions which promote responsible management of the world’s forests. The standards set forth by the FSC represent the world’s strongest system for guiding forest management towards sustainable outcomes.


Global Organic Textile Standard: Requirements set to ensure the organic status of textiles. This includes harvesting of raw materials, environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, and labeling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.

Green: An adjective used to describe something that is perceived to be beneficial to the environment. (Source: ACT*)

Green buildings: Buildings that use healthier, less polluting and more resource efficient practices.

GREENGUARD™: A third-party product certification program based on proven emissions standards that provides specifying and procurement professionals with a resource for low-emitting products.

Greenhouse gas (GHG): Certain gases (including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone and several classes of halogenated carbons that contain fluorine, chlorine and bromine) that allow solar radiation to reach Earth's surface and become absorbed, yet trap thermal radiation leaving the earth's surface. Outgoing thermal radiation absorbed by these gases heats the atmosphere. The atmosphere then emits thermal radiation both outward into space and downward to Earth, further warming the surface. (Source: ACT*)


Heavy metal: Any metallic chemical element that has a relatively high density and is toxic at low concentrations. (Examples are mercury, cadmium, arsnic, chromium, thallium and lead). Semi-metallic elements (such as antimony, arsnic, selenium and tellurium) are often included in this classification. (Source: ACT*)

Hemp: A tall, coarse plant that is cultivated in many parts of the world, hemp is the source of a strong and sustainable fiber. Little or no pesticides are used in the farming of hemp, and the hemp plant replenishes soil with nutrients and nitrogen.


Indoor air pollution: Chemical, physical or biological contaminants in indoor air. (Source: ACT*)

Ingeo™: A registered trademark owned by Cargill Dow LLC. (Source: ACT*)

International Standards Organization (ISO): A non-governmental organization located in Geneva, Switzerland, chartered to develop voluntary technical standards that aim to make the development, manufacture and supply of goods and services safer, cleaner and more efficient. (Source: ACT*)

ISO 9000: A group of ISO standards and guidelines that relate to quality management systems. Currently includes three quality standards: ISO 9001: 2000 establishes requirements; ISO 9000: 2000 and ISO 9004: 2000 establish guidelines. All of these are process standards, not product standards. Compliance results in ISO 9000 Certification. (Source: ACT*)

ISO 14000: A group of ISO standards and guidelines that address environmental issues. Includes standards for Environmental Management Systems (EMS) (ISO 14001), environmental and EMS auditing, environmental labeling, performance evaluation and life-cycle assessment. Compliance results in ISO 14000 Certification. (Source: ACT*)


Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™): A point-based rating system developed by The U.S. Green Building Council Rating System for Sustainable Development (USGBC) to assess new and existing commercial buildings for a variety of earth-friendly features. (Source: ACT*)


McDonough Braungart Design Certification: Provides a company with a means to tangibly and credibly measure achievement in environmentally-intelligent design. The certification requires using environmentally safe and healthy materials; design for material reutilization, such as recycling or composting; the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency; efficient use of water, and maximum water quality associated with production; and instituting strategies for social responsibility.

Mohair: A wool-like fiber that is produced from the fleece of Angora goats. Goats can be sheared once or twice a year for their mohair. Mohair, both durable and resilient, is one of the oldest textile fibers in use. It is often used in fiber blends because it is known for its high luster and sheen and takes dye exceptionally well.


Nonrenewable energy: An energy source, such as oil or natural gas, or a natural resource, such as a metallic ore, that cannot be replenished or replaced after it has been used. (Source: ACT*)


Oeko-Tex: A European standard for the impact of textiles on human ecology and the environment. (Source: ACT*)

Organic: Pertaining to, involving, or grown with fertilizers or pesticides of animal or vegetable origin, as distinguished from manufactured chemicals

Organic Cotton: Traditional cotton production uses more chemicals per unit than any other crop. Organic cotton reduces this chemical use because it is grown without pesticides or chemical additives to fertilizer, relying instead on methods with less ecological impact.

Organic Hemp: Hemp grown without pesticides or chemical additives to fertilizer, relying instead on methods with less ecological impact. Hemp replenishes soil with nutrients and nitrogen which also makes it an eco-friendly fiber.

Organic Linen: A natural fiber made from the flax plant and grown without pesticides or herbicides. Organic linen is one of the most ecological of natural fibers as no irrigation is necessary, the flax plant purifies the soil, and is biodegradable and recyclable.

Ozone: A bluish gas that is harmful to breathe. Nearly 90% of the Earth's ozone is in the stratosphere and is referred to as the ozone layer. Ozone absorbs a band of ultraviolet radiation called UVB that is particularly harmful to living organisms. The ozone layer prevents most UVB from reaching the ground. (Source: ACT*)


Petroleum byproducts: Products produced during the petroleum process in addition to the petroleum.

Pigment: A substance that imparts black or white or a color to other materials.

Polylactic acid (PLA): A biodegradable thermoplastic derived from the lactic acid in corn; resembles clear polystyrene. PLA can be used in a number of industrial products including textiles. (Source: ACT*)

Plastic: Any of various organic compounds produced by polymerization, capable of being molded, extruded, cast into various shapes and films or drawn into filaments used as textile fibers. (Source: ACT*)

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET): A thermoplastic material that is clear, tough and has good gas and moisture barrier properties. Used in soft drink bottles and other blow molded containers, although sheet applications are increasing. Cleaned, recycled PET flakes and pellets are used in some spinning fiber for carpet yarns, fiberfill and geo-textiles. Other applications include strapping, molding compounds and both food and non-food containers. (Source: ACT*)

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): Synthetic thermoplastic polymer made from vinyl chloride. In addition to its stable physical properties, PVC has excellent transparency, chemical resistance, long-term stability, good weatherability, flow characteristics and stable electrical properties. However, its stability makes it nearly environmentally indestructible. PVC also releases hydrochloric acid and other toxic compounds when produced, used or burned. (Source: ACT*)

Post-consumer: An adjective used to describe all or part of a consumer product that has reached the end of its useful life in that form. (Source: ACT*)

Post-consumer material: A material or finished product that has served its intended use and has been discarded for disposal or recovery, having completed its life as a consumer item. (pages 14-15). (Source: ACT*)

Post-consumer recycling: The recycling of materials generated from residential and consumer waste for use in new or similar purposes, such as converting wastepaper from offices into corrugated boxes or soda bottles into polyester fiber. (Source: ACT*)

Post-industrial material: Recovered industrial and manufacturing materials that are diverted from municipal solid waste for the purpose of collection, recycling and disposition. Post-industrial materials are part of the broader category of recovered materials and include print overruns, over issue publications and obsolete inventories. (Source: ACT*)


Recycled Cotton: Cotton fabric which has been made from recovered cotton that would otherwise be cast off during the spinning, weaving or cutting process.

Recycled Polyester: Yarns made from post-consumer and post-industrial polyester waste. Post consumer polyester is made from waste left over once a product has been used by a consumer. Post industrial polyester is from waste generated by an industrial process before the polyester has been used by a consumer. Recycled polyester lessens our dependence on oil, reduces waste and produces less pollution.

Recycled product: A product made in whole or part from material recovered from the waste stream. (pages 14-15). (Source: ACT*)

Recycled Silk: Silk yarn/fabric waste from industrial weaving mills.

Recycling: The series of activities, including collection, separation and processing, by which products or other materials are recovered from the solid waste stream. The products are then used in the form of raw materials in the manufacture of new products, other than fuel for producing heat or power by combustion. (pages 14-15). (Source: ACT*)

Renewable: Capable of being replaced by natural ecological cycles or sound management practices. (Source: ACT*)

Renewable energy: Energy derived from sources that do not become depleted such as the sun, wind, oceans, rivers, eligible biomass and heat from the earth's interior. (Source: ACT*)

Reusable: Capable of being used again after salvaging or special treatment or processing. (Source: ACT*)


Solid waste: Non-liquid, non-soluble materials from sources ranging from municipal garbage to industrial wastes that may contain complex and hazardous substances. Solid wastes also include sewage sludge, agricultural refuse, demolition wastes and mining residues. Technically, solid waste also refers to liquids and gases in containers. (Source: ACT*)

Sustainable: Of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. (Source: ACT*)

Sustainable product: A product that has no negative impact on natural ecosystems or resources. (Source: ACT*)

Sustainable manufacturing: Manufacturing processes that have no negative impact on natural ecosystems or resources. (Source: ACT*)

Sustainability: The characteristic of a product, material or process to be sustainable. (Source: ACT*)

Synthetic Backing: Fabric backing not made from natural (animal, plant) materials.


U.S. Green Building Council: A coalition of representatives from the building industry that promotes buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and are healthful places to live and work. (Source: ACT*)


Volatile Organic Compound (VOC): Any compound that contains carbon and becomes a gas at room temperature. VOC emissions are regulated because they contribute to smog formation. The most common sources of VOC emissions are from storage and use of liquid and gaseous fuels, the storage and use of solvents and the combustion of fuels and can include housekeeping and maintenance products and building and furnishing materials. In sufficient quantities VOC emissions can cause eye, nose, and throat irritations, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, memory impairment; some are known animal carcinogens; some are suspected or known human carcinogens. (Source: ACT*)


Waste prevention: Any change in the design, manufacturing, purchase or use of materials or products (including packaging) to reduce their amount or toxicity before they are discarded. Waste prevention also refers to the reuse of products or materials. (pages 14-15). (Source: ACT*)

Waste reduction: Preventing or decreasing the amount of waste being generated through waste prevention, recycling or purchasing recycled and environmentally preferable products. (pages 14-15). (Source: ACT*)

Wool: The fine, soft, curly hair that forms the fleece of sheep and certain other animals, wool is characterized by minute, overlapping surface scales that give it its felting property. Wool is a renewable resource.


*ACT = Association of Contract Textiles