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Expert Sustainable Glossary : Must Know Sustainability Terms

Welcome to the Sylven New York Eco-Glossary!

Did you know that the term "sustainability" isn't universally defined? So it's no wonder talking about sustainable practices can get so confusing.

Whether you're a wiz with vocabulary, or just starting on your eco-conscious journey, we've started a glossary of terms to help clarify a variety of terms. This is a living, breathing document, so if you see something you think could use some modifications, or want to add an additional term to the list, please contact us directly at founders@sylvennewyork.com.

Written with LEED Accredited Sustainability Expert and TRUEZero Waste Advisor, Hannah Moskowitz.


Apple leather: A 100% vegan, leather alternative made by re-working food waste from harvested apples including the seeds, cores, and peels used in Sylven New York’s eco vegan collections. (*check out Sylven’s selection of Apple Leather styles HERE)

Bio-based: Materials derived from renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials.

Biodegradable: The ability of materials to break down and decompose into natural elements within a short period of time after disposal. Timeline of this process is dependent on conditions (i.e. biodegradable items put in a landfill do not break down as quickly because of lack of oxygen.)

Carbon Footprint: The measurable amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions.

Circularity / Circular Fashion: A practice where every part of the lifespan of a garment is cyclical – beginning with designing for longevity and timelessness and then onto making sure the materials are sustainable and recyclable. (*Check out a company called TerraCycle, who we work with to ensure proper recycling and disposal of all unusable parts of our products.)

Closed-Loop / Circular Economy: A supply chain process that encourages reuse of the same materials over and over in a cyclical fashion, thereby minimizing waste and avoiding landfills.

Deadstock: Leftover materials that were initially intended to be made into items or garments but instead were overordered and discarded as waste. These initially “unwanted” materials then are used to create new products diverting the excess materials from going to a landfill.

Ethical: Something that is morally right and avoids activities or organizations that do harm to people or the environment.

Fair-trade: An arrangement between producing partners, predominantly in developing countries, to achieve equitable trade relationships including wages and working conditions.

Fast Fashion: Inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.

Greenwashing: The practice of using sustainability and sustainable practices purely as a marketing tool for profit without substantial evidence to back up environmental practices or claims.

Organic: Method of production with regulated use of chemicals, genetic modifications, or fertilizers. Anything with an “organic certification” needs to meet special requirements for production that comply with regionally specific standards.

Plant-based: consisting entirely or mainly out of plant materials.

Recycling: The action or process of converting waste into reusable material, either by proper disposal or recovery of waste.

Regenerative: A system of farming principles and practices that seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm through soil health, water management, and fertilizer use.

Responsible Leather: Leather that is sourced from traceable and certified regions and is produced as a by-product or co-product from the meat industry with regulated water and chemical usage practices.

Slow Fashion: An “anti-fast fashion” movement meant to step away from overproduction and trend driven constant product releases. It is a method of designing, creating, and buying clothes/accessories for quality and longevity. It encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste. (*Did you know that Sylven proudly provides care, cleaning, and repairs? We do this to extend the lives of every pair of shoes we create!)

Sustainable: A practice defending and protecting our natural resources, and minimizing the environmental impact of our consumption and decision-making.

Upcycling: The act of taking something no longer in use and giving it a second life and new function to extend the product life cycle and reduce waste.(*Have you signed up for our REBOOT program? Our exclusive portal for gently worn styles.)

Vegan (fashion): Items that do not contain any animal materials and for which no animal by-products were used during the entire production process.

Vegan Nappa Leather: A type of leather alternative made from 100% recycled fibers that is noted for its soft texture and durability used in Sylven New York’s eco vegan collections. (*check out Sylven’s selection of Vegan Nappa styles HERE.)

Vegetable-Tanned: Method of treating the cowhideusing organic materials derived from plant-based materials like tree bark, oak, and spruce to prepare the skin for use as leather. The natural process of tanning with plant-based ingredients keeps the leather biodegradable. (We love the earthy hues of our vegetable tanned leathers and how they darken over time, shop our vegetable-tanned responsible leather stylesHERE.)

A set of principles that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused.

MORE TO ADD? Let us know if there’s a word of phrase you need help defining! Email founders@sylvennewyork.com with email subject "eco-glossary."

Tagged: circular fashion, eco-fashion, footwear, glossary, plant-based, regenerative, style, sustainability, sustainable brand, sustainable fashion, Sylven New York, vegan, vegan brand, vegan fashion


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