The Environment Conversation Lesson


Watch the following YouTube video, about a woman who doesn’t make any trash:

Intro Discussion Questions:

  • Do you think this woman actually produces this little trash?
  • What would the world be like if everyone produced as little trash as she does?
  • Could you live in a way that produced no waste?  


New Words

Biodegradable (adj.) – a substance that decomposes (is broken down by bacteria) and becomes part of the soil.

  • I like to use paper bags rather than plastic, because paper is biodegradable.

Compost (n) -fruit and vegetable scraps that you put somewhere to biodegrade and turn into soil.

  • Put these banana peels in the compost.

Biodiversity (n.) – the variety of different life-forms in a given area.

  • The rainforest has the most biodiversity on the planet; that’s why we have to protect it.

Ecosystem (n.) – a biological community of interacting organisms and their environment.

  • Excessive waste from factories really disturbs the balance of the ecosystem.

Endangered Species (n.) – A species of plant or animal that is at risk of extinction.  

  • Panda bears are an endangered species; there are only 2000 left in the wild.

Renewable Resource (n.) – a resource, such as solar energy or wood, that will either grow back or recur naturally.

  • It’s better to use solar energy rather than energy produced from coal, because solar energy is a renewable resource.

Smog (n.) – fog that has been mixed or polluted with smoke.

  • There was so much smog in the air that we couldn’t see the stars at night.

Factory Farming (n.) – a system of raising livestock in factory-like conditions, where animals are confined in small areas indoors.

  • Do you think factory farming is humane?

Free Range (adj.) – the opposite of factory farming, in which animals are given adequate space and allowed to roam outdoors.

  • I think eggs from free range hens taste better than from factory farmed ones.  



“Down-to-earth”Someone who is “down-to-earth” is unpretentious, friendly, and realistic.

  • Myra was a snob who looked down on everyone, but her best friend Katie was very down-to-earth, and treated everyone well. I wonder why they are still friends.  

“Tree Hugger” – A “Tree Hugger” is an insulting word for someone who cares about the environment.

  • My uncle called me a tree hugger because I didn’t want a factory built over our town’s wetlands. Sure, it would have created jobs, but it would have killed a lot of animals, too.  

“Can’t see the forest for the trees” – When you “can’t see the forest for the trees,” you can’t see the big picture because you are focusing on the small details.

  • Josh got so hung up on making each sentence sound good that he didn’t notice that his essay didn’t make sense. He couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

“What/where/why on earth?” -The phrase “on earth” is added right after the question word to provide emphasis.

  • Where on earth did you get that hideous hat?  
  • What on earth were you thinking when you let the kids make dinner alone?


Discussion Questions:

  • What springs to mind when you hear the word “environmentalism?”
  • Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?
  • Does your local government make it easy or hard to recycle?
  • Can you think of any famous environmentalists?
  • Do you think people treat the earth responsibly?
  • Do you think taking care of the planet is the responsibility of individuals or governments?
  • What do you think are the most serious threats to the earth right now?
  • Do you think overpopulation is a problem? What do you think could be done about it?
  • Do you think China’s “One Child Policy” was a good idea?
  • Where does your city get its energy?
  • What can we do to protect forests?
  • Which countries cause the most pollution? Which countries are leaders in taking care of the environment?
  • Do you think climate change is a big problem? What can we do about it?
  • What do you think about people who don’t think climate change is real?
  • If the earth could speak to us, what do you think it would say?
  • Do you know about any anti-pollution programs in your community?
  • What is the best way to teach children about the environment?
  • What kind of technology could help the environment?
  • What are some things that ordinary people can do to help the environment?
  • Do you think buying organic or local food is important?