Explanations » B2 Vocabulary Explanations » Pollution and the environment – B2 English Vocabulary

Pollution and the environment

In this B2 Pre-advanced Vocabulary Lesson about Pollution and the Environment, you will learn crucial terms related to environmental protection and sustainability. From the damaging effects of a growing carbon footprint to the protective actions of reforestation and sustainable practices, this lesson will equip you with the language needed to talk about environmental challenges and solutions. Check the pictures and read the texts and definitions below.

Threats to the environment

Our planet is facing an environmental crisis exacerbated by our growing carbon footprint¹. This footprint results from all the greenhouse gases² we emit, often from burning fossil fuels³ like coal, oil, and natural gas for energy. These gases, including carbon dioxide, are the primary culprits behind the greenhouse effect⁴, trapping heat in our atmosphere and leading to global warming⁵ and climate change⁶. The consequences of climate change are very serious, with extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels⁷ and the alarming process of desertification⁸, where once fertile lands become deserts.

Deforestation⁹ plays a significant role in accelerating these environmental issues. Cutting down vast areas of forest releases carbon dioxide and reduces the Earth’s capacity to absorb existing carbon, making it difficult to counteract our ecological footprint¹⁰. This footprint measures the impact of human activity on Earth’s resources, indicating how sustainably we live.

Another pressing issue is plastic waste¹¹, which clogs our oceans and landscapes, taking centuries to decompose. The accumulation of plastic not only pollutes but also contributes to shrinking habitats¹², threatening the survival of countless species. As our natural spaces dwindle, the delicate balance of ecosystems is disrupted, underscoring the urgency with which we must address our environmental responsibilities.

1 Carbon footprint: The total amount of greenhouse gases released by a person, group, or activity.

2 Greenhouse gases: Gases like carbon dioxide that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

3 Fossil fuels: Natural fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas that are used for energy.

4 Greenhouse effect: A process that occurs when certain gases in the Earth’s atmosphere trap the sun’s heat and warm the planet.

5 Global warming: Gradual increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect.

6 Climate change: Changes in global or regional climate patterns, largely due to the increase of the Earth’s temperature.

7 Rising sea levels: Increasing height of the ocean’s surface, mainly due to the melting of ice caps and glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms.

8 Desertification: The process by which fertile land becomes desert, often because of drought and deforestation.

9 Deforestation: The clearing or thinning of forests by humans that cut down trees often to make way for agriculture or development.

10 Ecological footprint: A measure of how much an individual or group consumes resources and generates waste, compared to the Earth’s ability to regenerate those resources and absorb the waste.

11 Plastic waste: Used plastic items that are discarded and can harm the environment because they take a long time to break down.

12 Shrinking habitats: The reduction in the size of the natural environments where plants and animals live, often due to human activities like urbanization or pollution.

Helping the environment


Eco-friendly practices¹ are leading the fight against worldwide environmental problems, and using renewable energy² is a key part of this effort. More and more, we see solar farms³ and wind turbines⁴ across the land, using natural energy to make cleaner electricity. Alongside energy solutions, forest protection⁵ and reforestation⁶ are vital eco-friendly practices. They not only help reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also enhance wildlife conservation⁷ by preserving natural habitats.

A growing environmental awareness⁸ drives governments and individuals to advocate for sustainable practices⁹. Every day, more and more efforts and policies are implemented to improve pollution control¹⁰ and waste management¹¹. A key component of waste management is recycling, which helps reduce the amount of trash in landfills and leads to the creation of eco-friendly products¹². Often made from recycled or organic materials, these products represent a shift towards more environmentally friendly consumption and production patterns.

1 Eco-friendly practices: Actions that help protect the environment by reducing waste and conserving natural resources.

2 Renewable energy: Energy made from natural sources that never run out, like the sun and wind.

3 Solar farms: Large-scale setups of solar panels that capture sunlight and convert it into electrical energy.

4 Wind turbines: Tall structures with blades that spin with the wind to generate electricity.

5 Forest protection: Efforts to preserve forests from deforestation and promote biodiversity.

6 Reforestation: The act of planting trees in deforested areas to rebuild forest ecosystems.

7 Wildlife conservation: The practice of protecting wild species and their habitats to prevent extinction.

8 Environmental awareness: Understanding the importance of protecting the environment and promoting healthy ecosystems.

9 Sustainable practices: Methods of using resources that ensure they are not depleted or permanently damaged.

10 Pollution control: Strategies and technologies used to reduce the release of harmful substances into the environment.

11 Waste management: The process of treating and disposing of trash in ways that are safe and do not hurt the environment, like recycling.

12 Eco-friendly products: Items made using recycled materials or natural materials that are not harmful to the environment.

Verb phrases and phrasal verbs


1 If you cut down a tree, you cut its trunk so that it falls to the ground.

  • The company was fined for illegally cutting down trees in the protected forest area.

2 If you cut back (on) something, such as CO2 emissions, you reduce it.

  • The new regulations require factories to cut back (on) their emissions by 30% over the next five years.

3 If something breaks down, it decays or decomposes into smaller parts.

  • The plastic in coffee pods takes more than 500 years to break down.

4 If you switch to  something, such as clean energy, recycled materials, etc., you start using these new practices, materials, etc. instead of the old ones.

  • Our city plans to switch to clean energy by installing solar panels on all public buildings.

5 If you preserve something like natural resources or endangered species, you protect them from damage, depletion or extinction.

  • The new wildlife reserve was established to preserve natural resources and protect endangered species

6 If you tackle a problem, such as environmental issues, global warming, climate change, etc., you take action to deal with it and try to find solutions.

  • The government announced a new initiative to tackle environmental issues like air pollution and deforestation.

7 If you dump something like garbage, waste, chemicals, etc. you get rid of it, often in an improper or careless way, such as throwing it in a non-designated area.

  • Illegal dumping of waste in the river has led to severe water pollution.

8 If you become self-sufficient, you are able to provide for your own needs without relying on external sources, often in terms of producing your own food or energy.

  • They installed solar panels and a vegetable garden to become self-sufficient in energy and food production.

9 If you harm the environment, an ecosystem, etc., you cause damage to it, often through pollution or destructive practices.

  • Excessive use of pesticides in farming can harm the environment, affecting both soil and water quality.