since 1997, the world's premier FREE website for learners + teachers of English
ESL Downloads - click 4 FREE stuff

Environment Vocabulary

all levels

Do you like talking about environmental issues like pollution, wildlife protection and endangered species, climate change, renewable energy, etc? Learning the following words will help you express your thoughts and concerns in English. You can check your understanding by doing the Environment Vocabulary Quiz.
Word Example sentence Meaning
acid rain noun Burning fossil fuels in one country can cause acid rain in other countries. rain that contains harmful chemicals that collect in the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned
ban verb Our school has banned plastic bottles because they're so bad for the environment. to not allow something (eg. smoking, alcohol, plastic bags, protest marches, etc.)
carbon-dioxide or carbon (colloq.) noun Trees and plants absorb carbon-dioxide and release oxygen into the air. a gas that's released by plants and by burning fossil fuels
carbon footprint noun Travelling by air, driving a car or using coal-generated electricity will make your carbon footprint bigger. a measurement of the amount of carbon-dioxide a person adds to the atmosphere
carcinogen noun Cigarette smoke contains a number of carcinogens. a substance that has been linked to causing one or more types of cancer
carpool verb I carpool to work with two of my neighbours who also work downtown. to share a car instead of driving one alone
clear-cut verb Forests never recover fully after being clear-cut. to destroy a forest by cutting down all the trees
clearcutting (also clearfelling) noun Did you know that clearcutting is the worst way to use a forest's resources? a forestry or logging practice in which most or all trees in an area are cut down
climate change noun Do you really think you know more about climate change than a real climate scientist? global changes in temperature, wind patterns, rainfall, etc. mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil
compost verb Since we started composting we've reduced our garbage by half. to put organic waste like vegetable peels, uneaten food, grass clippings and leaves into a large container that breaks it down into healthy soil
commute verb Imagine how much pollution you cause by commuting by car for two hours a day? to travel from home to work and back
conservation noun Conservation wasn't a big issue until the book Silent Spring was published in 1966. the protection and preservation of natural environments and resources
consume verb Americans consume more than their share of the earth's resources. to use things like energy, fuel, materials, food, water, etc.
contaminated adj. Their contaminated milk powder made lots of babies really sick. carrying harmful bacteria or toxins that can cause disease or death
developing country noun We moved our factory to a developing country because of cheap labour and weak environmental laws. a poor nation that's gradually becoming richer and more advanced
domestic waste (also household waste) noun How much domestic waste does your family produce every day? rubbish or garbage from a house or apartment
donate verb If you donate money to Greenpeace, you'll be helping endangered animals. to give money or goods to an organization you want to help or support
dump verb You can be sent to jail for dumping hazardous waste, you know. to put waste in the wrong place (eg. put toxic waste into a river)
eco-community or ecovillage noun Our kids want to live in that eco-community near the forest. a community with environmentally-friendly buildings, clean technology and renewable energy like solar and wind
endangered species noun Every year more animals are listed as endangered species. animals or plants in danger of becoming extinct or disappearing in the near future
energy-efficient adj. Those energy-efficient light bulbs are much cheaper these days. able to use less energy (esp. of vehicles, appliances, buildings, etc.)
environmentalist noun Fossil fuel companies have tried to damage the image of environmentalists and climate scientists. a person who protects the natural world and educates others about environmental problems
ecosystem noun All those plants, insects and birds in your garden are part of an ecosystem. the complex system of relationships between living things and their environment
emit verb Cars emit harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. to release or project something (eg. light, sound, smoke, gas, radiation, etc.)
extinct adj. Lots of Australian animals have become extinct since the British took control. no longer existing or lost forever (of an animal, bird or plant species)
fertilize verb If you are going to fertilize your lawn, make sure to use an organic fertilizer. to add chemicals or organic material to soil so that plants grow better
food chain noun We need to know where each species fits in the food chain. the order in which organisms in an ecosystem eat one another
fossil fuel noun Burning fossil fuels is a major cause of global warming. a fuel like oil or coal formed from very old plant and animal fossils
global warming (also climate change) noun Rising sea levels, melting ice caps and coral reef bleaching are caused by global warming. higher air and sea temperatures partly caused by man-made increases in greenhouse-gas levels
green adj. If you want to save the planet, join one of the green political parties. concerned with protecting the natural environment and the planet
greenhouse gas noun The more greenhouse gases we produce, the worse climate change will get. a gas in the atmosphere that stops heat from escaping into space
habitat noun Lots of animals will become extinct if their natural habitats are destroyed. the place in which a species normally lives
hazardous waste noun They increased their profits by dumping hazardous waste into the ocean. dangerous substances that need careful disposal (eg. toxic or nuclear waste)
minimize verb Taking public transport instead of driving a car minimizes your impact on the environment. to reduce as much as possible
pesticide noun Can't we find a pesticide that's safe? a chemical that's sprayed on crops to stop insects from destroying them
pollutant noun The Environmental Protection Agency checks levels of pollutants. a substance or material that damages the natural environment
pollute verb Fumes from factories pollute our air. to release waste substances into the air, water and soil
pollution noun All the pollution around here comes from factories and mines. the contamination of the environment, esp. by industrial waste products and chemicals like pesticides
preserve verb We need stronger laws in order to preserve our forests. to keep something in its original state
protect verb It's really important to protect our water supply. to keep from harm
protest verb Environmentalists will protest if the loggers try to destroy the forest. to show you disagree with something, esp. as part of a group of protesters
recycle verb The green bin's for things that can be recycled like paper and glass. to make something new from materials that have been used before
reduce verb You can reduce your household waste by buying products with less packaging. to use less or make something smaller
reforestation noun Plant twenty trees in our reforestation project and you'll get into our dance party for free! the planting of trees and plants to help a damaged or destroyed forest recover
renewable adj. We're producing cheaper renewable energy these days. can be used without running out, esp. of energy sources like solar and wind
renewables noun If you want to make money, invest in renewables. forms of energy that can be replaced naturally, such as hydro-electricity, solar energy and wind power
rely on verb We won't have to rely on power companies if we use solar and wind power instead. to depend on (or need) someone or something
reuse verb We try to reuse things like plastic bags and bottles. to use again
self-sufficient adj. We're going to live in a self-sufficient farming community. able to function, or produce all that's needed, without outside help
smog noun The smog was so bad that we had to wear air-filter masks. a thick dirty cloud at ground level caused by pollutants reacting to sunlight
throw away verb Don't throw away your grass clippings; leave them on your lawn. to get rid of something you don't want
toxic adj. After the mine released toxic waste into the river, all the fish died. deadly or poisonous (of waste, chemicals, pollutants, etc.)
toxin (toxic chemical) noun Smoke from factories often contains dangerous toxins. a poisonous substance that damages health or the environment
use up verb We are using up the earth's natural resources faster than ever. to use something until there's none left
waste verb Don't waste toilet paper; use one or two sheets instead of three or four. to use more than necessary, or to use inefficiently
wildlife noun I love taking pictures of wildlife in the forest. animals, birds, insects, etc. living naturally in the wild
zero-emission adj. Zero-emission vehicles like electric cars are much cheaper now. releasing no greenhouse gases like carbon-dioxide or methane