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How can I help the environment?

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Introduction

How can I help the environment? What can I do to be more environmentally friendly? What can we do to make a difference? Sam and Neil discuss the small practical changes you can make to help the environment and teach you 6 items of useful English vocabulary in this 6 Minute English.

This week's question

Plastic has many natural variations but where was the first artificial plastic developed? Was it:

a) England b) Germany or c) Switzerland?

Listen to the programme to find out the answer.

Vocabulary

a pet peeve

something someone finds particularly annoying or frustrating

(buying) in bulk

buying many or a large quantity of something

decant

to transfer from an original container to a different one

to pass on

to give something to someone

a hand-me-down

a possession or item of clothing that is not new but has come from someone who no longer needs it or has outgrown it

in good nick

in good condition

Transcript

Note: This is not a word for word transcript

Neil

Hello. This is 6 Minute English. I'm Neil.

Sam

And I'm Sam.

Neil

Now, tell me about your teeth-cleaning routine.

Sam

OK. Well, it's pretty good, I think. I brush twice a day and change my brush every couple of months.

Neil

And what kind of brush do you use?

Sam

Nothing fancy, just a regular, cheap plastic one.

Neil

Oh dear!

Sam

What do you mean?

Neil

Well, imagine all the toothbrushes you've used in your life, from your first brush as a child, to the one you currently have. You do realise that probably they all still exist in the environment somewhere. We use them for a couple of months yet they will last for hundreds of years.

Sam

Oh dear, and I thought I was actually quite environmentally aware. But that's quite shocking. I hadn't thought of that.

Neil

Well it's just one of the problems we are facing with our use of plastics. A marvellous invention that has given us so much. But we are beginning to realise it's causing many long-lasting environmental problems. More on this topic shortly, but first, a question: Plastic has many natural variations but where was the first artificial plastic developed? Was it:

a) England b) Germany or c) Switzerland?

What do you think, Sam?

Sam

I'm going to have a guess at Switzerland.

Neil

OK, we'll find out if you're right at the end of the programme. Environmental issues are, of course, a big story at the moment. The topic was featured on the BBC Woman's Hour radio programme recently. Madeleine Murray is from an Irish organisation that gives advice to businesses and communities on how to operate in an environmentally responsible way. She was asked about what she does in her daily life that other people could do too. What food items does she mention?

Madeleine Murray

My personal, like, pet peeve is multipacks and minipacks. I buy in bulk now. I buy the biggest yoghurt I can buy. I buy big cereal boxes. I buy big shampoo bottles. We can decant stuff into lunch boxes and we can, you know, refill our pasta and our rice.

Neil

So, what food does she mention, Sam?

Sam

She talked about yoghurt, cereal, pasta and rice.

Neil

And what was she saying about those foods?

Sam

She was saying that she buys the biggest containers for those that she can - and not just food - things like shampoo as well.

Neil

And what's the benefit of that?

Sam

Well, she says that her pet peeve is small packs of things. A pet peeve is something that you find particularly annoying. She doesn't like small packs because they use a lot of packaging for a small amount of product.

Neil

So she buys in bulk. Buying in bulk means 'buying a lot of something'. And if you have a lot of something like rice or pasta, you can always transfer it to different smaller reusable containers. She uses the word decant for this. So that's one area where we can all be a bit more environmentally friendly. Another area is reusing things that are perfectly good but which we don't need any more. Dr Tara Shine is a colleague of Madeleine Murray and she talked about how new parents often buy a lot of new things for their babies, which they then throw away when the child gets too big or too old. She suggests that it's better to pass these things on -to give them to other people.

Dr Tara Shine

Pass things on. The hand-me-down, pass-thing-on culture is really, really important in the world of kids and there are lots of things that can be passed down, whether it's toys or the equipment, or the high chair, whatever it is, all of that can be passed on and that's really important. It's saving someone else money. Most of these things are in good nick when we need to pass them on.

Neil

She used another expression for passing things on, didn't she?

Sam

Yes, she talked about the hand-me-down culture. When I was growing up, I had a lot of hand-me-downs. These were toys and clothes from my older cousins, which saved us a lot of money and they were then passed on to someone else.

Neil

And the thing is children grow up quickly so often everything is in good condition.

Sam

Dr Shine used an interesting expression for that, didn't she? She said most of these things are in good nick. That expression means 'in good condition'.

Neil

Now, before we recycle today's vocabulary ...

Sam

Oh, very good, I see what you did there!

Neil

It's time for the answer to today's question. Where was the first artificial plastic developed? Was it:

a) England b) Germany or c) Switzerland?

What did you think, Sam?

Sam

I guessed Switzerland.

Neil

Well, I'm afraid, you are wrong. The correct answer is actually, England. Well done if you got that right. Extra bonus points if you knew that in 1856 Alexander Parkes patented Parkesine, the first artificial plastic. Now, let's recap today's words and expressions.

Sam

Yes, a pet peeve is something that someone finds particularly annoying.

Neil

Buying in bulk means 'buying many of the same things or a large quantity of something'. Buying in bulk is usually cheaper and can be better environmentally.

Sam

And if you have a lot of something, you can decant it to smaller containers, that is, you can transfer it to those other containers to make it easier to use. For example: I buy huge bottles of liquid soap and decant it into smaller dispensers for the kitchen and bathrooms.

Neil

You can pass on clothes, toys and other kids' stuff to family and friends. This means 'giving them to other people to use'. And those things can be described as hand-me-downs.

Sam

But of course you'd only want to pass on things in good nick, that is, 'in good condition'.

Neil

Right, that's all we have time for. We hope you will join us again soon, though. And you can always find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, online and on our app. We are BBC Learning English. See you soon. Good-bye!

Sam

Bye!

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