Learning to speak English? Our Everyday Conversations help you practice. Click the audio link to hear a native speaker pronounce each word while you read. Key terms are explained at the end. Today’s conversation is on reducing, reusing and recycling to help the environment.

Youjin: Did you know that April 22 is Mother Earth Day?

Amy: Yes, but we should think about the environment every day, not just one day a year.

Youjin: I agree! I try to do at least some small things that help the environment. Like, lately, I’ve tried to scale back my use of disposable products, such as paper napkins and paper plates.

Amy: That’s great. I wish I could do that, but I get takeout a lot, and that means a lot of disposable containers. Since my neighborhood doesn’t recycle, I throw them away. I feel guilty about that, but I still do it.

Youjin: Well, hopefully some of those containers are made from biodegradable material, so you can compost them. And if not, you can reuse them. That’s what I do. They make great containers to carry my lunch to work.

Amy: That’s a really good idea! I’ll start doing that.

Now let’s review the vocabulary


The environment is the natural world in which people, animals and plants live.

Scale back is to reduce or make something smaller in size or amount than it was before.

Something disposable is intended to be thrown away after one use or a few uses.

Takeout is food that is prepared in a restaurant and taken by a customer to be eaten in another place, often at home.

To recycle is to make new things from old materials. It also means to send things to a place where they are made into something new. Another meaning is to reuse something.

When people feel guilty, they feel that they have done something wrong.

Biodegradable means that something is able to break down into very small parts naturally and harmlessly.

To compost means to change organic material, such as leaves, vegetable/fruit scraps, coffee grounds, etc., into a decayed mixture that is used to improve the soil in a lawn or garden.

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.