Everyday conversations: Use less, pay less [audio]

(Thinkstock Photos)

Six students from around the world meet. What do they have in common? They are all exchange students studying at a U.S. university for a semester. Throughout the semester, they learn more English, learn about U.S. culture, and learn more about their fields of study. This series of Everyday Conversations is about these six students and their experiences during a semester at a university in the U.S. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

In this conversation, three college roommates (Lee, Peter and Ajay) talk about the energy used by a device, such as a mobile phone, even when it is turned off.

Lee: How many times do I have to tell you guys? Unplug the power strips at night if they’re not being used!

Peter: It’s not a big deal. The video game and TV were both turned off.

Lee: But there’s phantom usage.

Ajay: Phantom? Like a ghost? A ghost is playing video games while we’re asleep? Hey, that’s kind of cool.

Lee: Funny. It means that it uses energy even when the device isn’t being used. The less energy we use, the fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Peter: You’re all about saving the planet from climate change.

Lee: Someone has to care. But if that isn’t enough of an incentive for you, think about the lower electric bill each month. Less money spent on electricity, more money to spend on video games.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

A power strip is an electrical device that has a series of outlets attached to a cord with a plug on one end.

Phantom usage means the electricity used by electronic devices while they are turned off. “Phantom load” is the amount of energy an electric device uses while it is switched off.

A device is a machine or piece of equipment.

Greenhouse gas emissions: various gases (especially carbon dioxide) that are put into the Earth’s atmosphere (the air surrounding the Earth) and contribute to the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere caused by an increase in amounts of certain gases in the atmosphere.

Climate change means changes in the Earth’s weather, especially due to the increase in temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere that is caused in part by the increase in carbon dioxide.

An incentive is something that encourages a person to do something.

Ready to learn more English? Our materials can help.

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.