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English Training Breakfast at the World Trade Center Rennes Bretagne

Envie de découvrir l’Ecosse, de travailler votre anglais, et de faire de nouvelles rencontres dans un cadre professionnel ?

Venez nous rejoindre au World Trade Center Rennes le vendredi 20 mai pour un English Training Breakfast.

Les English Training Breakfasts sont l’opportunité parfaite de pratiquer l’anglais en toute bienveillance. Vous pouvez vous inscrire sur ce lien.

Ce sera l’occasion de découvrir la culture écossaise, le contexte politique, et bien sûr, quelques astuces pour faire face au fameux accent !

Nouveau site-web Green Talk !

Hello and welcome!

Nous sommes ravis de vous annoncer la mise en ligne de notre nouveau site Internet www.greentalk.fr

Ce site a été conçu avec trois objectifs :

Alors, n’attendez pas, explorez notre nouveau site !

Vous trouverez :

Carbon Impact of Food

 How to listen? Options:


All the useful bits to help you get the most out of Green Talking available on this page:

Useful links






« Focus on what you eat, not whether your food is local », Our World in Data

BBC Carbon Calculator

Karbon app for measuring carbon impact (France)

Giki app for measuring carbon impact (UK)

Other resources not mentioned in the episode:

Too Good To Waste app for reducing food waste

Happy Cow app for finding plant-based restaurants near you

Do you have other relevant resources to share with our listeners? Tell us in the comments!



Jennifer: Hello and welcome to the first episode of Green Talking, the podcast helping you learn English for good.

 Cassie: You are listening to the only podcast designed to help you learn English through sustainability. I’m Cassie, I’m from America and I live in London and I work in social enterprise.


Jennifer: And I’m Jennifer. I’m the founder of Green Talk, I’m from Scotland and I live in France. Today we are going to talk about the carbon footprint of food. This session links to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12 Responsible Consumption and Production. We will be looking at this goal a few times during our podcasts because it is one of the most important goals for Green Talk. We think it is where individuals can really have a positive impact. So, as you know Cassie, I moved to France a few years ago because I love the food here! Everything is just so amazing, the cheese, the wine, the vegetables from the local market, the seafood…. It’s all so delicious! So, when we are faced with so many amazing choices, what kind of information should we be thinking about, and how should we be making our decisions?

Cassie: Yeah it can be overwhelming, there are loads of things you can start to think about, for example the supply chain, the social impact, the health impact. And something that is not very well understood is the carbon footprint of our food.


Jennifer: Yeah definitely, the carbon footprint, or in other words, the environmental impact of our food.


Cassie: Yeah, most people are familiar with the idea of food miles, the environmental impact of transporting food, I think over the past ten years that has become really well understood. But there’s actually more to the subject than that.

Anytime you go into the grocery store you see a label on your food telling you how much it costs your wallet and the impact it could have on your health, but very rarely does it tell you what the impact might be on the environment. It’s just not something we really think about when we are buying bread and milk. Just like us travelling across the world, food has a carbon footprint. One of the easiest ways to reduce our carbon footprint is by making different food choices. So to better understand the subject, should we have some statistics?


Jennifer: I think we should! I think it is time for ‘Fun Facts with Cassie’! Let’s hear some statistics, Cassie!


Cassie: Ok Fact Number One – In a recent study 52 % of people said that the carbon footprint of food is not something they currently think about when buying products.


Jennifer: Wow, 52% of people do not think about the carbon footprint of their food, so that’s a very different level of awareness compared to what we have with transport for example.

Cassie: Fact Number Two – 10% to 30% of a household’s carbon footprint comes from food.  


Jennifer: Wow that’s crazy, so 10-30% of the carbon footprint of a household is from food.  I think most people usually think first about their heating and cooling, using their car, switching lights off and so on, I don’t think people expect one third of their carbon footprint to come from what they eat.


Cassie: And all of those other things are important too but 30% has the potential to significantly change our impact. Ok, Fact Number Three – The production of food accounts for 68% of emissions while the transportation accounts for only 5%.


Jennifer: So what we eat has more impact than where it comes from. So yeah some researchers have found out that for example by cutting meat and dairy products from your diet you could reduce your carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent.

And there’s also a really big impact on land use as well – if everybody stopped eating dairy and meat, global farmland use could be reduced by 75 per cent, that’s an area equivalent to the size of the US, China, Australia and the EU combined. Just if we stopped eating dairy and meat, all that land would be available for other uses. So why is that Cassie?


Cassie: Well, let’s think about the energy and resources needed to create your plate of food. So for example imagine a pepperoni pizza.


Jennifer: You do not have to tell me twice, I am visualising it now!


Cassie: So let’s think about the base – wheat flour, some olive oil and some tomatoes, or as you say, tomatoes (tomatoes, yeah!). Each of those ingredients will need land to grow on, will need to be watered, will need tended to by a farmer on their tractor, then harvested, processed and then transported. Then we have the cheese. And so here’s where it gets really interesting. The cheese of course is produced by a cow who will need to be fed for around 5 years more or less, and so we have to take into account all the crops that are grown to feed that cow (so the same land, water, farmer, processing that we mentioned a moment ago), plus the impact of the cow itself, the land and farming needed to look after her, the manure that emits gases, and then we get to the processing of the cheese. So we have a whole extra level of resource use. And then the pepperoni of course has the same issue plus the fact that the pig can’t carry on producing pepperoni for 5 years, it is very much a non-renewable resource.

Jennifer: Yeah so, meat and dairy can really increase our carbon impact, which means in theory, a coconut from Indonesia might have a lower environmental impact than a steak from a local farm! It seems crazy. But of course, in reality, it’s much more complex than that and there’s many other factors that come into play.

So shall we play a little game? So which item do you think has a greater impact? So greater greenhouse gas emissions per 1000 calories. Ok? (Ok) So first up – green beans or a piece of cheese?

Cassie: Hmm so in that example, there’d probably be more green beans than the piece of cheese to get 1000 calories, but I’m going to say the piece of cheese.

Jennifer: Well it’s a trick question – it depends!

If the green beans are air-transported, then they would have a greater impact. Foods which are air-transported actually are just about the only items where the transport does have a pretty heavy impact. Transport by boat, which is much much more common than by plane, isn’t too bad. The problem is knowing which is which, because this is rarely mentioned on labels!

 Ok next up, fish or eggs? Which has a greater impact?


Cassie: Gosh is this another trick question, um I’m going to say fish?


Jennifer: Well it’s a trick question – it depends!

Yeah so it actually makes a difference whether your fish is wild or farmed. So whether it has been caught from the wild or whether it has been specifically farmed in a fish farm. And it also depends on what type of fish it is and the manner in which it is caught, or the manner in which it is farmed, etc, etc, etc. So there is a lot of different factors and again we often don’t have that information available.

 So final question, sausages or chocolate?

Cassie: Hmm I’m going to say chocolate.

Jennifer: Well once again this is a trick question! So yeah it just depends. If there is beef in your sausages, then it’s bad news as beef, and the cows that it comes from, actually  has a huge impact, but pork, from pigs, actually has a lower impact than chocolate….although there are still some exceptions. It really depends. It depends on the brand, it depends on the processes, the packaging etc etc


Cassie: So basically it is just a nightmare to try and work out the impact of what you are eating.

Jennifer: Yes! The only clear answer from this game! It is a nightmare to try and understand the impact of what you eat. As consumers, it is almost impossible to have access to the right information and to make informed choices.

However, there is some good news in amongst all this. More and more places are going beyond calories and making it about carbon. A US restaurant chain has recently announced that it will start labelling the carbon foot print of all items on their menu.

 It’s so cool. I love the idea of being able to see the impact of what you are ordering. And this restaurant is not the only one. In the UK Quorn, a meat substitute company has started labelling their carbon footprint too. Since 2012 they’ve been working with a British organisation called the Carbon Trust to make sure they are capturing every part of the process. I think it will be really interesting to see which other companies and restaurants start to take this approach. You could definitely see it becoming normal, something just like calorie counts and health warning that we become used to seeing on our food packaging. And people can start to think of their carbon emissions kind of like ‘carbon calories’ for food.

Cassie: Wouldn’t it be great if there was some sort of calorie counter app for your carbon calories just like there are for your diet because, as you can tell, absolutely no  idea how much carbon I should be aiming for each day.

Jennifer: There actually are a number of apps that offer a few services related to this. We will link to a few in the notes where you can scan items as you do your shopping and see what the carbon impact is. I’ve been using one recently that is so eye-opening. I ate a chocolate bar the other day and the app told me that it takes 31 days for a tree to absorb the carbon generated in producing that single chocolate bar! One month of a tree to absorb the carbon needed for one chocolate bar. It was quite a large chocolate bar, to be fair, but still.


Cassie: Still I think still the amount of time it takes is what start to put it into perspective.  So there is definitely a challenge in trying to understand and visualise this kind of impact.  Days of a tree is much more concrete than tonnes of CO2, which just so abstract. The BBC has created a fun carbon footprint of food calculator, which we’ll link to in the notes. It helps to explain our impact with some useful comparisons. So when I was playing around with it I plugged into the calculator eating a banana a day and what this means in terms that I feel like I could understand. So if I eat a banana every morning for a year this produces 25kg of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the weight of a checked bag on a flight. And that 25kg of greenhouse gas emissions is the equivalent of driving 37 miles in a petrol car, 2 days of heating my house or taking 29 showers. The 29 showers really put it in to perspective for me!

Jennifer: Wow so one banana per day for a year is the equivalent to taking 29 showers. Yeah that’s crazy. Should we just stop eating completely?!

Cassie: But yeah it’s not actually all doom and gloom. There are some really exciting things coming out talking about how food carbon is reducing, and as we mentioned for most people (myself included!) awareness is the first issue. So for example, in Canada, Justin Trudeau announced a 100 million dollar investment into plant based industries, which is really bringing the sector into the mainstream. It will be interesting to see if other governments invest in a similar way.


Jennifer: Yeah politically that is such an interesting development. A government making a decision like that suggests that they believe that our diets are shifting towards less meat consumption in the future. And Bill Gates has also recently invested into a few plant-based companies, and I guess he usually makes pretty smart decisions with his money. And says he thinks it is one of the best ways to save the planet.


Cassie: Global meat consumption is down for the first time in nine years, that’s a 3% drop from last year.It will be interesting to see if this continues after the pandemic. Some people think that this could be due to people cutting back on shopping bills because meat is expensive, because people are eating in restaurants less, or because of issues in producing and supplying meat due to COVID. Meat and dairy are responsible for up to 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions so the 3% reduction of consumption that we have seen this year will definitely be having an impact on greenhouse emissions. And I think it is important to note that we as consumers have the power to demand change, to inform ourselves and to take action, because some companies are starting to realise the importance of having this conversation, but it isn’t happening fast enough.


Jennifer:  Yeah and we definitely have the power not just to demand change but simply  to demand information! Just to ask for that information so that we can make informed choices.


Cassie: For sure. As they say knowledge is power.

Jennifer: Totally yep.

Cassie: So that brings us towards the end of our episode today

Jennifer: Already?! So what has our chat made you think about today?

Cassie: Well first of all it has made me very hungry!

And after learning all of this I think the key takeaway for me is that I need to think about my food beyond just shopping locally. Of course buying local is a good start but I need also think about how much meat I eat a week as well as the bigger picture of emissions in my food.


Jennifer: I think for me the most important thing is variety. Suddenly stopping dairy and eating green beans instead isn’t necessarily the answer, I think the answer is being informed, making informed decisions and having varied diets. It’s ok to enjoy meat, dairy, eggs, whatever your special treat is, but we should understand the true environmental cost of what we are eating. I personally have reduced my meat and dairy intake a lot recently and to be honest it is really easy to do, and it’s becoming easier and easier as we see these initiatives and investments developing. But of course I still enjoy a treat and some delicious French food from time to time. The difference is just knowing that it is a special treat and it’s not something I should be eating every day.


Cassie: So thanks for joining the first episode of Green Talking, the podcast helping you learn English for Good. We’ll link to all of the topics discussed today in the podcast notes but we’re really to keen to hear from you. How have you made a change after today’s podcast? What have you learned? What would you like us to talk about next? You can join the conversation on social media at @greentalkfr. And we look forward to you joining us next week!


Jennifer: Thanks for listening! And my catchphrase of the week today is:

The future is knocking, let’s start Green Talking!

 Cassie: Ok, you know, this is a start…

Jennifer: Shall I try something else next week?

Cassie: Yeah maybe by the end of the first season we’ll get somewhere with this…So keep brainstorming!

Jennifer: Thanks for joining, bye!

Cassie: Bye!



seafood => fish and other animals from the sea
wallet => where you keep your money
dairy => milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter etc…
manure => animal waste
basically => essentially, in essence
amongst => something part of a larger set
labelling => presenting information on a label, on the packaging
print => show on paper
apps => smartphone applications
eye-opening => experience or information which is surprising and informative
plugged => to enter data
doom and gloom => depression and fear
plant-based => vegan food
takeaway => a key fact, point, or idea to be remembered
intake => an amount of food, air, or another substance taken into the body
honest => true and sincere
keen => motivated
catchphrase => a sentence or phrase associated with a person or activity
awareness => public knowledge or perception of a situation or fact
brainstorming => creative technique to think of ideas

Digital Waste

 How to listen? Options:

All the useful bits to help you get the most out of Green Talking available on this page:

Useful links






Personal Calculator: Calculate your emissions from streaming – IEA

Cleanfox app – clean your inbox!

Five tips for reducing your email carbon footprint

Nine tips to reduce your digital footprint

Other resources not mentioned in the episode:

Filevert File transfer (France)

Do you have other relevant resources to share with our listeners? Tell us in the comments!




Cassie: Hi I’m Cassie

Jennifer: And I’m Jennifer

Cassie: And you are listening to Green Talking, the podcast helping you learn English for good.

Jennifer: Today we are going to talk about digital waste. This session links to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 9: Industries, infrastructure and Innovation, and also Goal 12: Responsible Production and Consumption.

Cassie: So you Jennifer wanted to talk about this topic today because you feel it is something that we don’t usually talk about? I have to admit I don’t immediately think of digital waste when I think of sustainability. So why is this topic important to you?

Jennifer: Yeah I think digital waste is one of those ‘elephants in the room’, a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions that nobody wants to deal with or even talk about. And so many challenges around sustainability relate to communication, being informed as consumers and having the knowledge to make decisions. And that’s what kind of we hope to achieve with this podcast too, opening up those conversations and just trying to ask some questions and help us all think about our consumption choices.

So, digital waste. Since the pandemic we have been travelling a lot less, right? We’ve been making video calls instead which mean there’s no carbon emitted from travel, great! But let’s think about that a bit more. Imagine you have an hour long video call with someone maybe working on a shared document in the cloud.

Relying on that cloud computing and those video calls actually has a huge environmental impact and those data centres that support that support that activity them consume large amounts of electricity, often sourced from coal-fired power plants.

So I think we need some statistics to better understand the issue. I think it’s time for “Fun facts with Cassie”

Cassie: My favourite part of every episode. So fact number one: The world’s data centres which are the storehouses for enormous quantities of information — consume about three per cent of the global electricity supply and produce two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissionsSo they consume more electricity than the entire United Kingdom and produce roughly the same amount of global greenhouse gas emission as global air travel. 

Jennifer: That is crazy. We talk so much about air travel in the media. We talk about flight shame. People are so aware about the impact of flying and we just never talk about digital waste. I would have never thought it was the same:

Cassie: Ok fact number two: the number of data centres, so the number of those stores houses worldwide has grown from 500,000 in 2012 to more than 8 million today. 

Jennifer: That is just mental. 500,000 data centres in 2012 to 8 million today. That is some strong growth.

Cassie: Ok and finally fact number three: Streaming through 4G data mobile networks consumes about four times as much electricity than streaming through WiFi 

Jennifer: Ok so what that means is if I watch a programme on my mobile phone, on my data connection that is going to use four times as much energy as if I watch that same programme but connected on a wifi network. And that is because so the phone itself is very energy efficient, so when you are streaming something, the consumption comes almost entirely from the transmission of the data and not the phone’s energy use itself. So that is why we see such a big difference depending on which type of network you use to receive that information.

So, you might have seen that some research came out in 2019 suggesting that watching Netflix was one of the most polluting activities we can do as consumers. And it caused a lot of panic and a lot of people thought that we need to stop watching Netflix completely. But it turned out soon after that the report was actually falsified information, with some exaggerated numbers and some misrepresentation of the truth.

Cassie: Misrepresentation of the truth. So…fake news?

Jennifer: Fake news, yup. This is a good example of just how difficult it is to really understand what is happening in this area and understand our impact. We don’t really know who to believe.

Cassie: It’s actually not just a problem for us as consumers. A recent survey spoke to hundreds of IT leaders about their data centre practices and the findings are interesting. While data centres have an enormous impact as we have seen, energy efficiency ranked just fourth on the leaders’ priority list when building a new data centre. And, most respondents did not even know their data centre PUE, or Power Usage Effectiveness, this is the primary measure of data centre efficiency. Even worse, most of them often kept their data centres at needlessly cold temperatures, like keeping your fridge really, really cold – wasting large amounts of power.

Jennifer: Not good news.

Cassie: Not great at all but there are some projects that are starting to communicate about this issue.  One of them is the International Energy Agency, the IEA, have created  a calculator which lets you see how much carbon you produce by watching or streaming.

Jennifer: Yeah that’s really handy. And it just helps to start having those conversations. And it is really positive to see that some big companies in the private sector are starting to change. The ‘big four’ are taking action, so Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple, they have all committed to 100% renewable energy.  And Google is apparently leading the way in they reached 100% renewable energy  supply in 2017.

And so it’s great to see that that change is happening at the top in these huge companies and I hope that that will start to filter down and that we will start to more understanding of this need and start to see other companies doing similarly.

But renewable energy supply is not going to be enough, and actually doesn’t resolve one of the main problems which is the heat produced from data centres.

Cassie: So let’s think about those data centres a bit more. While most conversations about climate change are focused on limiting emissions from the automotive, aviation and energy sectors, it’s the communications industry that is on track to generate more carbon emissions than all of those sectors combined.

Jennifer: Yeah so we need to do something. There has been quite a lot of talk about locating data centres in cold countries to help them cool down and cut emissions. And Google actually tested this theory by opening a data centre in Finland back in 2009 and they announced in 2019 that they would invest a further €600 million into these projects. But I don’t know migrating 8 million data centres to Siberia seems like an unrealistic goal

Cassie: And surely that’s just going to heat up the surrounding area anyway? Won’t we just end up with Siberia overheating?

Jennifer: Yeah exactly, and as per usual we will not find the solution if we are just sticking a bandage over the problem, we need to treat the root and change the system.

Cassie: Work with and not against!

Jennifer: Work with and not against, exactly. So another example of exciting projects that are happening is in Norway where a data centre operator has promised that waste heat from their data centre in Oslo will be reused to warm 5,000 apartments in the city. The company has signed an agreement with a local district heating supplier to redistribute the heat generated by its data centre, which by the way is also renewably powered. It’s pretty cool. So imagine living in a flat that is heated by wind turbines, which are then helping to store your documents in the cloud!

Cassie: So I save my file and then I can turn on my light.

 Jennifer: You save your file and then you save the planet.

Cassie: And Microsoft are also working towards changing their systems so that their data centres are much more efficient, rather than just using the same amount of energy but from renewable sources. Microsoft are also trialling a data centre underwater in Scotland, they believe that the water will cool the system, and also reduce some of the damage that can be experienced when exposed to oxygen.

Jennifer: Sounds ambitious. Um I don’t know it sounds like it risks just putting more heat into the sea instead of into the air.


Cassie: Well, yes, it’s far too soon to tell if the project will be successful. And the last thing we need is to increase the sea temperature even more. But the most important thing is that we are trying, because it is through research and development that we will find solutions!

Jennifer: So research and development, data centres, renewable energy supply that all sounds great but can we do as consumers. What about at the other end of the scale?

Let’s talk about emails. So had you thought about this topic previously? Had you thought about the environmental impact of your emails?

Cassie: No not really. 

Jennifer: Yeah so there’s an average of 240 million emails sent in the world per minute, and around 20% of those emails are never opened.

Cassie: Whoa. Can you say that again!

Jennifer: Yeah so 240 million emails are sent in the world per minute, and around 20%, 1 in 5, 20% of those emails are never opened.

Cassie: I’m definitely guilty of not opening all of my emails. And now to find out that each of those emails has a footprint.

Jennifer: It’s just the scale. Like, 240 million emails per minute how many emails is that sent in the world since the start of this episode. I don’t know… billions!  It’s just mind-boggling.

 Cassie: And in our research I found out that a short email can add about 4 grams of CO2 to the atmosphere and then the average email is about 10 grams and an even bigger email with a big attachment can have a footprint of 50 grams of carbon emissions. A typical year of incoming email is the equivalent of driving 200 miles in an average car. I just can’t get my head around that. And the global carbon footprint from spam or junk mail or those newsletters that you never read annually is equivalent to the greenhouse gases pumped out by 3.1 million passenger cars in a year.

Jennifer: That is crazy. So just by not even doing anything, by receiving these emails globally we are creating the same amount of pollution as 3.1 million passenger cars. That’s just terrifying.

Cassie: It really is.

Jennifer: And storing all those emails in your inbox means that every time you open up your computer or your phone you are using energy to pull that data out and present that email on your screen.

So for any emails with attachments, it’s being stored in the email provider’s server for you. And that’s great, and its really useful for things you need, but personally, I receive literally thousands of emails and attachments that I read once and then never ever again.

Cassie: Same. So not only is it really annoying having loads of old emails, newsletters, promotional emails or being cc’d into emails that aren’t even relevant to you and having them in your inbox, it’s actually really bad for the environment!

  So the Carbon Literacy project suggests a few things you can do to lower your e-mail carbon emissions: 

Jennifer: Number one- reduce the size of emails by lowering the resolution and compressing images.

Cassie: Number two- regularly clean and maintain mailing lists.

Jennifer: Number three- remove any contacts that unsubscribe, and update any changed email addresses immediately.

Cassie: Number four- check your emails thoroughly before sending to ensure they contain all the necessary (and correct) information, to avoid the need for a follow-up email.

Jennifer: And number five- link to files or information online rather than adding an attachment.

I think that’s really clever and really simple to not put a pdf in attachment but actually link to it online. Yeah I think wherever possible it is definitely something that I try to do if I know I am going to send lots of emails referring to one document. I do tend to put it online and then send a link rather than as an attachment. And it’s just a new habit really to get in to.

So there are some handy apps and websites that can help you with this as well. One example of is Cleanfoxwhich is pretty useful to help you automatically delete all those emails and help you unsubscribe.

Cassie: Wait, Jennifer are you telling our listeners to unsubscribe!

Jennifer: Yeah, I think we might be the only podcast that says ‘and remember to unsubscribe!’

Cassie: Yes but it’s true, don’t subscribe to us.

Jennifer: Don’t subscribe!

Cassie: Or anything else for that matter, unless you really care. And if you change your mind about that newsletter, or that YouTube channel in the future, take two seconds to unsubscribe!

Jennifer: Unsubscribe!

So that brings us towards the end of our episode today

 Cassie: Already?! 

Jennifer: Already. Well we don’t want to have too big of digital footprint, do we?

Cassie: No not at all

 Jennifer: So this is obviously quite a complex topic and hopefully this episode has given you lots of food for thought. So Cassie what has our chat made you think about today?

Cassie: So I’m going to finally unsubscribe from those newsletters. And probably from those podcasts I’m not really listening to. Not only are they clogging my inbox and my phone but they are harming the planet.

Jennifer: Yeah, yeah definitely. And yeah this is a topic that I find fascinating, so thank you for exploring it with me today. And I think maybe the most important thing is just to keep having these conversations and talking about this. And of course delete those old emails and unsubscribe.

Cassie: Unsubscribe!

 So thanks for joining this episode of Green Talking, the podcast helping you learn English for Good. We’ll link to all of the topics discussed today in the podcast notes but we’re really to keen to hear from you! How have you made a change after today’s podcast? What have you learned? What would you like us to talk about next? You can join the conversation on social media at we’re @greentalkfr. And we look forward to you joining us next week!

Jennifer: Thanks for listening! And my catchphrase of the week today is:

Turn the planet clean, let’s get Talking Green!

Cassie: Ok keep brainstorming!

Jennifer: If you could see Cassie’s face in response to this…!

Cassie: Bye!

Jennifer: See you next time!





sustainability => noun the property of being sustainable.
contributor => noun a writer whose work is published in a newspaper or magazine or as part of a book; someone who contributes (or promises to contribute) a sum of money
relate => verb give an account of; have or establish a relationship to; be in a relationship with; make a logical or causal connection; have to do with or be relevant to
informed => adj. having much knowledge or education
consumption => noun the utilization of economic goods
pandemic => adj. existing everywhere; epidemic over a wide geographical area; noun an epidemic that is geographically widespread; occurring throughout a region or even throughout the world
travelling => noun the act of going from one place to another
emitted – past tense of ‘to emit’, to send out a beam, noise, smell, or gas
computing => noun the procedure of calculating; determining something by mathematical or logical methods; the branch of engineering science that studies (with the aid of computers) computable processes and structures
sourced – to get something from a particular place
coal-fired => adj. fueled by burning coal
storehouses => large building for keeping things
roughly => adv. (of quantities) imprecise but fairly close to correct
emission => noun the act of emitting; causing to flow forth; the occurrence of a flow of water (as from a pipe); the release of electrons from parent atoms; any of several bodily processes by which substances go out of the body; a substance that is emitted or released
worldwide => adj. spanning or extending throughout the entire world; of worldwide scope or applicability; involving the entire earth; not limited or provincial in scope
transmission => noun the act of sending a message
exaggerated => adj. enlarged beyond truth or reasonableness; enlarged to an abnormal degree; represented as greater than is true or reasonable
fake => adj. not genuine or real
yup => yes
priority => noun preceding in time; status established in order of importance or urgency
respondents. – people who respond to e.g. a survey
needlessly => adv. without need
fridge => noun a refrigerator
handy => adj. easy to use
renewable => adj. capable of being renewed; replaceable
unrealistic => adj. not realistic
overheating => noun excessive heating
bandage => noun a piece of soft material that covers and protects an injured part of the body;
supplier => noun someone whose business is to supply a particular service or commodity
redistribute => verb distribute anew
file => noun a set of related records (either written or electronic) kept together
trialling. => the process of formally testing a product to discover how effective or suitable it is:
mind-boggling => extremely surprising and difficult to understand or imagine
incoming => adj. arriving at a place or position
spam => noun unwanted email (usually of a commercial nature sent out in bulk)
junk => noun something useless
globally => adv. throughout the world
stored => adj. accumulated until needed
server => noun a computer that provides client stations with access to files and printers as shared resources to a computer network
literally => adv. (intensifier before a figurative expression) without exaggeration; in a literal sense
annoying => adj. causing irritation or annoyance; noun the act of troubling or annoying someone
promotional => adj. of or relating to serving as publicity; of or relating to advancement
mailing => noun the transmission of a letter; mail sent by a sender at one time
update => noun supply with recent information
thoroughly => adv. in a complete and thorough manner
follow=>up => noun an activity that continues something that has already begun or that repeats something that has already been done
tend => verb have care of or look after; have a tendency or disposition to do or be something; be inclined
subscribe => verb receive at regular intervals
newsletter => noun report or open letter giving informal or confidential news of interest to a special group
hopefully => adv. it is hoped; with hope; in a hopeful manner
clogging => adj. preventing movement
fascinating => adj. capturing interest as if by a spell; capable of arousing and holding the attention

Sustainable Cities

Here you will find the latest episode of Green Talking, all about sustainable cities!

 How to listen? Options:


All the useful bits to help you get the most out of Green Talking available on this page:

Useful links






Bloomberg Building, London

Smart streetlights

The case for … making low-tech ‘dumb’ cities instead of ‘smart’ ones, The Guardian, January 2020

Do you have other relevant resources to share with our listeners? Tell us in the comments!



Jennifer: Hi I’m Jennifer

Cassie: And I’m Cassie

Jennifer: And you are listening to Green Talking, the podcast helping you learn English for good.

Cassie: Today we are talking about town planning, smart cities, and our urban areas of tomorrow. This session links to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Eleven – Sustainable Cities and Communities. The goal is to make cities more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Jennifer: It is an interesting time to talk about sustainable cities as we are seeing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a positive sense, during lockdown or confinement, we saw the absence of cars on our streets, and a lot of people felt like our cities could ‘breathe’ for the first time. I found it incredible to walk on the roads and be aware of all the sounds and even smells that are usually masked by the traffic.

Cassie: Yeah it was surreal but so nice to see your local community in a totally different way. It was just so quiet. Even now the city is still quiet. Fewer people on the bus going by my house and more people walking and cycling. I was actually in the countryside for the formal lockdown and it was so nice seeing families out together enjoying the fresh air.

Jennifer: Totally. And as a result, during lockdownair pollution in some cities was the lowest it has been in thirty years7 million people die each year globally from air pollution, so having a complete lockdown in many large cities potentially saved tens of thousands of lives.

But, let’s not forget that COVID-19 will have a huge negative impact on those who are living in densely-populated areas, poorly built housing and informal or temporary housing, often known as slums. We need to take this opportunity to rethink how we design our living areas, for those who consume the most, and those who are most disadvantaged, so both ends of the scale.

So, before we get started, should we have some statistics?

Cassie: Of course we should! It’s time for fun facts with Cassie.

Fact number one: Almost 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas in the year 2050.

Jennifer: And that’s up from 55% at the moment, right, that’s an increase of 15% in the next thirty years.

Cassie: Yeah it’s really incredible how much that will increase.

Ok Fact number two: Cities contribute more than 70% of global CO2 emissions.

Jennifer: Ouch! So just 55% of the population living in cities but contributing more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. Not good!

Cassie: Not good at all, especially when people think of cities as quite sustainable in terms of cycling, public transportation and that sort of thing.

Ok fact number three: 828 million people currently live in slums worldwide.

Jennifer: So that’s potentially no access to clean water, no permanent home, poor hygiene and almost a billion people live in those conditions.

Cassie: Yeah it’s really sad.

Fact number four: 90% of the world’s urban areasare on the coast which means cities are at particularly high risk from some of the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels.

Jennifer: 90% live on the coast. Ok so we need to act now!

So, you live in London Cassie, what’s it like living there, would you say it is a sustainable city?

Cassie: Yep, I’ve been here for 10 years.  Well London has actually been named the most sustainable city in the world! Also did you know that London is technically a forest  

Jennifer: That’s so cool. The most sustainable city in the world. I do always wonder how reliable those lists are, if it’s just politicians inventing things?

Cassie: Yeah sustainability is so difficult to define. But if we define it as economic, social and environmental security, London performs very well in all three areas It is a financial centre, it has a great quality of life, and it has a very high proportion of green spaces.  

Jennifer: And so from your perspective as a citizen do you agree with that? What’s your perspective?

Cassie: Yeah. I think every city has room for improvement, of course, and if we are to meet our goals of reducing emissions in the future then we need to do more but I think London has come a long way and deserves the title of sustainable city. This year we are actually celebrating 10 years of the shared bike service and, as a result of COVID-19, the Mayor of London is accelerating plans to create more cycle lanes and pedestrian only areas. These are very welcome changes and I’ve actually bought a bike to take advantage of this!  

Jennifer: Oh cool

Cassie: London really encourages innovation and exciting architecture, and there are some very green buildings right in the city centre. For example, there is the Bloomberg building which was called the most sustainable office building in the world in 2018.

Jennifer: You guys are winning all the awards! So what makes this building special?

Cassie: So the building uses all the traditional sustainability solutions, such as a water collection system on the roof and vacuum-drainage toilets—like the ones found on passenger jets—that dramatically reduces water usage.

But the real innovation comes in the design of the structure. The ceilings have been designed to help the building’s heating, cooling, lighting and acoustic functions, reducing energy usage by over 40%.

Special ceiling panels use aluminium in the shape of 3D petals. These petals can absorb and retain energy because they have a much bigger surface area than a simple flat concrete ceiling.

Jennifer: Wow so aluminium in the shape of petals, like a flower?

Cassie: Yep!

Jennifer: Amazing! We don’t usually hear much about ceilings in sustainable building design, it’s normally the walls talking about insulation and so on.

Cassie: The walls are actually pretty special in this building too. Sustainability really has to be a whole-systems approach, so that we don’t just think about part of a project and forget another. The Bloomberg building has living walls which means that plants are growing vertically on the walls inside, and outside there are big bronze sheets which can open and close to help the building ‘breathe’, like the gills of a fish. The idea behind the building was to work with nature, and not against it.

Jennifer: Ah I love that as an idea. So to work with nature and not against it. That sounds pretty cool. Have you seen the building?

Cassie: Yeah I have. Next time you are in London we should take a cycle into the city and we can have a look around.

Jennifer: On your new bike.

Cassie: On my new bike.

Jennifer: Do you think future cities will see more and more buildings like this?

Cassie: I really hope so but it isn’t all good news in terms of building and sustainable buildings. The building needed 600 tonnes of bronze imported from Japan to create those gills on the side of the building and a quarry-full of granite from India.

Jennifer: Yeah that’s not great. It’s good if the annual energy consumption is low, but we have to think of the construction costs in energy terms.

Cassie: Exactly. It’s all about looking at it as a system and not in isolation.

Jennifer: Whole systems approach, definitely. And like many things in sustainability, the most sustainable building is one which is not built. Maybe we need to go even further in our thinking and consider how necessary these office buildings are. We need to think about the purpose of each building, not just the way it is constructed. For example, currently, we are seeing that a huge number of workers are actually more productive working from home, and maybe our future city designs will begin to reflect that.

For example, Paris recently committed to designing the city based on 15 minute neighbourhoods where everything that you need is in your local community – it’s based around the idea of having lots of small local hubs, transport by foot or bicycle, accessing local businesses, really creating that strong local community feeling.

Cassie: Sounds like such a nice idea! But do you think it is possible?

Jennifer: Anything is possible but I think what will be really important is having solid frameworks and really clear strong leadership. If we want to see real change we are going to need to have innovative policies. For example in Oslo where all new public buildings must not only be zero-emission but actually be “energy-plus,” which means they are generating clean energy. That kind of thinking can really change the way we think about our buildings and our cities.

And energy particularly is one of the biggest challenges facing society, and with the good leadership, urban settings have a real opportunity to link thousands or even millions of consumers in a system which acts intelligently.

Cassie: A system which acts intelligently? What exactly do you mean by that?

Jennifer: So this is what we call a smart city A smart city uses technology to improve efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of services and quality of life for the citizens.

Cassie: Right. So what does that actually mean?

Jennifer: Would it be easiest if I gave some examples?

Cassie: Yeah I think that would definitely help.

Jennifer: So keep in mind we are thinking about using technology, increasing efficiency, improving services and improving quality of life.

Cassie: Ok yup.

Jennifer: So, for example, let’s think of street lighting. Normally you have a lamppost which is a big stick with a light on it. And it lights up at sunset, and it turns off at sunrise. Simple, effective, pretty much the same in every single city. But what if we rethought their purpose? That’s what the city of Glasgow is doing, in Scotland. They have an intelligent lighting programme, which is using lampposts as a smart network, the lights are less bright when there is nobody nearby, and they actually track air pollution, noise and activity to inform the city about movement and even identify crime. And they act as WiFi routers to provide internet!

Cassie: That’s pretty awesome. It’s true that lighting is an existing network that we don’t even think about normally, but it is actually a brilliant infrastructure which could serve multiple purposes. I guess smart cities is thinking about using these infrastructures and rethinking their purposes.

Jennifer: Yeah exactly and electric cars and charging systems is another great example, particularly as energy storage is a big issue for our future, and we can actually think of parked cars as batteries storing energy. So, for example, if we have renewable energy supply when the wind in blowing or the sun is shining, people can charge up their cars, and then the car stores that energy for when they need it and when they want to drive. There are a few cities exploring how to develop that idea. Rotterdam in Holland is currently developing a project where parked cars act as batteries that can actually feed electricity back into the system when the city needs more energy.

Cassie: That’s so cool. I love the idea of cars being a solution and not a problem.

Jennifer: I know, right? However there is a bit of a debate around smart cities versus more traditional so called ‘dumb cities’ – do we want to be living in a linked digital community, where all of our data is shared and used and bought and sold, where we are constantly connected, or can we use some more traditional, or even ancient techniques?

There are so many questions about our data, security, and of course where all that electricity would come from for smart cities. Technology has the potential to respond to so many of our current global issues, but we sometimes need to look back in time to be able to look forward. There are many ancient techniques to deal with flooding, for example, again we come back to that idea of working with nature and not against it.  So instead of blocking rivers and trying to stop flooding, we are seeing more and more cities building parks that are specifically designed to accept flooding. And it’s an ancient technique that many traditional communities used. And there’s actually a park built with this purpose in Rennes, where I live, which is pretty cool.

Cassie: But Rennes not the most sustainable city in the world though are you.

Jennifer: Yeah not yet, not yet!

 Well that brings us towards the end of our episode todaySo, what are your takeaway thoughts from today?

Cassie: I think for me it’s about using existing infrastructure to do something different, like the lampposts in Glasgow. Taking something that was already in place and repurposing it. It makes me think about the lamps on my street and what else they could be doing.

Jennifer: Yeah definitely, for me that’s one of the most exciting areas of development and I love reading about those kinds of projects. It feels like something so futuristic and out of a film. But it is super important to think as well not just about shiny buildings and clever apps that do clever things, but also to take a step back and think about purpose. Thinking about safety, inclusivity, access to services. I think technology should be a potential solution and not the objective. It shouldn’t be the goal of what we are trying to achieve. Technology should just be a way that we can achieve our goals. But there is so much potential to see real change in our urban areas over the next few decades and I am really excited to see what happens!

Cassie: Thanks for joining this episode of Green Talking, the podcast helping you learn English for Good. We’ll link to all of the topics discussed today in the podcast notes but we’re really keen to hear from you! How have you made a change after today’s podcast? What have you learned? What would you like us to talk about next? You can join the conversation social media. You can find us on all platforms at @greentalkfr . And we look forward to you joining us next week!

Jennifer: Thanks for listening! And my catchphrase of the week today is: Environmental destruction is shocking, let’s get Green Talking.

Cassie: Ok you still need to keep brainstorming that one!

Jennifer: See you next time.

Cassie: Bye!

Jennifer: Bye!



resilient => recover easily from difficult situation

pandemic => epidemic over a wide geographical area; noun an epidemic that is geographically widespread; occurring throughout a region or even throughout the world
lockdown => confining people to a space

confinement => the act of restraining of a person’s liberty by confining them
absence => not present
masked => true character is hidden
surreal => like a dream
cycling => the sport of traveling on a bicycle or motorcycle
countryside => rural regions
lowest => smallest in importance

informal => a warm or friendly and not formal atmosphere
disadvantaged => marked by deprivation especially of the necessities of life or healthful environmental influences
worldwide – adj. spanning or extending throughout the entire world; of worldwide scope or applicability; involving the entire earth; not limited or provincial in scope
hygiene => a condition promoting sanitary practices
yep => yes, yeah

reliable => trustworthy, can depend on
perspective => a way of regarding situations or topics etc.
pedestrian => a person who travels by foot
innovation => starting something for the first time
passenger => a traveller riding in a vehicle
dramatically => in a very impressive manner
aluminium – noun a silvery ductile metallic element found primarily in bauxite
petal => coloured segments of a flower.
retain => for possible future use or application
wow => expression of surprise
insulation => protecting something by surrounding it with material that reduces or prevents the transmission of sound or heat or electricity
vertically – adv. in a vertical direction
bronze => an alloy of copper and tin and sometimes other elements
gills => how fish breathe – the respiratory organ of fish
quarry => site for mining stone and other materials

frameworks => structure or approach which can be used to think about and deal with an issue

intelligently – adv. in an intelligent manner
yup => yeah, yes
lamppost => streetlight – a metal post supporting an outdoor lamp
sunrise => the first light of day

sunset => nightfall
flooding => overfull with water
takeaway => a key fact, point, or idea to be remembered, typically one emerging from a discussion or meeting
repurposing => adapt for use in a different purpose.

destruction => the termination of something by causing so much damage to it that it cannot be repaired or no longer exists

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