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Welcome to our four-part series on expanding your vocabulary for the IELTS exam. Don’t forget to check out the other three posts:

Today’s theme is the environment. As with our previous entries, we’ll be looking at creating relevant vocabulary sets to improve your IELTS vocabulary. So let’s get started!

As you may already know by now, the environment is a very popular IELTS theme. It's particularly common in Speaking Part 3, where you’re expected to discuss the topic more broadly and in greater depth. Likewise, you could be asked to write about environmental issues in Writing Task 2.

Here, you might have to identify causes for specific environmental problems, suggest solutions, predict consequences and/or give your opinion on the subject in a discussion. Below are three sub-topics related to the environment, each containing words or phrases that you can use to elaborate your answers in both the Speaking and Writing modules of the test:

1. Nature


part of speech


common collocations





the natural environment where an animal or plant lives

natural habitat, wildlife habitat, threatened/endangered habitat, damage/destroy a habitat, conserve/protect a habitat, loss of habitat

I believe new measures are necessary to protect wildlife habitats.




the number and types of plants and animals in a specific area or in the world

biodiversity loss, biodiversity conservation, global biodiversity, preserve biodiversity

Biodiversity conservation plans should be a priority for governments around the world.

/ ˈsɝː.vɪs ˌroʊd/



all the people, animals and plants living in an area and the way they affect each other and the environment

forest ecosystem, healthy ecosystem, maintain the ecosystem, benefit the ecosystem, damage the ecosystem, species in an ecosystem

It is well known that commercial fishing can have a very negative impact on the ecosystem, yet little has been done to address this.


endangered species


a type of plant or animal that might stop existing

save endangered species, critically endangered species

There are many organizations that are committed to saving endangered species.

/ɪnˈdeɪn·dʒərd ˈspi·ʃiz/



plants in general

natural vegetation, green vegetation, dense/lush/thick vegetation, native vegetation, destroy the vegetation

The Costa Rican jungles are characterized by thick, green vegetation.


2. Environmental problems


part of speech


common collocations



global warming


a gradual increase in the earth’s temperature caused by gases surrounding the earth

contribute to global warming, combat/fight/tackle global warming

We have to fight global warming before it’s too late.

/ˌɡloʊ.bəl ˈwɔːr.mɪŋ/



to make air, water or soil dirty

pollute the environment, pollute the air/water/soil

If we continue to pollute our environment, our children and grandchildren will have to pay the consequences.




the cutting down of trees in an area

mass deforestation, illegal deforestation, reduce deforestation

Forest biodiversity is threatened by mass deforestation carried out around the world.


climate change


changes in the world’s weather, in particular an increase in temperature, caused by human activity

the impacts/results of climate change, climate change talks, climate change sceptic/denier (someone who does not believe in climate change)

Personally, I don’t think that climate change can do us any good.

/ˈklaɪ.mət ˌtʃeɪndʒ/



no longer existing

be extinct, become/go extinct, completely/totally extinct, almost/nearly/practically/virtually extinct

Many species of plants and animals have become extinct due to human activity.


3. Protecting the environment


part of speech


common collocations





causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to be continued over a long period of time

sustainable growth, sustainable development, sustainable communities, sustainable energy sources

Big companies should donate a percentage of their profits to support sustainable development.


renewable energy


energy that is produced using natural resources such as the wind, sun, etc.

renewable energy industry, renewable energy projects/sources/technology, demand for renewable energy

The environmental benefits of renewable energy are countless.

/rɪˈnuː.ə.bəl ˈen.ɚ.dʒi/



the protection of animals, plants, natural areas and natural substances

wildlife conservation, energy conservation, water conservation, nature/environmental conservation, conservation area

Energy conservation saves us money and helps the environment.




the practice of not eating or using animal products (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, etc.)

strict veganism

I believe that veganism, clean energy and environmental conservation are the solution to climate change.




the study of or an interest in the environment and the belief that it must be protected from harmful human activity

promote environmentalism

Some believe that eco-tourism can promote environmentalism.





reduce, reuse, recycle

phrase used to encourage people to waste less and use things again to protect the environment

The three R’s - reduce, reuse and recycle - all help to cut down on the amount of waste we produce.

to go green

to change one’s lifestyle to help protect the environment

Grocery stores should go green by using paper bags instead of plastic.

to have a green thumb

to have the ability to grow plants well

My mother has a green thumb and grows most of the fruit and veggies she consumes.

to go solar

to collect solar energy by using solar energy panels

What many people don’t know is that by going solar, they’re also saving money.


Finally, remember that the topic of the environment often goes hand in hand with other common IELTS themes, such as transportation. This increases the chances of having to discuss environmental issues to some extent at some point during the test. It's important that you’re able to determine when you’re being asked to connect topics in order to use this vocabulary in a flexible way.