Making It Personal

Defining Concepts

For this exercise, you’ll be writing a paragraph about a term used by environmentalists. Some of these terms are so common that we don’t stop to think what they really mean. Your challenge is to explain the concept in a way that is personal, clear, intriguing, and insightful. Don’t just rely on boring definitions, abstract language, or scientific explanations. Make the subject your own and write something creative and coherent.

Sample Paragraph

The following writing sample explains what is meant by a carbon footprint. The writer hooks us with references to myths and monsters, and explains the concept using clear language and vivid imagery.

For some reason, the term carbon footprint reminds me of Bigfoot or the Yeti, fabled monsters known for the size of their tracks. I imagine future visitors to earth will marvel at the mysterious carbon footprints that tell the story of our extinction. Except that a carbon footprint is not easy to visualize. It is simply an estimation of the amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) we emit in our daily lives. The fact that a carbon footprint is merely an approximation delights climate change skeptics, yet this is a mythology I can believe in. It is not difficult to see that my activities have an effect on the planet. As long as I depend on sustainable resources, my carbon emissions will remain close to zero, but when I use electronic devices, travel by car, or consume imported foods, my carbon footprint gets bigger. In this sense, anything that produces carbons has a footprint, whether is a person, a product, or a people. This makes it easy to blame others, as I did not captain the ship that transported the bananas from Ecuador or the suit made in China. Our footprints, like our shadows, overlap, but that is no excuse for inaction. I personally need to reduce my electricity bill, insulate my home properly, avoid air conditioning, limit air travel, and so much more. It’s impossible to avoid some impact on the environment, but I don’t want to leave a carbon footprint of monstrous proportions. Or, if I must be a monster, let me be a monopod, that mythological being described by medieval travelers, a creature typically found lounging on his back, using his single large foot as a sort of umbrella to ward off the heat of the sun.

Pick Your Topic

Please choose one of the following concepts. Then do a bit of research and write your paragraph.

  • Biodiversity
  • Biofuels
  • Carbon offsets
  • Compost
  • Consumer goods
  • Ecology
  • Ecotourism
  • Fuel poverty
  • Greenhouse effect
  • Microplastics
  • Shared Commuting (carpool, ride share, carshare)
  • Sustainability
  • Traffic calming
  • Walkability
  • World Bicycle Day
  • Zero waste