5-minute listening: What environmentally-harmful items would you banish to ‘Room Below Zero’?

  • Practise your English with our short listening exercises: play the audio linked below; answer the questions; and check the answers at the bottom of the page
  • In this week’s podcast, two contestants take part in a game as they convince listeners why single-use plastic and fast fashion belong in Room Below Zero
John Millen |

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One contestant on the show says we should ban single-use plastic. Photo: AFP

Click on the video below for the audio.

Play a Kahoot! game about this podcast as a class or with your friends by clicking on the link here.

Or play on your own below to test your understanding:


1. Which of the following best describes Room Below Zero?
A. It is a game show.
B. It is a reality television show.
C. It is a documentary.
D. It is a soap opera.

2. What is Room Below Zero based on?
A. a film
B. a book
C. a comedy act
D. a true story

3. What does it mean to “banish” something?
A. to accept it willingly
B. to get rid of it
C. to admit it is real
D. to hide it

4. What are landfills and oceans overflowing with according to Li-ying?
A. disposable cups
B. styrofoam food containers
C. plastic bags
D. all of the above

5. According to Li-ying, why do people use plastic packaging?
A. because it is light and keeps its contents from spilling
B. because it is cheap and easy to transport
C. because it is lightweight and lasts for a long time
D. because it can keep food fresh and is cheap to produce

6. How many marine animals are killed because of plastic pollution every year?
A. hundreds
B. tens of thousands
C. hundreds of thousands
D. none of the above

7. What example does Li-ying use to show how plastic packaging affects wildlife?
A. whales being tangled in fishing nets
B. sea turtles that need plastic straws to be removed from their nostrils
C. dolphins with plastic bags trailing from their fins
D. fish getting caught in plastic cling film

8. Which word has an opposite meaning to “heart-wrenching”?
A. exhilarating
B. agonising
C. dreadful
D. distressing

9. What does it mean if people “hardly think twice” before doing something?
A. They do it immediately without thinking.
B. They spend time making a decision.
C. They are nervous about doing it.
D. They have no knowledge of what they are doing.

10. What percentage of global emissions is a result of the fast fashion industry?
A. between 2 and 3 per cent
B. less than 15 per cent
C. more than 30 per cent
D. as much as 50 per cent

11. Which two materials are widely used in fast fashion products?
A. wool and leather
B. silk and cotton
C. cotton and plastic fibres
D. plastic fibres and wool

12. Based on your understanding of the podcast, why is cotton called the world’s “dirtiest crop”?
A. because of the amount of time needed to grow the plant
B. because of how much work it takes to clean the cotton plant
C. because of the damage it does to the environment
D. because of how much plastic waste is produced to grow the plant

13. How much water is needed to produce one cotton T-shirt?
A. 270 litres
B. 900 litres
C. 1,500 litres
D. 2,700 litres

14. According to Charlie, how do farmers protect cotton plants from pests?
A. by using more fertiliser
B. by spraying pesticides
C. by covering them with plastic
D. by keeping them in greenhouses

15. How does the fast fashion industry contribute to water pollution?
A. After clothes are dyed, the waste water is thrown into nearby bodies of water.
B. A large amount of water is used to produce the chemicals for dyeing clothes.
C. Unwanted clothes are usually dumped into open waters.
D. none of the above

SheIn is a popular fast fashion brand, but the affordable, trendy clothes come at a cost for the environment. Photo: Bloomberg


1. A
2. B
3. B
4. D
5. C
6. D
7. B
8. A
9. A
10. B
11. C
12. C
13. D
14. B
15. A


Kennedy: Welcome back to another episode of Room Below Zero. I’m your host, Kennedy. Today, we have two contestants who will need to convince listeners to banish items from their homes and leave them in Room Below Zero. The response with the most votes from listeners will win a $500 cash prize. For those who are new to our podcast, this idea was inspired by a novel which has a room where horrible things are locked away forever. This week’s theme is pollution. Without further ado, let’s welcome, Wong Li-ying and Charlie Sin.

Wong Li-ying and Charlie Sin: Hi Kennedy!

Kennedy: Hello both! Shall we get started?

Wong Li-ying: Sure. That sounds good!

Kennedy: So, Li-ying, could you tell us what you would like to banish to Room Below Zero?

Li-ying: Single-use food packaging and utensils for sure – they’re destroying our planet. Our landfills and oceans are overflowing with styrofoam food containers, disposable cups and plastic bags. No doubt, plastic is good for packaging because it is light and durable, but we need to ask ourselves – at what cost?

Single-use plastics are not only polluting the environment, but they are also harming wildlife too. Millions of birds, fish and other marine animals die because of plastic pollution every year. I’m sure we have all watched videos of seals being strangled by abandoned fishing gear and sea turtles with plastic straws removed from their nostrils. That’s just heart-wrenching. Food packaging and utensils definitely belong in Room Below Zero.

Kennedy: Indeed. How about you, Charlie?

Charlie: I would say fast fashion. Most of us hardly think twice before adding the latest trendy outfit to our wardrobes. Fast fashion makes shopping for clothes more affordable, but it comes at a huge environmental cost.

The fast fashion industry is responsible for about 10 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, according to the UN Environment Programme. This is because many of the items are made of cheap plastic fibres that require large amounts of petroleum to produce.

Cotton, a common material in fast fashion products, is also called the world’s “dirtiest crop”. Producing one cotton T-shirt requires about 2,700 litres of water – enough for one person to drink for 900 days. Farmers also use pesticides on cotton plants to prevent them from being destroyed by pests. But the toxic chemicals found in most pesticides harm the environment and farmers’ health.

More importantly, the fast fashion industry relies heavily on chemical dyes instead of natural ones. This is a major cause of water pollution because the waste water from the dyeing process is often dumped into open waters. For this reason alone, the fast fashion industry must be banished to Room Below Zero.

Kennedy: That’s a great answer, Charlie. Listeners, it’s time for you to vote for your favourite response. Who will be the winner of this week’s Room Below Zero contest and walk away with 500 dollars?

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