Climate and environment glossary – R–S

A–B | C–D | E | F–G | I–M | N–P | R–S | T–Z


reduce, reuse, recycle, replenish: an example of a variation of the ‘3 Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle’, used in relation to shopping or consumerism. As a customer/consumer, we’re encouraged to ‘reduce’ our consumption, ‘reuse’ the item for other purposes once its original function has ended (see downcycling), ‘recycle’ the item or product in order to divert what goes to landfill, and ‘replenish’ or ‘restore’ – to think about our own relationship with the environment, spending time with nature in order to refocus on what’s important. See waste hierarchy.

reforestation: the planting of trees on land that was previously forested. See also afforestation.


regenerative agriculture: farming and grazing practices that rebuild soil organic matter and restore degraded soil biodiversity, thus sequestering carbon and improving the water cycle.

renewable energy sources: useful energy from a source that is not depleted when used, such as solar energy (photovoltaics), solar thermal (water heated by the sun), geothermal (natural underground heat); onshore and offshore wind power, hydropower (water-driven power stations), heat pumps (ground-, air- or water-sourced), wave power and tidal power. In addition, biomass, biogas and energy-from-waste are classed as ‘renewable’ in some cases.

rewilding: allowing nature to recover, often after a period of exploitation. Areas of land are left to go ‘wild’ so that ecosystems can regenerate.


sequestration: the long-term extraction of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, which is then stored in solid or liquid form (eg using plants – specifically trees and grasses, soils, rock formations and the oceans).

sixth mass extinction event: the current rapid rate of species and habitat loss, considered by some scientists to indicate that we are undergoing a mass extinction event. Mass extinctions occur when the Earth loses around three-quarters of its species in a geologically short time interval.

slow fashion: the opposite of fast, cheap and poor-quality clothing. Slow fashion is a term that has gained ground as the fashion industry comes under scrutiny for its polluting manufacturing processes (accounting for 10 per cent of global carbon emissions and 20 per cent of wastewater. Source: There is a call for brands to show more respect and fairness to the environment and the people behind the labels. Slow fashion focuses on sustainability, rejects excessive consumption, and involves producing better-quality garments that last longer. ‘Around 300,000 tonnes of unused clothes are burned or buried in landfill each year’ (source: Greenpeace). See also fast fashion.

sulfur: a chemical element significant for its presence in the greenhouse gas sulfur hexafluoride and in the gas sulfur dioxide, the precursor to acid rain. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the Royal Society of Chemistry use the f spelling variant, as do exam boards (eg AQA). However, the ph spelling variant persists in non-scientific contexts in British English.

sustainable development: development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The term was coined in 1987 by Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and Chair of the Brundtland Commission. See also environmentally sustainable.