When everyone can make use of a space, a product or a service, no matter their physical or mental disability or impediment.
Accessibility applies to buildings, but also to entire cities, products, services, or natural environments. Something is accessible when people with varying disabilities can use it or enter it, either by themselves or with the help of an accessibility measure. Buildings equipped with wheelchair access and braille information for the visually impaired, for instance, are accessible!



The process that happens when an object or material is broken down through natural chemical processes, such as through bacteria, or in water.

For example, if left outside the fibers in cardboard will eventually be dissolved by microorganisms, until the original cardboard turns into a substance that can be absorbed back into our soil.
In order to protect our environment, many manufacturers are now rethinking the making process of some materials that are traditionally harmful to the ecosystem. For example, plastics are traditionally made from non-renewable materials such as fossil fuels, but there are now many alternatives to re-design plastic production, which causes the plastic end product itself to become biodegradable.



A system where resources are continuously used over and over again, like in a circle, and where as little as possible goes to waste.
This means, for example, repairing, recycling and reusing existing objects and materials, but also sharing things like household and garden equipment among several people, for example in a community or a neighbourhood. In this way, less carbon emission and less pollution happens, since objects stay in the cycle and are not just thrown away after one use. A circular economy is very different from a linear economy, in which the consumption path is a simpler line that goes straight from production, usage, and eventually disposal of objects.


Rights and duties that come with being a full member of a country: a citizen.
As a citizen of a given country, you have certain rights that are set by the country’s government, such as the right to hold a passport, to participate in the political life of the country by voting, or to access its health system.
Citizenship is not the same as nationality, which tells which country you are from. Remember: you can have citizenship of one country, but carry the nationality of another!


Is the average of weather conditions for a particular place or region over a long time (years, centuries).
Climate is measured in characteristics such as temperature, rainfall, wind, and humidity, which are determined by where a region is located in the world.
For example, countries that are closer to the Equator are on average warmer than countries further away. This means that there are several climates in the world, influencing many things such as what animals and plants live and grow in a geographical area. Unlike weather, climate does not vary on a daily basis, but can change over centuries or millennia: this can be due to natural forces or to the influence of external factors, like human actions.
The climate change we are all talking about these days happens when we make economic or life choices that affect the Earth’s overall climate in negative ways, such as undertaking many unnecessary plane rides, being wasteful with our belongings, and supporting industry activities that harm our environment.



A very old form of government of a nation, whose name comes from Ancient Greek and means “rule by the people.”
In a Democracy, the people of a country directly participate in the election of their own government through a process of voting, so that the chosen government thus reflects the opinions and choices of the people. The opposite of Democracy is a Dictatorship or Tyranny, where it’s just one person who makes all the rules. Democratic principles do not only work in political contexts, but also apply to our daily life: we use everyday democratic decision-making to solve conflicts or make decisions for a group of people, like a company, or simply your family or school.


A condition of the body or of the mind that makes it difficult for someone to complete certain actions or interact with their surroundings.
There are many different kinds of disability or impairments, and they can be either clearly visible (for example, someone in a wheelchair has a physical or motor impairment or someone wearing glasses has a visual impairment), invisible or hidden (for example people who are mute or who suffer from mental disorders). Unfortunately, disabilities are often at the centre of discriminations and many of them can constitute an actual stigma. However real life stories show us every day that people with disabilities are often able to live a dignified life, and even achieve accomplishments that are extraordinary even for people without disabilities – such as participating in the Paralympics (the Olympic Games for people with disabilities) or becoming world leaders and activists – such as Greta Thunberg, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.



Seven big organizations that together govern the European Union.

They are the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the Court of Auditors. They each have their own work area. The Commission, for example, develops new policies, whereas the Central Bank takes on money-related tasks such as overseeing the use of the Euro as a ‘single currency’ between many European countries. The European Institutions also collaborate to ensure the Union keeps working in a fair, efficient and coherent way.



It means that everyone is free and able to express their ideas and opinions without having to be afraid for prosecution, censorship, or punishment.

It is an essential part of a democracy: in order for a country’s government to fairly represent its people, the people of this country need to have free access to relevant knowledge and information, and need to be able to freely express their own opinions. Freedom of speech is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.



It’s the energy gained from renewable, eco-friendly sources in nature, for example through solar panels, windmills, and hydroelectric installations.

Green energy is not dependent on fossil fuels that will eventually be depleted, and it is therefore a much more sustainable choice. If you are producing more green energy than you are using yourself, such as electricity gained from solar panels on your roof, you can also help others use renewable energy even when they don’t have their own installations for harvesting energy from nature.



Those rights that everyone has, simply because they are human.

Their characteristics (if they are a man or a woman, black or white, rich or poor, etc.) don’t matter, every human being has the same set of human rights, for example: the right to live, the right to food, the right to education, the right to health etc. Human Rights are protected by many different international treaties, but the most basic one is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by the UN in 1948.

Countries have the duty to protect the Human Rights of their citizens, either by passively respecting their freedoms (for example, the right to free speech) or by actively promoting their rights (for example, by making sure their citizens live healthy lives).



A situation where people are not equal, do not have the same rights or the same resources, for unjust and unfair reasons.

There are many different types of inequality. When we talk about “economic inequality”, we refer to the differences existing between rich people and poor people. “Inequality of rights” is when people don’t have the same rights or obligations. Other types of inequality can include gender inequality – when women and other gender minorities are treated differently from men just because of their gender; or racial inequality – when racial minorities are treated differently than the majority simply because of their gender. Inequalities are often linked to each other, and lead to people in the same society having very different living conditions and life paths.



A complex concept that indicates that something is morally or legally “right” and “good”.

Justice can also refer to the whole system of laws in a country or in an international organisation that is built to make sure that every person has what they deserve: their rights to be protected from violence and discrimination, for example, or a just and fair punishment if they have done something wrong. Judges and Courts are the ones that “make justice”



The Kyoto protocol is a large, worldwide climate agreement that was adopted in Kyoto in 1997, and officially went into effect in 2005.

The goal of the protocol was to commit countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, based on the knowledge that these emissions are a big cause of global warming. Currently, 192 countries are “states parties” to the agreement, this means that all these countries formally committed to work towards its goals. In 2005, the Paris agreement was adopted as a successor to the Kyoto protocol.



Literacy refers to a person’s ability to read and write, or generally, to independently process information and produce new one.

There are different degrees of literacy, or its opposite, illiteracy. For example, a person can be capable of understanding and producing simple words and sentences, such as street signs, but might struggle with communication beyond this basic level, as would be necessary for many types of employment: this is referred to as ‘functional illiteracy’. Having any level of difficulty with literacy can have serious effects on a person’s wellbeing: it can lead to feelings of social exclusion, issues with finding and keeping a job, or less access to proper health care due to not being able to understand necessary information about one’s health.



How a person feels about themselves and the world around them.

Many people struggle with mental health issues everyday: for example, a person can have low self-esteem, be anxious about the future, or often feel like they need a lot of help to cope with life’s challenges and events. Mental illness occurs when difficulties like these start to seriously affect a person’s lifestyle, such as their thoughts, mood or behavior.



Natura 2000 is a network of protected natural areas across the European Union focusing on areas that are crucial for the conservation of animal and plant species.

For example, it has a special emphasis on migratory birds that travel across the continent and beyond, and birds that are particularly threatened. Natura 2000 does not only include areas on land, but also marine habitats. As of 2021, the network already covers 18% of Europe’s land, and 8% of its marine territory. The Natura 2000 Viewer is a tool made by the European Environment Agency, in which you can browse all the sites in the network on a map of Europe.



This is a chemical molecule that is made up of oxygen gas, and plays a big role in protecting the earth from ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

There is a part of the Earth’s atmosphere in which there is a high concentration of ozone; we call this the ozone layer. It works as a sunscreen for the earth: it blocks between 93 and 99% of this radiation, which would otherwise be very harmful to life on earth. Over the last hundred years, the ozone layer gradually became thinner because of our use of certain harmful chemicals, such as those in styrofoam. Since the world’s leaders started to recognize this issue, action was taken by banning some of these harmful chemicals, which has led to the ozone layer repairing itself again.



A way to move around by sharing a transport method with other people, such as a tram, bus, ferry, or metro.

Airplanes are also a form of public transport, when people are making longer distance trips. Public transport usually requires timetables and fixed infrastructure, such as train stations and bus schedules. Especially for short distances within or between cities, public transport is often an environmentally friendly option, since many travellers are sharing one mode of transport, instead of, for example, all individually driving cars. In this way, using public transport contributes to lowering carbon emissions.



A quotum is an amount of something, either as an absolute number (e.g. x amount of something) or as a relative number (x percentage of a total amount).

Quota – the plural of quotum – are often interpreted as a maximum or a minimum amount of something: for example, the European Commission sets maximum quota, or Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for fishing to indicate how much a country is allowed to catch of a particular fish species. This helps balance out economic gain with preservation of the marine ecosystem. Quota are also often used to support gender equality: a company can set a minimum amount of women it wants to appoint in various ranks, which helps counteract gender discrimination.



The process of converting waste into new objects or materials.

Recycling is not the same as re-use – a recycled object as a whole gets a completely new life and a new function: for example, an old newspaper can be recycled into an egg carton. Recycling is important for the environment: it reduces waste and makes sure that raw materials such as metals, paper or batteries are not lost after being used in one product only, and that harmful materials such as certain types of plastics do not end up in our ecosystem, like in the oceans. You can easily recycle in your own home, for example by collecting and depositing paper, glass, plastics and electronics in the right trash bags, or at collection points.



The effort we make to pursue our personal, social and economic wellbeing, without negatively affecting the needs of other people, animals, the environment or of the future generations.

For example, we all need clothes and food, but we have many options to choose sustainable alternatives, such as vegetarian food, or ethically-made clothes. Sustainable development is not only about climate change, but it means balancing different areas of our life, such as economy, society and environment that are all interconnected. For example, societies where income, wealth and opportunities such as housing, labour or health services are distributed equally among their citizens also tend to recycle more and invest more to protect the environment!


A very ambitious to-do-list that was adopted by all UN member states to drive change in the world by 2030.

They are also known as SDGs or Global Goals and there are 17 of them: they embrace the widest idea of sustainable development you can think of, in our society, economy and environment. They stretch from tackling climate change to decreasing poverty, and from protecting ocean life to giving all people access to good education.



A species is threatened when it runs a big risk of going extinct. The Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) keeps track of the conservation status of each species across the world.

This list includes not only animals, but also plants and corals. Determining whether a species is threatened is done based on criteria such as a species’ known population size, its geographical distribution, and how fast it declines in numbers. Some species are doing really well – they are listed as ‘Least Concern’. Species that are vulnerable according to these criteria, are running a high risk of extinction, or are critically endangered already, are officially regarded as ‘threatened species’. Currently about 35,500 species, or 28% of the world’s species, are threatened. This includes 26% of all the mammal species, 33% of reef coral species, and 14% of all bird species.



The largest international organisation in the world, and a place where countries come together to discuss and solve the world’s biggest challenges.

For example: international peace and security, human rights, climate change and sustainable development. The United Nations (UN) was founded after World War II in 1945, with the goal of preventing similar great wars from taking place ever again. It counts 193 countries plus 2 “observer” states, which means that the greatest majority of the countries of the world are members of the UN. The Headquarters are in New York (USA), Geneva (Switzerland), Vienna (Austria) and Nairobi (Kenya). Its structure also includes several other agencies (e.g. UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO), each dedicated to a specific issue.



A type of education in which students are learning crafts, trades, or particular technical skills, to prepare them for specific professions.

Often, vocational education is paired with apprenticeships in small or large companies, stores or artisan workshops, where students can learn practical skills in the workforce with the help of an instructor. The Sustainable Development Goals Goal 4 on Quality Education includes increased investments in vocational education, so that as many adolescents and adults as possible have access to training in applied skills, which will help them to become economically independent individuals in the societies they live in.



Any sort of material that cannot be used (anymore), is unwanted, and also cannot be recycled.

Waste is a product that has outlived its life cycle and is discarded by the user, such as a broken household item. It can also be a side effect of a production process: for example, some polluting industries create lots of waste byproducts, such as toxins that can contaminate the surrounding air, water and fields. The more waste we have in our living environments, the more damage occurs to our ecosystem – so you’d better try and avoid waste as much as you can in your daily life! You can recycle, go to package-free stores, or donate your old or unused items to collection centers or people in need.



This word literally means a fear of what is foreign, or of foreign people or objects, which is a core element of racism.

When directed at people, xenophobia can lead to discrimination, hate speech and violence. Xenophobia can also mean that a social group is so opposed to ‘foreign’ influences in language and traditions that this group completely retreats into its own cultural bubble. Although this type of xenophobia is often not directly violent, it nonetheless leads to loss of contact between individuals and groups, which can eventually result back in stronger racism.



Youth in Action is the branch of Erasmus+ – the European funding program for education, training, youth and sport – that focuses on youth engagement across Europe.

It provides funding and exchange opportunities to help young Europeans develop skills, competences and confidence to become active and engaged citizens for tomorrow’s world. This includes, among others, the European Solidary Corps.



Zero Waste refers to the goal of reusing and recycling all objects and materials that we use, so that no waste ends up in our environment.

It applies, among others, to industrial activities: ideally, companies would make environmentally conscious choices in source materials, production processes and packaging, so that no waste ends up in our oceans or in landfills. Of course Zero Waste is often difficult – it is therefore regarded as a goal or guidelines, rather than a target we absolutely should and can achieve. You can also adopt parts of it in your own lifestyle. You can start by avoiding to bring waste into your own home, for example by going to package-free stores, or by taking your own reusable bags to the grocery store. You can also recycle as much as you can – check out the recycling guidelines of your own town or country to see what you can do yourself!

This website has been funded with support from the European Commission. Its content reflects the views of the author (The European Footprints initiative) only, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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