This page is intended as a supplement to one of a set of hands-on learning tools, for use with the tools. For more information about these learning tools, see this page This hands-on puzzle gives a hint about one of the root causes of all environmental problems (there are only three).

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Hints / make it easier

There are two words in this game, each made from a stack of blocks. Click / hover over each hint to see more.

Word Puzzle

Colour coding

Picture puzzles

Instead of putting together the words, you can put this together as a picture puzzle.

There are also picture puzzles that come together on the narrow side of the blocks when they are stacked in the right order. 

One image shows creating human-made chemicals (the colour purple used is mauveine, the first synthetic dye ever made) and the other shows cotton’s journey from plant to t-shirt that can go back into the soil (as long as we don’t add synthetic fibers and artificial dyes that can’t break down).

Challenges / make it harder

Poem puzzles

There are two different poems – can you put the lines together as a poem puzzle?

Types of stuff

Try sorting the blocks into two sets based on the types of things suggested by the words (woven willow, Lead, etc).
What do you think are the key differences?

Why is it important to understand the difference between these two types of materials?

Two different journeys

The picture puzzles show two very different journeys – one is of cotton, a natural product (unless we grow it with pesticides and add artificial dyes!) and the other shows a chemical process – such as creating artificial dyes (the purple colour represents mauveine, the first artificial dye ever produced).


How many types of human-made chemicals can you list?
  • Pesticides like DDT
  • Herbicides like Round-up
  • Plasticisers
  • Coolants like CFCs, HCFs (destroy the ozone layer and potent greenhouse gasses)
  • PFAS
  • Synthetic fibres like nylon, polyester, acrylic – that also contribute to microplastics
    Artificial dyes

Ideas for action

In the home / garden

What are you using for cleaning / common household products?
Would they be safe if they got into the water? Is there a natural / biodegradable substitute? For instance, you can use white wine vinegar for cleaning, and buy biodegradable laundry and dishwashing powder in cardboard boxes. Orange oil cleaner is a powerful degreaser!

What about cosmetics and bathroom products? Do they contain microplastics? Do they contain chemicals that might cause harm in nature? How about biodegradable products, like eucalyptus glitter?

Can you replace single-used plastic with something reusable or biodegradable (like cloth or paper bags)? Did you know that it is often cheaper to buy products in bulk, and you can bring your own refillable jars / bags?

Are you using any pesticides and herbicides in the garden? How about using natural alternatives, like sticky tape to capture pests, soapy water Creating homes for hedgehogs and ponds for frogs helps to reduce slugs! Building bug hotels and plants to attract natural predators helps control many pests (as well as providing food for bees and butterflies).

Inspiring ideas / bigger picture changes

Design for a circular economy
We can close the loop and make sure that all technology can be taken apart and all of the materials re-used, again and again and again?


We can learn from natural materials to design new materials, even new ways to heat and cool our buildings learning from termite mounds.

Green chemistry

We can find alternatives to plastic, such as using eucalyptus leaves for glitter.

We can replace styrofoam with packaging grown from mushrooms.

New research is looking at how to create plastics from the waste products from sea food.

What is the RoundView Guideline?

One of the three root causes of environmental problems (doing the opposite) (What we are doing wrong)

One of the ways we can cause environmental problems in a system based on cycling, in which nothing but heat leaves, is by introducing stuff that doesn’t belong, things that do not exist in nature and which won’t break down easily into the building blocks of life. They will build up and cause a problem eventually.

What types of things are these?

Plastics and pesticides, also heavy metals and rare minerals that we bring up from mining, like cadmium and lead, that are so rare in nature that they cause a problem.

Another example of a ‘poison’ to nature is chloro and fluro hydro-carbons (CFCs and HCFCs). They are used as refrigerants (coolants) in air conditioners, fridges and heat pumps – and they are potent greenhouse gasses. Luckily we can use alternatives, such as propane or even carbon dioxide, as coolants.

Instead of poisoning nature, wildlife (and ourselves!) with this stuff that doesn’t belong, we should cycle all material in the right loop. In a sustainable future, we can still have technology and things that use plastics, etc. we just need to be able to take the products apart and re-use the materials again, and again and again – we need to cycle it in the right loop – the technical loop.

For anything that might get into nature, we need to make sure that it can break down harmlessly into the building blocks of life (such as wooden things that can break down into compost and go back to soil at the end of their use).

What do the skull icons stand for?

The skulls stand for ‘Poison’. The yellow skulls stand for human-made, ‘forever’ chemicals. The red skulls stand for heavy metals and other rare materials that are introduced through mining.

Learning resources in different languages

Different languages

Different languages – get in touch if you would like to do more translations!

  • Arabic
  • French / Francais
  • Mandarin
  • Scottish Gaelic
  • Shona (Zimbabwe)
  • Spanish / Espangnol
  • Urdu