My Carbon Footprint

Guide students to measure their carbon footprint, and practice empathy and solidarity to work towards a more sustainable world.
Ages 8-14 / 30
min Activity
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  • Discuss climate change and its disproportionate effects on vulnerable populations
  • Measure their carbon footprint and identify an action they can take to reduce their impact on the environment 
  • Foster a sense of solidarity with people who are impacted by climate change

Supporting Research

In order to mitigate students’ anxiety around climate change and foster a willingness to take action, researchers have identified the importance of educational programming in which students are empowered to lead personal actions and educate others about climate change. During this activity, educators should encourage students to practice perspective taking to consider the disproportionate effects of climate change on communities around the world, and kindness to brainstorm actions they can to reduce their carbon footprint and support the well-being of others.

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.

Activity Partners

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  1. Begin the activity by asking students the following questions: 
    • What is climate change? 
    • How does climate change affect our world? 

    You might explain: “Climate change is an urgent issue impacting our planet, and means that the temperature of our planet has been changing over a long period of time. Because of climate change, communities are experiencing (and will continue to experience) more extreme and unpredictable weather, leading to droughts, more acidic oceans, wildfires, and more high-heat days. Climate change also affects the amount of rainfall, leading to different regions receiving more or less rain than they received in the past.”

    Consider watching this video, which explores some of the real-world impacts of climate change.
  2. Continue the discussion by asking students: “Does climate change impact all people equally?” 

    You might say: “As we learn about climate change, it’s important to also consider how it affects different groups of people. Climate change affects all of us, but not equally. Many people, especially those who live in vulnerable communities, are experiencing serious impacts of climate change right now. They often live in areas that are more prone to flooding and other climate-related disasters, putting their homes and livelihoods at-risk. They also experience more air pollution and extreme heat with limited access to resources.”

    Pause for a few moments, then you might say: “By practicing empathy, we can understand and care about the feelings and experiences of people impacted by climate change. And, this sense of empathy can motivate us to help build a more sustainable world for everyone. One simple way we can all help is by reducing our carbon footprint.”
  3. Distribute a copy of the “My Carbon Footprint” handout to each student. On the first page, they will respond to different questions and add up the points to measure their carbon footprint. 

    Then, on the second page, they will reflect on a change they can make to their everyday life to reduce their carbon footprint.

    For example, students might:
    • Turn off lights and electronics when they’re not being used 
    • Walk, bike, or use public transportation instead of cars (when possible)
    • Conserve water by taking shorter showers 
    • Reduce waste by recycling, composting, or reusing items  
    • Choose eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastics (like water bottles and bags)
    • Lower their meat and dairy consumption
    • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables from local sources (rather than packaged or processed foods)
    • Participate in community initiatives to plant trees and clean-up litter
    • Try to use more natural sources of energy, like opening a window to cool down, or drying their clothes outside on a clothesline  
    • Educate others about the importance of reducing their carbon footprint 

    Encourage students to think about how they can prioritize the well-being of the planet and people around the world, even if their actions may affect their individual comfort or convenience. Emphasize the importance of solidarity, and how they can come together as a community to support people who are most affected by climate change. 
  4. After students finish the handout, invite them to share their planned actions with the rest of the class. Write their ideas on a physical or digital board that is visible to everyone, so that students can learn from others’ ideas and support each other’s actions. 

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.