Jump to this Activity »
Carbon Calculator Activity
http://www.ei.lehigh.edu/eli/cc/sequence/day16.html

Environmental Literacy and Inquiry Working Group at Lehigh University

In this learning activity, students use a web-based carbon calculator to determine their carbon footprint on the basis of their personal and household habits and choices. Students identify which personal activities and household choices produce the most CO2 emissions, compare their carbon footprint to the U.S. and global averages, and identify lifestyle changes they can make to reduce their footprint.

Activity takes one to two 45-minute class periods.

Discuss this Resource»
Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

A combination of strategies is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The most immediate strategy is conservation of oil, gas, and coal, which we rely on as fuels for most of our transportation, heating, cooling, agriculture, and electricity. Short-term strategies involve switching from carbon-intensive to renewable energy sources, which also requires building new infrastructure for alternative energy sources. Long-term strategies involve innovative research and a fundamental change in the way humans use energy.
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe
ans can take actions to reduce climate change and its impacts.
About Teaching Principle H
Other materials addressing Hum

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
Other materials addressing:
7.3 Environmental quality.
The quality of life of individuals and societies is affected by energy choices.
Other materials addressing:
Energy affects quality of life .
Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
Other materials addressing:
4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
Other materials addressing:
Various sources of energy are used to power human activities .
Human demand for energy is increasing.
Other materials addressing:
6.3 Demand for energy is increasing.
Amount of energy used can be calculated and monitored.
Other materials addressing:
6.8 Calculating and monitoring energy use.
Other materials addressing:
Human use of energy.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:C) Resources
Other materials addressing:
C) Resources.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action
Other materials addressing:
C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Begin the lesson with the video as suggested.
  • Teachers should go through the materials prior to implementing with students to anticipate students' questions and determine what what best to include.

About the Science

  • There is no indication of how the carbon calculator comes up with its results; thus students have no information about what they might do to decrease their carbon footprint.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Carbon calculators are good tools for engaging students in discussions about the impacts of personal habits on greenhouse gas emissions. The methodology for engaging the students in the calculator exercise is clear. The recommended student reading is from the IPCC AR4 (2007) which is the most current IPCC report.

About the Pedagogy

  • This activity is particularly useful when teaching this for the first time. It is a very simple approach to the science with adequate support materials.
  • Video is engaging and provides a great visual demonstration of the mass of CO2 in the environment even though it is invisible to the eye.
  • Carbon calculator does effectively make users aware of how much carbon dioxide/carbon they are producing, but is not supported by documentation on how calculations were made.
  • As students answer questions, they are shown the impact of their household and transportation choices next to each question, so they get immediate feedback about what steps are important to reduce carbon emissions.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Technology easy to use and access.
  • Step-by-step instructions are clear and anticipate student questions. However, there is no information about how anything is calculated.
  • Clear and concise instructions.
  • Teachers need to register at no cost to gain access to the assessments.

Jump to this Activity »



Have you used these materials with your students? Do you have insights to share with other educators about their use? Please share with the community by adding a comment below.

Please use this space only for discussion about teaching with these particular materials.
For more general discussion about teaching climate literacy please use our general discussion boards.
To report a problem or direct a comment to the CLEAN project team please use our feedback form (or the feedback link at the bottom of every page).
Off-topic posts will be deleted.

Join the Discussion


Log in to reply