Jump to this Simulation/Interactive »
Carbon Calculator

Environmental Protection Agency, EPA

This carbon calculator, developed by the EPA, guides students in calculating their carbon footprint and then using that information to make decisions about how to reduce their carbon emissions.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Simulation/Interactive supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts

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

  • There is a link to educator resources in the horizontal menu at the very bottom of the screen.
  • Lesson plans, teaching tips, and other web resources can be found in the educator resources section.
  • A possible follow up activity is to have students convert English units into metric units.
  • Students could also use this tool to consider typical emissions and lifestyle habits of people in different countries.

About the Science

  • A nice resource from the EPA that complements the "Calculate your carbon footprint" calculator. This one converts current activities (and those the user will change) to pounds of carbon saved and expresses the result in terms of miles driven by cars.
  • A quick exercise involving 16 activities like "Turn off the water when you brush your teeth," "Bike or walk to school instead of getting a ride," "Recycle newspaper," "Unplug chargers when they are not in use," "Enable the sleep feature on your computer," etc., gives savings for each activity as well as personal totals.
  • Reduction of carbon emissions is translated into a carbon equivalency of miles driven in a car. Additionally, information on the basis of the calculations is given in "sources and assumptions" tab on the downloadable spreadsheet.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The Carbon Calculator is a straightforward exercise that gives the user a clear understanding of the impact of individual and collective carbon choices. Assumptions behind each calculation are not specifically stated.

About the Pedagogy

  • This is a self-directed website designed primarily for middle and high school students.
  • It could be used in both formal and informal educational contexts, including classrooms camps and after-school programs.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The interface is easy to use.
  • Finding "sources and assumption" tabs at bottom of spreadsheet is somewhat difficult.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN


Next Generation Science Standards See how this Simulation/Interactive supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

MS-PS3.D1:The chemical reaction by which plants produce complex food molecules (sugars) requires an energy input (i.e., from sunlight) to occur. In this reaction, carbon dioxide and water combine to form carbon-based organic molecules and release oxygen.

MS-PS3.D2:Cellular respiration in plants and animals involve chemical reactions with oxygen that release stored energy. In these processes, complex molecules containing carbon react with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and other materials.

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Systems and System Models

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C4.3:Models are limited in that they only represent certain aspects of the system under study.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 4

HS-ESS3.A1:Resource availability has guided the development of human society.

HS-ESS3.A2:All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors.

HS-ESS3.D1:Though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts.

HS-LS2.B3:Photosynthesis and cellular respiration are important components of the carbon cycle, in which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and geosphere through chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Systems and System Models

HS-C4.1:Systems can be designed to do specific tasks.

HS-C4.2:When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C4.4:Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system, but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

Jump to this Simulation/Interactive »