Jump to this Simulation/Interactive »
Carbon Footprint Calculator | Climate Change | US EPA

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

This carbon footprint calculator is set up for easy-to-use inputs for three sectors: home energy use, local transportation, and home waste generation.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Simulation/Interactive supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 1 Cross Cutting Concept
High School: 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Science and Engineering Practice

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emission (energy conservation, renewable energies, change in energy use)
About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe
Evidence is that human impacts are playing an increasing role in climate change
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4f

Energy Literacy

Amount of energy used can be calculated and monitored.
Other materials addressing:
6.8 Calculating and monitoring energy use.

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

  • Users need to have data on their own energy use (home electricity use, transportation cost, etc.) in order to use this tool.
  • The inputs would be most efficiently accomplished at home with assistance from parents, who can provide detailed information on utility bills, miles driven, recycling, etc.
  • Students may have a difficult time imagining that gas actually has weight. Use the value of 0.0855 lbs air/cubic foot to calculate how much air (in pounds) is in your classroom before students start using the calculator.

About the Science

  • Footprint calculator estimates carbon footprint for household home energy use, home waste generation, and local transportation. Estimates are based on baseline data provided by the user (utility bills, miles driven, recycling, etc.). Assumptions and references are provided, based on US average values.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    - provides a cost breakdown incentive
    - the excel calculator on opening page is awesome!

About the Pedagogy

  • Calculator is very simple and straightforward in presentation.
  • Output of calculator is a report on user's current footprint, potential reductions based on behaviour changes identified, and comparisons to general public.
  • For each of energy use, waste, and transportation, behavior change/reduction strategies are provided along with savings in dollars and CO2 emissions.
  • Students can download the exercise as an Excel spreadsheet to see the formulas used in calculations.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Easy to use, well designed.
  • Transparent in providing background references, data, and calculations.
  • Note: EPA website notes that some URLs may change - keep an eye out for possibility of this tool being moved on the site.

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

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

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: 1

Cause and effect

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 4

HS-ESS2.D4:Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

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-ETS1.B1:When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

HS-P5.5:Apply ratios, rates, percentages, and unit conversions in the context of complicated measurement problems involving quantities with derived or compound units (such as mg/mL, kg/m3, acre-feet, etc.).

Jump to this Simulation/Interactive »