What is a carbon footprint? Have you heard this term before? You probably have. My daughter heard it the other day and was wondering what it meant. When she asked me I realized that I didn’t have a great explanation to share. We have done many environmental science activities for kids in the past, so I knew that this was going to be an interesting and fun topic to explore.
We decided to do some research, a little brainstorming and we came up with an explanation and a solution to the BIG carbon footprint problem. After all, it is very important to make carbon footprint for kids accessible.
What is A Carbon Footprint for Kids?
The generally accepted definition of carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide, or greenhouse gases, produced as a result of our daily living. In other words, many things we do creates carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases. If you add up the number and amount of emissions our daily activity produces you have an idea of the size of the impact we have on the environment.
What is carbon dioxide?
Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound made from 1 atom of carbon and 2 atoms of oxygen. Plants use carbon dioxide in photosynthesis…releasing oxygen into the atmosphere for animals and humans to breathe. However, in high concentrations, carbon dioxide can be very harmful to our environment and contributes to global warming. Carbon dioxide is created when people burn fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, crude oil). Unfortunately, greenhouse gases hold onto the sun’s energy and trap the energy in our atmosphere – thus, increasing the global temperature.
This might seem like a hard concept for kids to understand, but when we started brainstorming a list of things we do every day that use fossil fuels and emit carbon dioxide the idea of a carbon footprint became a whole lot clearer.
Carbon Footprint Activity for Kids
We started off our carbon footprint activity by stamping a footprint on a large piece of bristol board. We thought black paint made the most sense…just like a carbon footprint. Brush the paint on the bottom of your child’s foot and then have your child stamp into the middle of the board.
Once we had our footprint stamped on the poster it was time to start thinking about what contributes to a BIG carbon footprint.
These are some of the items that we came up with…
- Driving a car – burning fuel (gasoline)
- Flying in a plane – burning fuel (jet fuel)
- Wasting energy in our house – burning fuel (natural gas/coal/nuclear energy)
- Buying imported food – food that travels great distances – burning fuel (gasoline/jet fuel)
- Buying non-organic food – pesticide production and transportation burn fuel
- Using inefficient lights – burning fuel (natural gas/coal/nuclear energy)
- Wasting water at home – cleaning water uses fuel (natural gas/coal/nuclear energy)
Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Once we had our list of what leads to a BIG carbon footprint we started to brainstorm ways to make our carbon footprint smaller. This part of the activity was creative and a lot of fun. We discussed all the alternative and environmentally friendlier choices we could make.
In addition to all of the ways we can reduce our carbon footprint, my daughter came up with an inspiring quotation for our carbon footprint poster.
Here’s a list of our eco-friendly options…
- Turn off the lights
- Don’t waste water
- Bike/Walk/Scooter when you can
- Recycle and reuse paper at home and at school
- Turn off the computer when it isn’t being used
- Don’t waste food
- Compost what we can
In the end, we not only figured out what is meant by the term carbon footprint, but we also figured out how to shrink our carbon footprint. We are going to hang our Carbon Footprint poster in a spot where we can see it and be reminded of the importance of keeping our footprint small.
This simple carbon footprint activity for kids is a great introduction to the importance of being responsible for the choices we make every day. There are eco-friendly alternatives out there…we just have to stop and think.
Online Carbon Footprint Calculator
If you want to take a deeper dive into your family’s carbon footprint then check out www.carbonfootprint.com When you submit all of your family’s detailed energy usage information they will provide you with a breakdown of your carbon footprint.
Check out these other environmental science activities for kids
Be sure to check out all of our cool Earth Day activities for kids
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As we head toward Earth Day, on April 23rd, we are going to be exploring a number of environmental issues. Today’s post is part of the Natural Parenting and Earth Month Blog Hop that is taking place on over 20 blogs.