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What’s my carbon footprint? Capability: Engage with science NoS achievement aims: Participating and contributing Contextual strands: Material world Level : 5

Genesis Energy: What's my carbon footprint?

This resource from Genesis Energy's School-Gen website guides students to investigate and calculate their own carbon footprint, and then formulate an individual action plan to reduce their carbon emissions. 

Curriculum Aims and AOs

The Nature of Science strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resources

Participating and contributing

Bring a scientific perspective to decisions and actions as appropriate.


Develop an understanding of socioscientific issues by gathering relevant scientific informaton in order to draw evidence-based conclusions and take action where appropriate.

Material World


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Chemistry and society

Make connections between the concepts of chemistry and their applications and show an understanding of the role chemistry plays in the world around them.


Link the properties of different groups of substances to the way they are used in society or occur in nature.

Learning focus

Students develop their awareness of the impact of their daily activities on carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Learning activity

This resource provides hyperlinks to all the information students need to research and calculate their personal carbon footprint.

Adapting the resource

There are several possibilities for highlighting the “participating and contributing” Nature of Science strand. Students could develop an action plan to reduce their personal carbon footprint and become more energy efficient. They could then document their progress and success (or not) in implementing and sticking to the plan for a specified period of time (perhaps one term). At the end of that time they could write a report on what happened and what they learned about possibilities and challenges for living in more energy-efficient ways.

In some schools, teachers have encouraged parents to join the investigation alongside their children. Informing parents and asking them to allow their child access to the household’s energy bills for a year is one possibility. Another is having the student report to their parents on what they found out and the implications of this for the family’s lifestyle.     

Given how hard it can be for individuals to change what they do within existing constraints (e.g., the availability of public transport) another way to extend this activity is to investigate specific changes in the wider community that would make it easier for individuals to reduce their carbon footprints. This could become a combined science/social science research and action project.

What’s important here?

Supporting students to become scientifically literate, i.e., to participate as critical, informed, and responsible citizens in a society in which science plays a significant role is the purpose of science in NZC.

This activity challenges students to increase their awareness of the environmental impact of routine daily activities, and to act on what they find out. Encouraging students to strengthen their dispositions to take informed action is an important aspect of this activity. 

What are we looking for?

Do students undertake the research carefully and responsibly?

Do they sustain their efforts and record keeping for the specified time period?

Do they acknowledge their personal responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint and are they willing to try and do this?

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

For suggestions about adapting tasks in ways that allow students to show progress in engaging with science see  Progressions .

Exploring further

Other organisations also provide resources to support students to develop action projects in their local community. Taking action on water quality is a common focus. Look for Regional Council resources such as this one from Northland Regional Council:

Water quality

The Wai Care website also has many relevant  related links .

Other resources for this capability

Yucky bugs (L1, 2, 3 & 4) Video from DOC website 

Staying Alive (L2) Connected 2, 2012

Hukanui Enviroschool (L2, 3 & 4) Connected 3, 2002

The Shell Collector (L2, 3 & 4) Connected 1, 2005

Rocky shore food web (L3 & 4) Assessment Resource Banks

Rapid response to the Rena (L3 & 4) Science Learning Hub

Tidal Communities: Interdependence and the Effects of Change (L3 & 4) Building Science Concepts, Book 22

Science Fairs (L3 & 4) No specific resource

Solving the dog death mystery (L5) Science Learning Hub

The Gene Seekers (L5) Applications, 2001

Biomagnets (L5 & 6) NCEA Level 1 assessment exemplars


Carbon footprint, chemistry and society