[Update: This post has been updated and modified from the original content to ensure carbon calculator data is up to date.]
Helping students to understand how the choices they make have an impact on the planet can be difficult, but in recent years online “carbon calculators” have been developed to help make this concept easier to grasp. There are many different options out there and which one is best really depends on the age of your students and how much work you want them to put into the activity. I have done a short summary of some of the calculators I have come across or have been recommended to me. In general I have stayed away from calculators that only measure things that are out of young people’s control, such as airplane flight or knowing the cost of a utility bill. The calculators below give a nice overview of different directions you could take with your class depending on the age of your students or your intended outcomes. If you have a favorite calculator you have used, please share in the comments section below!
This is my favorite calculator, especially for upper elementary through middle school students that don’t drive cars,but can make other decisions like turning off the lights, the water, etc.
This is a simple calculator I really liked because it breaks down your impact into household, transportation and food and then provides a very nice analysis comparing your carbon footprint to the average US citizen and the world. I especially like the food section because it really makes it clear what an impact certain food choices can make.
This calculator allows you to estimate the benefits street side trees provide. You need to input your zip code and information about the tree you have. The outcomes include the benefits of your tree for stormwater, property values, energy, air quality and CO2 mitigation. This one is great because students can measure and identify trees in their schoolyard or at home and input the information to get a general sense of the value of trees from both an economic and ecological standpoint.
A more comprehensive assessment of how carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus flow through your household.
Institutional based and for older high school and college students interested in doing a full inventory of their campus.
Give you the option of offsetting your footprint through a cash donation and explains what they will do and how it will offset. Offset project examples include funding a tire recycling program, landfill gas recovery and forest restoration. Most of the items are applicable for adults, not kids.