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What Can I Do?

A typical person in the UK will be responsible for a massive 7 to 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

In the UK (and probably most of the world), the main causes of carbon dioxide emissions are road transport, domestic heating and electricity generation.

Reducing any of these will reduce an individual's carbon emissions.

Some ways to involve children include:

Food Choices

  • Choose food from local sources when shopping.
    Run a 'lunchbox challenge' to encourage children to bring food to school that is locally-sourced and so has not travelled many food miles
  • Grow vegetables in the school grounds or encourage children to grow them at home. Several vegetables and herbs can be grown in pots
  • Children could contact the local council to ask if locally sourced food is used for school dinners

Sustainability and Carbon Footprint

UK schools are now having to be more aware of the environmental impact of their activities. Children can be involved in this in many different ways. Here are some useful resources to help:


Carbon calculator page
Use this page to work out how much carbon dioxide you produce each year
Carbon calculator spreadsheet
MS Excel based carbon calculator that can be used off-line

Heating and Energy

  • Survey the school to look at energy use and where it can be saved - log the classroom temperature to see if the heating is too high (data-logging equipment will allow you to record this automatically over a 24hr period)
  • Have children do a 'red light survey' in the school or their house to see how many electrical appliances have been left on standby when they are not in use
  • Look at how many light bulbs in the school or at home are energy-saving bulbs (fluorescent strips are also energy-saving)
  • Survey how many domestic tasks are done using electrical appliances when the job could be (or used to be) done by hand
  • Find out about house insulation (some nice science activities possible here!)

Please note: this site was produced in 2006, and is no longer updated. As a result, some of the figures may be out of date.

photo montage showing cars and a wind generator Enlarge Enlarge

More Ideas

Classes can discuss the ways in which they could reduce their emissions and the impacts it would have on their lifestyle.

Reducing carbon can be the subject of creative writing. How would the children's lives be different it they could not use electricity? What if it was rationed? Carbon-allowances are being talked of as a means of reducing people's energy consumption.

Renewable Energy

Most UK electricity is still generated using fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), but other alternatives in use include:

  • Wood burning (the wood is grown as a sustainable crop)
  • Wind energy (lots of 'for and against' opportunities)
  • Water or wave (more important in other countries)
  • Nuclear power stations (not an easy one at this level!)

Children could find out more about one or more of these

Transport and Alternative Motor Fuels

  • Survey how childen (and staff!) travel to school
  • Join in with 'Walk to School' initiatives, 'Walking Bus' schemes and cycle-training (even car pools help a bit!)
  • Look at family shopping habits, or survey the practicality of local shopping

For those interested in cars, some finding out about alternatives to conventional petrol and diesel fuels could be undertaken.

These may include:

  • Biodiesel
  • Electric/hybrid cars
  • Ethanol (more common in the US)
  • Gas-powered