Before you start
Print out the PDF attachments to use during the activity. Cut out the lifestyle cards and place these around the space you are in.
Start by defining with your group what the terms ‘Carbon footprint’ and ‘CO2e’ are. Ask what they think they are and use the definitions below to help explain.
‘Carbon footprint’ is a term we have used loosely. ‘Footprint’ indicates the impact something has, ‘carbon’ is used to cover all greenhouse gases.
Co2e is a rough calculation meaning ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’ (including all greenhouse gases, not only carbon dioxide). Therefore the carbon footprint indicates the rough climate change impact of something measured in kilos of carbon dioxide
You should be careful to include the appropriate energy card for each electrical appliance you own. Get the children to remember and add up there carbon score, explaining each point for the lifestyle card. Each square equals 100kg of C02e.
The calculations used in this method are rough but are reasonably accurate (it is almost impossible to get a perfectly accurate calculation due to all the different factors and processes involved). Many of the estimates are adapted from ‘How bad are bananas’ by Mike Berners-Lee, Profile Books 2010.
While separating the card discuss the effects each of card has on the environment and how they use carbon.
Have a group discussion about each item and the things you need versus the those which you simply want. Talk about what they think would be a reasonable yearly consumption. What do they think would be sustainable?
Explain that A baby elephant weighs about three tonnes — translated to C02e, 3 tonnes would be a sustainable annual carbon footprint level. In Europe we have an average carbon footprint of approximately 15 tonnes Co2e which is the same as two fully grown elephants. So on average we use 3 times as much carbon as is sustainable.
Get each individual to take your copy of the elephant and see if you can reduce your footprint further to fit into the squares on the baby elephant. Give them about 10-15 minutes to try to complete this task.
Did you manage to reduce your carbon footprint to a sustainable level? Were there things that you had to remove but really didn’t want to? What would be hardest to live without?
Are there changes you would be prepared to make? What are they?
Which things are you not prepared to live without? What do you think is an achievable footprint for you?
Take it further
This activity was adapted from the Handbook for Action Against Climate Change from our partners at IFM-SEI. With lots of useful background information and more activities for groups on the climate emergency.
File size: 2 MB