Carbon Footprint Calculator for Students: Free for Students and Teachers

Student in front of a computer with teacher pointing to carbon footprint calculator for students.

For educators who want to impress upon their students the issues of climate change, land conservation, and sustainable living, a carbon footprint calculator for students allows them to measure their specific greenhouse gas emissions.

As an online resource, it delivers the ability to bring ‘large’ ideas down to a manageable and personal level… so students of any age can see how their daily choices impact the world around them… right now in the immediate. Plus, the results include real-world comparisons using proprietary data calculations to spur discussions for classroom topics.

Carbon Footprint Calculator for Students and Teachers Only

This tool can be used in conjunction with any curriculum and is completely free to use. We simply ask that you please source this tool by linking from your school website or resources page when used. This allows us to continue spreading awareness so that it becomes more widely available for underprivileged schools and accessible to teachers everywhere.

Most people living in the United States (US) have an average carbon footprint of 16 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in a year (but the challenges we face today including climate change, have actually indicated a much higher amount, with estimates suggesting around 20-22 tons, per capita average). This is one of the highest rates in the world, with the global average being closer to five tons.

While calculating and responding to your carbon footprint can help reverse the problems facing the planet and the climate, it’s also an excellent way to both understand your impact on the natural world and to begin envisioning a better tomorrow in which sustainable living is affordable, accessible, and normalized.

Using this Carbon Footprint Calculator for College Students

Using this carbon footprint calculator for college students is a great way for students to gain a better idea of how their lifestyle impacts the planet. While the actual consequences of their choices may seem small, every little bit adds up… and by making changes in these habits, it’s possible to improve your own relationship with the planet and encourage others to similarly respect and appreciate the environment.

In fact, that’s the primary purpose of a carbon emissions calculator. The data results demonstrate how every person has a role to play in protecting the planet and how the choices they make can make a difference to the world around them.

Moreover, it provides key talking points to use during discussions, so that students can explore ways they can be part of the growing solutions, instead of the problems. Topics for discussion and research reports include:

  • Why using electric cars may not reduce carbon emissions as much as purchasing an older, fuel efficient model. (The reason for this is that electricity generation, depending on location, contributes to carbon emissions, and the production of a new electric vehicle generates a high level of greenhouse gases as well. Students can research the emissions associated with various make and model vehicles and then make comparisons between gas and electric, based on how electricity is generated in specific geographical regions.)
  • Talk about the income disparity: why the richest one percent of the population generate the most carbon emissions.
  • The impact eating out frequently has on the environment.
  • Why trees are nature’s best carbon capture technology versus man-made solutions.

The concepts presented in this student footprint calculator focus on areas that are particularly suited to teaching students about how lifestyle choices have an impact on the emissions produced, but also about the methods being employed to reduce and erase those emissions from the atmosphere.

Increasing Carbon Footprint Awareness for High School Students

If you are a teacher, having your students calculate their carbon footprint is a great way to encourage them toward greater levels of conservation and sustainability. Each person has their own, unique carbon footprint and it can be impacted by many things including location, wealth, and disability. Although High School students don’t usually have a say in how their home uses energy or what vehicles are chosen, by exploring these topics now, you’ll be able to give students a strong understanding of how their choices impact the planet later.

To get started, you will need a student footprint calculator, like the one above, but you can also start the ball rolling by having students research the global carbon footprint and how countries like China and oil producing nations are leading in emissions, and why.

Plus, the student footprint calculator is designed to make it easy to supplement biology and chemistry curriculum, as well as spark discussion. For example:

  • Talk about why dairy and red meat have higher carbon emissions versus local vegetables (be sure to point out that exotic fruits and veggies can sometimes cause more emissions than beef or dairy if they are shipped long distances).
  • Explain how deforestation has played a role in increasing wildfires and other climate related changes.
  • Create assignments about how greenhouses gases work (methane and carbon dioxide hold more heat than oxygen and nitrogen, trapping higher temperatures in the atmosphere).
  • Explore reasons for reducing carbon emissions and the impacts of climate change on the planet.

While identifying personal carbon footprints, explore ways to reverse the damage as well. Not everyone is capable, nor has the resources or wealth to make their life more sustainable, but we can all do something, even if it means turning off devices before going to sleep or donating old clothes.

Carbon Footprint Calculator for Middle School Students Curriculum

Middle school students can benefit from calculating their footprint, and teachers can use the resource to enhance Earth Science and character education classes. Ideas include:

  • Talk about how global weather patterns operate, and why these have been altered by increased atmospheric conditions.
  • Explore how the industrial changes during Twentieth Century spurred the rapid release of greenhouse gases.
  • Talk about historical efforts to stop ‘pollution’ and why these failed to depress carbon emissions levels (smokestacks being made taller, etc.)
  • Plan a day for planting trees around the school campus and make the connection between the carbon capturing power of a specific species of tree.

By introducing these concepts in a real world scenario, middle school students can understand where the climate crisis originated, and then work to help fight the impact on the environment.

Teacher Resources: Using a Carbon Calculator for Grade School Students

Use a footprint calculator for elementary students to identify emissions contributors, build on basic science concepts, and as a method for encouraging them to positively approach the climate crisis. (There are things you can do right now to help!)

Teachers can use the information contained in it to discuss and explore how animals are threatened and endangered when their habitats are destroyed by deforestation, and how reducing waste, water and energy use can help solve the problem. Other curriculum ideas include:

  • Animal exploration week: Study a different endangered animal each day and talk about how rebuilding its home can help save it from extinction.
  • Identify the actions and things that generate carbon emissions, such as transportation and energy use.
  • Take kids science quizzes (below) and do environment worksheets to strengthen their understanding and connection to the world around them.

Elementary age students can benefit from the concepts you establish early on in their education, and build a positive outlook for solving the climate crisis.

Free Downloadable Worksheets

Enter your email address to download the worksheets.

Carbon Calculator for Elementary School Students

Get kids involved on their own with this kid-friendly footprint calculator version!

How To Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

There are many well-researched, free carbon footprint calculators to choose from, but for those who are new to calculating their footprint, some offer a great place to start if you don’t have exact information about the size of your house, your electricity, natural gas, and internet usage, and other numerical values.

The ones above are completely free to use, but please link to the website if you’re a teacher using this version in your curriculum.

How Is the Calculator Built?

Many people wonder how online carbon calculators are able to measure personal and household emissions. The answer is simple. Using a variety of resources, which outline the emissions for specific activities, formulas are built and embedded into the source code of the site.

For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has measured and cataloged the emission factor of a kilowatt of electricity for every state and electrical grid region in the country. The Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID) is an inventory of the air emission data of electrical sources throughout the country.

This powerful resource also includes information on the other greenhouse gases emitted by electrical sources, and it provides maps, guides, and detailed data sources, to use in calculating the carbon emissions of an average household, based on the number of people.

So, when a user enters their location, the calculator pulls up the energy grid information for that area, then uses average emissions factors to multiply usage (combine with habits like turning off lights and electronics, as well as Energy Star bulbs, etc.) to measure the emissions for that specific user.

Other resources include:

But, this is just a sample of the resources and data used to calculate carbon footprints.

University student sitting outside lecture hall using his laptop while reviewing the results of 8 Billion Trees' carbon footprint calculator for college students before submitting his assignment to his teacher.

(Image: Buro Millennial5)

In just 60 seconds, you can calculate your or your family’s carbon footprint and receive additional information, including how many trees you would have to plant each year to offset your carbon footprint.

This is a fantastic way to display your impact on the environment in tangible terms. It’s one thing to be told that your carbon footprint is 6 tons; it’s just a number and numbers are challenging to put into perspective. But when you are then told how many trees you would need to plant to offset your footprint, your perspective undergoes a change. Suddenly, you are faced with the truth: everyday routines do have a tangible effect on the environment.

In addition to your overall footprint, you can quickly measure your emissions for a number of things, including:

With that information, you can begin to make changes to your lifestyle within your economic and physical means.5

What Is a “Carbon Footprint” And Where Did the Term Originate?

Individual carbon footprints are measurements for how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide, and fluoridated gases are emitted into the atmosphere by individuals and activities.

Cartoon image of a chef in the middle of methane gasses and cow and carabao silhouettes underneath showing the carbon footprint released from raising and consumption of beef.

(Image: Geralt6)

By using various carbon calculators, you can begin to understand and respond to the environmental consequences of your lifestyle. Only by being aware of your individual carbon emissions and how they are generated, like the relationship between climate change food choices, can you begin to reduce your ecological impact.

That’s where carbon footprint calculators come in. By providing certain pieces of information about your daily choices, they deliver an estimation of your footprint. You can then take this information and work within your economic limitations to reduce your carbon footprint and, by extension, your role in climate change.

However, before you calculate your carbon footprint — or introduce the concept to your students, you should first recognize that the concept and term “carbon footprint” is not the product of progressively-minded activists, environmentalists, or scientists. It was, instead, conceptualized and popularized by British Petroleum (BP).1

It may come as a shock that an advertising firm created the concept of the carbon footprint to be used as a propaganda tool to stave off criticism of BP and other fossil fuel companies. But, just two years ago in 2019, BP ran a marketing campaign called “Know Your Carbon Footprint.”

By introducing the concept of the carbon footprint, BP promoted the idea that the individual, not the oil giant, was to blame for climate change. This technique continues to this day, and, in the United States, it has been particularly potent.

Teachers may want to use this as a lesson for students in how many companies use green-washing practices to exaggerate their environmental efforts, or shift the blame from their product to the individual.

A Footprint Calculator Is Crucial to Global Sustainability Efforts

Despite its beginning, the carbon footprint concept has now become a catalyst for change.

Collective action is the only way to prevent the oncoming devastation, but it is possible for an individual to make a difference through their own actions. This is why you should calculate your carbon footprint. That information can help you lead a more sustainable, eco-friendly life.

Your carbon footprint is impacted by many factors within your daily life, the most prominent of which tend to be:

  • Your commute depending on how far you travel and what sort of transportation you use.
  • The amount and source of electricity that you use in your household.
  • Your natural gas usage.
  • The amount you spend on shopping and the type of things that you buy.
  • Your internet and streaming usage.
  • Your diet
  • Where you live4

Make a Change: Make Your Lifestyle More Sustainable Using These Simple Tricks

There are many ways to approach lessening your carbon footprint, but they are heavily dependent on you. Some suggestions, like cycling or using public transportation to get to work, will not be feasible for everyone.

Recycling things like old watering can and rubber boots and turning them into plant pots.

(Image: Iris_Bravo7)

To respect that, then, here are a few changes you can make today:

  • Limit the number of clothes you purchase. If possible, invest your money in responsibly made, non-fast-fashion clothing. Eco-conscious brands are starting to gain popularity and while the bigger labels can be pricey, there are others creating affordable, eco-friendly clothing.
  • Try to eat less meat. This will depend on your household, but if you can convince your partner(s) or parent(s) to join you in this endeavor, you could lower all of your carbon footprints.
  • Recycle everything that you can.
  • Unplug your electronics if they are fully charged.

This is just a small set of changes that you can make, but there are many more suggestions out there, it just depends on your specific lifestyle. Make the choices that work best for you and never, under any circumstances, compromise your health to lower your carbon footprint. There are usually other ways that do not involve any dangers. And of course, you can plant trees to offset your emissions using tree planting offset programs like the Earth-friendly web usage carbon offset.

When everyone works together, whole communities and countries can support a better tomorrow by adjusting lifestyles in small but significant ways.

As a teacher who is not allowed to advocate for specific actions, but has students who are old enough to engage in large-scale activism, the carbon footprint calculator for students is a great way to explore your, and their connection to the planet and the many ways in which they can learn to be more sustainable.


1Supran, G., & Oreskes, N. (2021, November 18). The Forgotten Oil Ads That Told Us Climate Change Was Nothing. Retrieved November 18, 2021, from The Guardian: <>

2Solnit, R. (2021, August 23). Big Oil Coined ‘Carbon Footprints’ to Blame Us for their Greed. Keep Them on the Hook. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from The Guardian: <>

3Taylor, M., & Watts, J. (2019, October 9). Revealed: The 20 Firms Behind a Third of All Carbon Emissions. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from The Guardian: <>

4Albeck-Ripka, L. (2021, November 17). How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint. Retrieved from The New York Times: <>

5Buro Millennial. Pexels. Retrieved from <>

6Geralt. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>

7Iris_Bravo. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>