First, we propose that students calculate a detailed carbon footprint as an individual or for their household. The results can be discussed in class including comparing footprints and highlighting reasons for large differences. Such differences could include flights taken, diet pattern, energy consumed and distance travelled to school or work. This initial step helps students to familiarize themselves with carbon footprints as a concept and they start to gain an understanding of the drivers behind carbon footprints.
Second, students can explore different possible alternatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Initially this can be an open assignment and there is no need to try to quantify anything. Students can think on their own and share their thoughts in class. They can also rank the proposed reductions based on how happy they would be to commit to undertake the initiative. Students will likely find that some options are easier to implement than others. Examples of possible initiatives include:
• Using public transport to travel to school / work
• Installing more energy efficient appliances
• Flying less
• Adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet (at least for some days or meals)
• Using less heating and aircon
• Purchasing green electricity from non-fossil fuel sources
Third, students can make an attempt at quantifying the emission reductions. This quantification could focus on a) how large the emissions reduction would be, b) what it would initially cost to achieve the reduction and c) if there would be any savings over time. This cost can then be compared to the purchase of an equivalent amount of carbon offsets. Having gone through these steps, the students can compile a report showing their personal carbon footprint and propose a personal/household greenhouse gas reduction plan for discussion in class.