Carbon Footprint Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Mary Grace Miller

Mary Grace has taught first grade for 8 years and has a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and is licensed in ESL.

You know you leave a footprint when you walk around with wet feet or when you step in the mud on a soggy day, but what is a carbon footprint? This lesson will teach you what a carbon footprint is, what causes carbon footprints, and what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.

What Is A Carbon Footprint?

Every time you use a fossil fuel, which is a natural fuel or energy source, like coal or gas, you create a gas called carbon dioxide. Most scientists believe that carbon dioxide and other gases like it are contributing to global warming or the slow climate change of our planet. Global warming causes lots of problems for animals and people.

Causes Of Carbon Footprints


People use electricity in their homes to turn on lights, plug in kitchen appliances like a toaster or a microwave, and even watch TV or play video games. When you use electricity in your home, you are not creating carbon dioxide, but the power plants that create your electricity do emit carbon dioxide. Power plants that use coal for energy create the most carbon dioxide.

a power plant
power plant

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that electricity is responsible for the largest part of most carbon footprints.

Gas Heating

The EPA says that gas heating is the second largest source of carbon dioxide emission. Most homes use oil, natural gas, or electricity to heat their home in the winter, and all of these sources create carbon dioxide. The amount of carbon dioxide that each family uses depends on how high they run the heat and what kind of fuel they use.


Trash can contribute to your carbon footprint. The EPA thinks that for every pound of trash you throw away, you create one pound of greenhouse gases. As it decays, trash creates carbon dioxide and methane, which is another type of greenhouse gas.


Cars are another thing that contribute to your carbon footprint. This happens because the gas that your car uses to run produces carbon dioxide.

Cities with lots of car pollution have air that is hard to breathe.
car pollution

Other forms of transportation, like buses, trains, and planes, also increase a carbon footprint.

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