Ecological Footprint Lesson Plan

Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

An ecological footprint is a way to measure the demand a person places on the environment. In this lesson plan, students will consider their ecological footprints and brainstorm ways to reduce the ecological impact of their school.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain the concept of an ecological footprint
  • Define sustainability
  • Work effectively in groups to create a plan of action


45-60 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Materials Needed

  • Computers with internet access

Preparing for the lesson

Calculating one's ecological footprint is more accurate with detailed data. A week before the lesson ask students to keep a journal tracking the following items:

  • Number of meals that include meat or dairy products
  • Number of meals with locally-sourced ingredients
  • Amount of trash produced in a week (number of bags)
  • Number of miles traveled as a driver and as a passenger
  • Fuel efficiency of the car most often used during the week
  • Number of miles traveled by public transportation

Activity Introduction

  • Start with a whole class discussion. List on the board all the ways the class has used fossil fuels in the past week. Students will start with the obvious ways, such as gasoline for cars, heating oil, or natural gas in hot water heaters. Push them to come up with less obvious ways, such as to transport their food they from farm to processing plant to store.
  • Lead a similar discussion about their use of water. They will quickly think of drinking water, bath water, and water used for washing clothes, but they may need prompting to come up with water for the plants used to feed the cows that became the hamburgers served in the cafeteria.
  • Explain the concepts of sustainability and ecological footprint and tell the class that they're going to create a plan for one action the school can take to decrease its ecological footprint.

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