BC Green Games Guide #4: Reducing Carbon Emissions
Carbon emissions are a serious problem that contribute to global climate change, but there are lots of local actions you can take to reduce them. Let’s explore what carbon emissions are, why it is important to reduce them, and what you can do at home and in your classroom. There are also a lot of helpful resources linked at the bottom to learn more and get your BC Green Games project started!
What are carbon emissions?
First, let’s define carbon. Carbon refers to carbon dioxide (CO2) which is a colourless, odourless gas comprised of one carbon and two oxygen molecules. It is formed when carbon is combusted, for example by burning wood or coal, or from animal respiration. It is considered a greenhouse gas, which means it absorbs infrared radiation and radiates heat in the atmosphere which is necessary to keep our planet warm. Emission means the production or discharge of something, in this case carbon dioxide from human activities like burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) and deforestation. We burn fossil fuels to create energy that allows us to power our homes, manufacture products, grow food, and transport people and goods. Our activities are drastically increasing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Why is it important to reduce emissions?
The more carbon emitted, the higher the concentration in the atmosphere, which increases global temperatures due to the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is an important process that keeps our planet warm enough to support life, but we are currently releasing large quantities of carbon dioxide in a short period of time which is leading to a rapid increase in global temperatures with drastic ecological consequences. The warming of our planet is leading to all sorts of problems, including more severe weather conditions like drought or extreme heat, weakened and threatened ecosystems, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, decreased air quality and more. There is a general consensus that global temperatures can’t increase more than 1.5 degrees if we want to avoid more drastic global impacts. We must work together to address this issue, and there are lots of small and big ways to make a difference, from changing our daily habits to demanding changes from government.
What can you do?
Increased carbon emissions and climate change sound pretty scary, and they are, but there are lots of ways we can act together to make a difference. We can adopt many everyday habits to help reduce our carbon footprint at home and at school. Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon burned during the activities you perform in your daily life, usually measured in carbon produced per year. It includes how you get around (car, transit, plane, etc.), how much energy you use in your house or at work, etc., where you buy your products from and so on.
A carbon footprint can be calculated for an individual person, a household, a business or a school. That’s a good place to start! Try calculating your carbon footprint or your school’s carbon footprint to find out where you emit the most carbon. Then check out Global Stewards’ “Top 20 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint”. There are lots of things your school can do around transportation, energy, water and food to reduce carbon emissions. You can also plant more trees to mitigate some of the carbon emitted.
Check out the ideas below for actions you can take in your school. These are just suggestions. There is no limit to what your project can be about!
What could your BC Green Games project look like?
Projects around reducing energy use:
Turn out the lights
- Make sure someone is responsible for turning out the classroom lights when the class leaves, or have certain lessons or lunch with the lights off.
Turn down the heat
- Put a sweater on and turn down the heat. Have your school participate in National Sweater Day on the first Thursday of February!
Use energy efficient lightbulbs and appliances
- If possible, change out lightbulbs and appliances for more energy efficient ones and encourage families to do it at home. Also, unplug appliances when not in use.
- Hang laundry to dry instead of using the dryer, to save energy.
Buy less and buy used
- Encourage buying used or fixing things instead of buying new things, to reduce the energy and resources that go into producing new things. Organize a clothing swap at your school!
Projects on transportation:
Take active transit to school
- Encourage walking or biking to school instead of driving and have your school participate in Bike to School Week at the end of May.
- Set up a carpooling program at your school to reduce the number of cars driving to school.
Stop idling in the parking lot
- Encourage parents to turn off their cars while waiting for students after school to reduce car emissions.
Buy local to reduce transportation of goods
- When possible, buy local food and goods to reduce the use of transportation and subsequent emissions when delivering the products to your house and school.
Projects on water:
Save water by
- Turning the tap off when brushing your teeth or soaping your hands.
- Taking shorter showers.
- Only running the dishwasher or doing the laundry with a full load.
- Using rainwater or grey water to water gardens.
- Brainstorming other creative ways to reduce water use!
Projects on food:
Eat more vegetarian meals
- The production of meat requires a lot of resources and produces a lot of carbon so vegetarian meals are more environmentally friendly. Try a Meatless Monday campaign at your school!
- Start a school garden so students can learn about growing plants, healthy eating and eating locally grown food to reduce carbon emissions. Planting more trees on school grounds also takes more CO2 out of the air.
Buy local food
- Buy local food to reduce carbon emissions when it’s being delivered to your home or school.
Reduce food waste
- Find ways to use all parts of food and be conscious of when food is going bad.
Reduce food packaging
- Pack a litterless lunch to encourage less packaging and waste production, which in turn reduces emissions in the creation of excess packaging.
Get the word out!
Spreading the word about what you are doing is important too, so you can encourage others to adopt these habits as well, to make an even bigger impact. Take action! Activism like the Fridays For Future school strikes for climate action are happening worldwide. Share your story with BC Green Games. If your project is specifically about combatting climate change and its impacts, or managing water sustainably, your Green Team will be in the running to win RBC’s new $2500 cash prizes!
- Curiosity and wonder lead us to new discoveries about ourselves and the world around us (K)
- Healthy communities recognize and respect the diversity of individuals and care for the local environment (1)
- Water is essential to all living things, and it cycles through the environment (2)
- Local actions have global consequences, and global actions have local consequences (2)
- Individuals have rights and responsibilities as global citizens (2)
- Complex global problems require international cooperation to make difficult choices for the future (6)
- Economic self-interest can be a significant cause of conflict among people and governments (6)
- Media sources can both positively and negatively affect our understanding of important events and issues (6)
- Earth and its climate have changed over geological time (7)
- The biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere are interconnected, as matter cycles and energy flows through them (9)
- Social, ethical and sustainability considerations impact design (9)
- Earth materials are changed as they cycle through the geosphere and are used as resources, with economic and environmental implications (11)
- Human practices affect the sustainability of ecosystems (11)
- Humans can play a role in stewardship and restoration of ecosystems (11)
- Energy is found in different forms, is conserved, and has the ability to do work (11)
- Scientific processes and knowledge inform our decisions and impact our daily lives (11)
- Scientific understanding enables humans to respond and adapt to changes locally and globally (11)
- Human actions affect the quality of water and its ability to sustain life (12)
- Human activities cause changes in the global climate system (12)
- Sustainable land use is essential to meet the needs of a growing population (12)
- Living sustainably supports the well-being of self, community, and Earth (12)
- Understanding how political decisions are made is critical to being an informed and engaged citizen (12)
- Social justice and initiatives can transform individuals and systems (12)
- Decision making in urban and regional planning requires balancing political, economic, social, and environmental factors (12)
- And more!
Core Competency – Social Responsibility
Contributing and caring for the environment:
- I contribute to group activities that make my classroom, school, community or natural world a better place.
- I can identify how my actions and the actions of others affect my community and the natural environment and can work to make positive change.
- I can analyze complex social or environmental issues from multiple perspectives. I can take thoughtful actions to influence positive, sustainable change.
Sustainable Development Goals
6 – Clean water and sanitation
7 – Affordable and clean energy
12 – Responsible consumption and production
13 – Climate action
Resources and Potential Community Coaches
BC Hydro – Power Smart for schools
BC Sustainable Energy Association – Climate Leadership Training
Climate Justice in BC – lessons for transformation
David Suzuki Foundation – tips for taking action against climate change
Planet Protector Academy – free access if your Green Team registers before the November 30 early bird deadline!
Global Stewards – “Top 20 ways to reduce your carbon footprint”