Creating a Zero-Carbon Future on Earth Day (and Every Day)

Creating a Zero-Carbon Future on Earth Day (and Every Day)About 20 million Americans celebrated the first Earth Day in 1970, and it has grown to over a billion worldwide citizens joining together to raise environmental awareness. Traditionally, civic organizations have hosted different events to remind us to take care of Planet Earth. Many celebrations involve planting trees, learning how to reduce pollution, cleaning up towns and roads, attending rallies and concerts that spread awareness about timely environmental issues.

In recent years there has be an increased urgency to implore policymakers to make a change for a zero-carbon future.  One of the central tenets of Earth Day is that everyone can make a difference. Here are some ideas to consider incorporating into your lesson plans for Earth Day:


Become an Advocate

If you want to have a major impact on our planet, you need to use your voice and take action.


Want more resources for a lesson on the carbon cycle?
Download a free Carbon in Action worksheet.



Foodprints for the Future: “Fight climate change with a diet change”

One of the largest contributors to climate change is animal agriculture. A foodprint measures the environmental impacts of growing, producing, transporting and storing food. Foodprint calculators can help you understand how much your food choices impact the Earth.


Be an Artist for the Earth

Artists for the Earth connects arts organizations and artists in order to engage with the public to bring about awareness of environmental issues. Students and schools can get involved in the following ways:

  • Have your students create short films about Earth Day or an environmental issue relating to climate change. 
  • Host an Earth Day poster contest and exhibit the artwork at a library or community center.
  • Invite students to compose an original song or dance to raise awareness of environmental issues.
  • For online learning, students can create digital art using free tools such as Animoto, Canva, Paint, and Krita


Learn How Trees Reduce Carbon Emissions

Planting trees is a popular Earth Day activity, however with many schools and parks across the country closed, it may not be possible to plant trees on Earth Day this year. However, this is still an opportunity to learn how trees (and other plants) reduce carbon emissions. By filtering the air, trees remove carbon dioxide and reduce the effects of climate change. Trees also provide food, energy and income, and they reduce the impacts of land degradation.


Download a free sample activity from PLT’s e-unit for grades K-2: Treemendous Science!



Plant a Pollinator Garden with Native Plants

One out of every three foods you eat needs the help of pollinators. Unfortunately, pollinators face many threats such as increased pesticide use, loss of habitat, decreased plant diversity, and climate change. With so much at stake, it’s critical we teach students about this important part of our ecosystem.

Students of all ages can put their knowledge into practice by participating in building a pollinator habitat. Consider planting a pollinator garden with native plants. Native plants provide native insects and birds with food, shelter and proper habitat to reproduce.

You can find free pollinator-friendly planting guides for your region through the Pollinator Partnership.

Of course, creating a pollinator garden isn’t a one-day activity, and if your school has moved to online-only learning, it may not be possible this season. However, it’s never too late to start planning. Read more about why pollinators are important and how schools can help.


Examine Your Carbon Footprint

“All sustainable development goals come down to education.” (Malala Yousafzai, 2016) Help your students understand how their choices can impact the environment.

  • Do you know your carbon footprint? You can take a personal inventory using Carbon Footprint’s Carbon Calculator. Use the results to consider ways of offsetting your carbon emissions. Ask students to make a prediction about their carbon footprint before they use the calculator. Then, have them work in groups to brainstorm ways to reduce their personal impact.
  • With many cities, states, and countries shut down around the world, how has that impacted carbon emissions? Have students do some rough estimates to see what the impact may be for different areas.
  • Visit the Green Schools Alliance to learn about sustainable schools. The alliance connects over 9,000 sustainable schools, districts and organizations from 48 states and 91 countries. Green Schools Alliance gives students engagement tools, programs and training to become more sustainable citizens. They also support schools and communities through communication, collaboration and leadership development.
  • Join the School Cafeteria Discards Assessment Project (SCrAP). SCrAP was developed by the Environmental Research and Education Foundation to quantify food waste and its related wastes generated in K-12 schools. Schools can choose three levels of participation, ranging from answering questions to collecting data. Schools that participate receive classroom educational materials and a results report tailored to their school.


What types of activities will you do to participate in Earth Day this year? If you’re doing online learning, how will you adapt your lesson plans?

Rebecca Reynandez

Rebecca Reynandez

Rebecca Reynandez is a Marketing and Communications Consultant and Principal of Spring Media Strategies, LLC. She has worked with nonprofits for the past 10 years and currently focuses on working with environmental organizations. She is based in Minneapolis, MN.

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