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Educational Resources

Students around the world learn about the Ecological Footprint
in elementary, secondary, and university classrooms.

Footprint Calculator

From sociology to ecology, students in a wide variety of classes are assigned to use our online Calculator to measure their personal Ecological Footprints, discover their biggest areas of resource consumption, and learn what they can do to tread more lightly on the Earth. It’s now available in eight languages and works on mobile devices!

Every semester I have my students calculate their Footprint, change their lifestyle for one week to decrease that Footprint, then compare the results and how it would impact the number of people that could sustainably exist on the planet. Students are shocked when they discover their results. The fact that it is personal and tells them how many planets we would need if everyone on the planet lived as they do drives home the issue better than I ever could in lecture.

ADAM GREEN, Program Chair for Environmental Studies, Director for Center for Sustainability, Santa Barbara City College
Calculator Blog Posts

Footprint Explorer Open Data Platform

Our Ecological Footprint Explorer opens up our National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts data for anyone to explore and download. Updated every year, the National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts track human demand and nature’s capacity to meet that demand for more than 200 nations. Educators can use the data platform in lesson plans on sustainability as well as statistics.

Ecotourism Course

IUCN Med, Global Footprint Network and the MEET Network, with support from MAVA Foundation, developed a free online course teaching the participatory process of creating ecotourism experiences in and around Mediterranean Protected Areas. Course attendees are also introduced to the concept of the Ecological Footprint and learn how it is used to support ecotourism development and monitoring.


Lessons for different educational levels and ages

Footprint Futures Module

Footprint Futures is a university-level teaching module for exploring the sustainability challenge facing human economies. The module consists of a student-driven exploration into what the optimal scale of material demand is for a national economy, using real country examples. More specifically, it asks: What would be a given country’s optimal Footprint compared to the country’s biocapacity by 2050?

Understanding Sustainable Living

The World’s Largest Lesson is a collection of lesson plans and other teaching resources related to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals approved by world leaders in 2015 to to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and stem climate change. The Understanding Sustainable Living lesson was developed for ages 11-14 to address goal #12, Responsible Consumption and Production. The lesson plan features the Footprint calculator and profiles of four children around the world for class discussion.


Hands-on activities and videos to learn about the Ecological Footprint, climate change, and what we can do to create a sustainable planet.

The Fish Game

You have 10 days to catch as many fish as you can. The money you make from these fish will need to support your family for the next month. Each fish nets $2. The Fish Game, created by the Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education, helps kids and adults better understand resource constraints and sustainability. Play the game online and find out how to make the most out of your resources!

More Fun Activities

Footprint Drawing: Suggest ways to reduce your Ecological Footprint in a drawing like the one by a seventh grader at left.

Recycling Game: Play a game and learn the basics of recycling.

Trashy Stationery: Don’t trash your trash, when you can recycle it into beautiful cards and stationery!


Watch videos about the Ecological Footprint, climate change, natural resources, and more. Our curated collection features a TEDx talk, Bill Nye, Concerned Kittens, and National Geographic Kids.

Population Conversation

Population is a particularly challenging and sensitive topic, but if presented well, discussing the population factor can be an empowering and engaging learning opportunity. We created materials for engaging classroom discussions, starting with voices from around the world addressing the question “should we even discuss population?” The voices are complemented with an in-depth essay, which strengthens teachers’ background on the topic and includes a list of questions to stimulate classroom conversations. For the more mathematically inclined, we produced a downloadable population cohort calculator sheet to project population change.

Additional Resources

The Ecological Footprint: Managing our Biocapacity Budget book is available to order in the US here and for other countries here.

Teaching with Ecological Footprints curriculum from Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.

Kid-friendly article on the Ecological Footprint, with link to Footprint calculator for children, from KQED Quest.

Learn the Climate Change Basics from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Engage students in learning conservation techniques at home and at school with a lesson plan from the National Wildlife Federation for grades 4-6.

Find out what’s causing sea-level rise in a classroom activity from NASA for grades 2-8.

Graph global temperature trends with NASA’s Classroom Activity for grades 5-12.

Manage your energy budget with a lesson from PBS LearningMedia for grades 6-12.

A hands-on, inquiry-based, curriculum for year 9 or year 10 students on global warming and renewable energy from the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

Terracycle curriculum lesson sets from The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education.

Resources from Germany

German website on nature and the environment for children from Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, Bau und Reaktorsicherheit (BMUB).

Weekly teaching lessons on timely environmental topics from BMUB.

Dowloadable classroom materials on environmental topics, including biodiversity, renewable energy and climate change, from BMUB.

Create your own classroom activity and tell us about it so that we can share it with our community!