Service Learning Resources for Measuring Your School’s Environmental Footprint

By Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., author of The Complete Guide to Service Learning

Service Learning Resources for Measuring Your School’s Environmental FootprintWe often tell students, “You can make a difference.”

But really, it’s not that they can. They already make a difference—every single day—with the choices they make and the actions they take.

Whether a student purchases a single-use water bottle or has a reusable bottle, makes a difference. All their choices and actions add up to a world of difference. Consider the quote by author Howard Zinn: “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

How can we make this vivid for students? Have them thoroughly investigate an issue by conducting action research—using media, interviews, surveys, and observations to learn about an issue. One concrete way to do this is to engage students in a school ecological footprint audit, for example, by investigating their school’s electricity or energy usage. EarthEcho International, a nonprofit education organization founded by environmental advocate Philippe Cousteau and his sister Alexandra Cousteau, has a free downloadable “You Have the Power” action guide that shows teachers how to guide students through the five stages of service learning to easily conduct energy audits and reduce their school’s ecological footprint.

Energy usage is significant because producing electricity is the second-largest consumer of water (after agriculture) in the United States. Does this matter? Of course! Preserving and protecting water is a must if we want to care for this water planet we live on.

Conservation has long been an important issue for me personally. However, after collaborating with Philippe Cousteau on two books about water conservation, I became increasingly cognizant of how our casual and unaware behaviors can have significant consequences—and not just because I live in drought-ridden California. Water matters everywhere.

Bring the idea of a footprint into your classroom and grow students who know their ability to be agents of change in school and in the community.

Planning for Service Learning WorksheetCheck out EarthEcho International’s website for more action guides packed with educational content and ways for students to investigate environmental issues and other free downloadable resources to help you help students learn about the environment and how they can make a difference.

Bonus! Download Planning for Service Learning, a customizable worksheet from The Complete Guide to Service Learning. Use the worksheet in designing and planning your service learning activities and identifying opportunities for collaboration.

Cathryn Berger Kaye, FSP AuthorCathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., is an international service learning and education consultant and a former classroom teacher. She presents at conferences around the world and works with state departments of education, university faculty and students, school districts, and classroom teachers on a variety of education issues such as service learning, civic responsibility, student leadership, and respectful school communities. For more about Cathryn Berger Kaye and her global offering of workshops and presentations at conferences and schools or her Summer Service Learning Institutes, visit or email

Free Spirit books by Cathryn Berger Kaye:

The Complete Guide to Service LearningGoing Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & WetlandsMake a Splash: A Kid’s Guide to Protecting Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands

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