Start of main content
Age Range: 11-14
Duration: 30-59 mins
  • Biology
  • D&T

What is sustainable energy?

Learn about sustainable energy and your carbon footprint in this free activity.

What is sustainable energy? What is a carbon footprint? The “Energy Efficiency” curriculum explores the meaning of these terms and encourages students to research what they can do as a school community to save energy and reduce their carbon footprint.

The activities use the example of Howe Dell Primary School, which was designed with the principle of sustainability. This provides a framework for students to compare their own school and identify simple energy-saving measures that they can implement to reduce their carbon footprint and save money. By studying Howe Dell Primary School, students can see how cutting-edge technology and science are being used to achieve sustainability goals.


Show the students the Green School film. Ask them to briefly discuss, as a class, the following questions:

1. What do we mean by “sustainable energy” resources?
2. What types of sustainable energy resources are found in buildings today?
3. What does “carbon footprint” mean, and how is it calculated?

What is sustainable energy?

Sustainable energy is energy that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is energy from renewable sources that do not produce greenhouse gases or other pollutants.

Sustainable energy is important for a number of reasons. It helps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which are a finite resource and produce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. It also helps to improve air quality and create jobs in the clean energy sector.

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted by an individual, organisation, event, or product. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change.

A carbon footprint can be calculated for any activity or entity. There are several different methods for calculating carbon footprints. They all involve measuring the amount of greenhouse gases emitted during a product or service’s production, transportation, use, and disposal.

Suggested learning outcomes

By the end of this activity, students will be able to explain what “sustainable energy” and “carbon footprint” mean, and they will be able to describe and explain what sustainable technologies could be used in their school.

Download the free activity sheet below!

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download, and all the documents are fully editable so that you can tailor them to your students and your schools’ needs.

The activity sheet includes teacher notes, guidance, helpful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in the four devolved UK nations: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Please share your classroom learning highlights with us @IETeducation


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