Ecosystems | Activity: Do My Food Choices Matter?

Activity 1: Do My Food Choices Matter? Worksheet (50 min)

Students explore and explain the carbon footprints of different foods.



Print one copy per student of Do My Food Choices Matter worksheet. Students need computer access to use carbon footprint tool.


1. Use Slides 1 and 2 to introduce the problem – our food choices have impacts on the environment.

2. Have the class discuss their ideas about the question on Slide 2. You may choose to record these and come back to them at the end of the lesson.

3. Pass out reading and have students read it. Use Slide 3 to focus on the idea of food ingredients coming from series of ecosystems and slide 4 to guide the first discussion.

4. Use slides 5 - 11 to address the idea that the ecosystems in our food supply chains contribute carbon to the atmosphere because of the fossil fuels used by the machinery that people use to manage them. Have students identify the processes that use fossil fuels.

5. Use Slide 12 to get students ideas about what a carbon footprint is. Handout Do My Food Choices Matter Worksheet.

6. Have students work alone or in groups to find the carbon footprint of the 3 types of burritos and other foods they eat frequently using the carbon footprint calculator on Slide 13. They should record their findings on their worksheets.

7. Use Slide 14 to collect the C footprints from many foods so that students can see patterns. Have students work alone, in groups, or as a whole class to identify and record patterns about which types of food have large vs small carbon footprints.

8. Use Slide 15 to guide a discussion explaining the differences in the carbon footprints of the different burrito ingredient food supply-chain diagrams and in their favorite foods.


Digging Deeper

Related topics students can research:

  • How and where favorite foods are produced
  • The water footprint of different foods
  • Other environmental impacts of food production such as soil erosion or deterioration, chemical use, fertilizer use.
  • Ways of mitigating environmental impacts of food production
  • What is the C footprint of one person eating today’s lunch in the cafeteria? Of all the people who ate today’s lunch? How could you partner with your cafeteria and local farms to reduce the C footprint of school lunches? Would a vegetable garden or greenhouse at your school help? Consider the food ecosystem chain diagrams.
  • Keep track of the food you eat for an entire day and calculate the C footprint. How many miles would you need to drive in a car to emit the same amount of C? Name a destination that you could get to in that number of miles. For car emissions, see
  • Take one of the whole food items you ate today. Track down where it came from—you might need to get information from the person who bought it (a parent or cafeteria manager). What’s it like to be a person who lives there?
  • How and why does your food C footprint change in the summer vs. the winter?