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Calculators help schools add up environment impact

New calculators help homes and schools add up impact on environment

Schools and households can now use new on-line calculators, to help them tally up their CO2 emissions. A Canterbury high school is among the first to take up the opportunity.

Landcare Research Royal Society Teacher Fellow Tui Elliott introduces Year 10 Lincoln High School students Nicole Jemison (centre) and Tessa Sinclair (right) to the EBEX21® Schools CO2 calculator, on the EBEX21® website.

The greenhouse gas calculators were designed by staff of the Emission-Biodiversity Exchange (EBEX21®), which is run by Landcare Research. The EBEX21® project details how much electricity and fossil fuels are used through various activities, the tonnage of CO2 produced by that use, and the area of native bush required to absorb the associated carbon.

Until now, EBEX21® was applicable only to businesses and tourists. Now, two new EBEX21® calculators have been released for schools and homes, drawing on the most recent New Zealand emissions data.

The calculators can be accessed on the website: Users click on the appropriate icon for business, tourism, homes or schools. They then gather information on their energy use, transport and waste generation over the course of a month. After that, they can generate a report on how much CO2 has been produced.

Christchurch teacher Tui Elliott is the head of Social Studies at Rangi Ruru Girls' School, and is a Royal Society Teaching Fellow. Ms Elliott is being hosted by Landcare Research and the International Global Change Institute while she undertakes a research project on developing greenhouse gas emissions calculators. She has developed and designed both the school and home CO2 calculators, and is helping to integrate them into school and community programmes. A Year 10 class at Lincoln High School has integrated the use of the calculators into their Social Studies programme.

"Students print off a data collection sheet from the website, and then answer straightforward questions on their school roll and the school's energy use. This includes electricity, gas, diesel and coal; land and air travel; and waste, including the amount of paper put in the rubbish. Teachers can help students find the best people to provide this information * administration or financial staff, for example.

"Once the data is entered, our web-based calculator produces a report on the school's CO2 emissions. Then, and perhaps most importantly, it offers tips on how to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions, both at school and at home.

"The calculators provide people with a starting point from which they can make measurable improvements."

The business and tourism calculators emphasise offsetting CO2 emissions through investing in native forest stands. But Ms Elliott says that although the Schools CO2 calculator also presents this option, the emphasis is on knowledge, and on students putting this knowledge into action.

"Students are the decision-makers of the future, and we want to emphasise that their individual actions can improve the future health of the environment. The website gives them an action plan for helping to reduce wastage and emissions at school and at home."

Meanwhile, like the Schools CO2 calculator, the KIWI Household CO2 calculator is designed to be relatively simple to use. Householders gather basic information on the running of their house over the course of a month, with details such as transport, energy used, and the amount of recyclable and non-recyclable rubbish produced. Again, users are told how much CO2 was produced, and given suggestions on how to reduce this.

"All the EBEX21® team members are using it in their own homes, and now we would like to introduce it to the rest of New Zealand.

"The calculator is available for anyone to use. Just go to the website, click the households calculator, and print out the data collection sheet."

Meanwhile, the EBEX21® tourism and business calculators are continuing to gain popularity. The calculators are currently being expanded to include additional support functions, and the website is being enhanced to include more information about climate change and greenhouse gases, of relevance to different business sectors.

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