The Carbon Cycle and You


The carbon cycle represents the movement of carbon through the four spheres of the Earth – the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. This includes the movement of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is an important contributor to the global greenhouse effect. Further information about the Greenhouse Effect can be found in the AusEarthEd video series: Greenhouse Effect I, II, III.  

We refer to the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from various activities as their carbon footprint. While we often think that greenhouse gas emissions are only from industrial activities, we all contribute to the global carbon footprint.

Global carbon footprint

Measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) provide a measure of the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The CO2e measure is explained further in the WASP resource Carbon Offsets – Teacher Notes and Student Worksheet.

Calculating the CO2e of our activities is challenging. We can start by looking at our transport to and from school each day. Different transport types produce different concentrations of greenhouse gases. By measuring the distance (km) of our return trip from home to school and identifying the average CO2e from our most common transport type, we can calculate our individual carbon output from this daily activity. Our video: The Carbon Cycle and You demonstrates how to do this.

Carbon Offsets

Our carbon outputs, measured as CO2e, can be offset by various activities

Carbon offsets enable us to become carbon neutral

Carbon offsets aim to reduce our carbon outputs, remove carbon from the atmosphere, or prevent generating carbon altogether. A few examples are provided in our video: The Carbon Cycle and You, however there is scope for many more.

Can you think of activities to achieve reduce, remove and prevent?

Plants remove atmospheric carbon

Where can I find out more?