Plugged in to CO2

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In this activity, learners investigate various appliances and electronics, discovering how much energy each uses and how much carbon dioxide (CO2) is released to produce that energy. Learners use a meter to measure the energy use of household appliances and calculate and extrapolate data. Use this activity for any lesson on climate change, energy consumption, and CO2 emissions. Note: the cost of materials includes the cost of one Kill-a-Watt meter.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Kill-a-Watt meter
  • Power strip and outlet
  • A collection of small appliances and lamps (may include toaster, microwave, hairdryer, lamp with CFL, lamp with incandescent bulb, cell phone and charger, laptop and charger, iPod and charger, CD player, TV, DVD, video game player, blender, nightlight, vacuum, coffee maker, fan)
  • Pencils


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Atmosphere
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Environmental Engineering
    • Technology
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
    • Energy
      • Work and Machines
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Elements and Periodic Table
  • Life Sciences
    • Ecology
      • Human Impact
  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Equations and Inequalities
      • Variables and Expressions
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
      • Probability
    • Measurement
      • Units of Measurement
      • Rate
    • Reasoning and Proof
    • Representation
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
      • Technology and the Environment
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society
      • Risks and Benefits
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Electronics
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Gardiner, Lisa


  • All rights reserved, National Earth Science Teachers Association, 2011

Funding Sources:

  • Hewlett Foundation
  • American Geological Institute
  • American Geophysical Union
  • National Science Foundation
  • NASA
  • NCAR
  • CISM and CMMAP projects