Carbon Cubes Illustrate Invisible Threat as Part of Eco-Schools Climate Initiative

Pilot program engages students, teaches about sustainability

06-28-2011 // Liz Soper
Carbon Cube Abraham Lincoln Elementary School

Do you know what one kilogram of carbon looks like? This spring as part of the HSBC Eco-Schools Climate Initiative, seven schools from Chicago, IL and Buffalo, NY engaged in a pilot program called “The Carbon Cube – Making the Invisible….Visible!”

As part of the initiative, these Eco-schools were already looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce their energy use and become more sustainable.

With carbon being a key component in the issue of climate change, we wanted to engage the schools in learning more about carbon, what it is, and answering a key question--when we assess and measure our carbon footprint, what does it mean? We wondered, when we talked with students about “one kilogram of carbon,” whether any of them were really able to visualize what this meant. We also wanted to know what they were all doing to reduce their carbon footprint.

With the help of our partner, the Zerofootprint Challenge, each participating school was given directions on how to create their own carbon cube. With funding from HSBC, each school was also given a flip cam and asked to document the development of their cube and to use the cube visually, as a way to show us what they had done to reduce their carbon footprint. They were also asked to educate the rest of the school community as well – and create a “traveling” carbon cube throughout the school.

To display their results, participating schools were asked to upload their videos to the Eco-Schools USA channel on (check under 'Favorites'). SchoolTube was created specifically for schools, so that teachers and students would be able to upload their videos in a safe environment.

Carbon Cube St martin de Porres High School

“Making the Invisible, Visible” is just part of the HSBC Eco-schools USA Climate Initiative which is aimed at working with K-12 schools to develop a global network actively participating in learning about climate change and finding ways to reduce carbon emissions and energy use in their schools and local communities.

To date, over 18 schools in the greater Chicago and Buffalo regions are part of this initiative. Schools that participated in the Carbon Cube program included: St. Martin de Porres High School, Lincoln Elementary School; Charles Gate Dawes School and the Academy of Global Citizenship in the greater Chicago, IL region and The Park School; Windom Elementary and the Nichols School in the greater Buffalo, NY region.

For more information check out our page on the Eco-Schools USA HSBC Climate Change Initiative.

Related Resources
  • How to Become an Eco-School

    Through school-based action teams of students, administrators, educators and community volunteers, Eco-Schools combines effective "green" management of the school grounds, facilities and the curriculum.

  • The Eight Eco-Schools Pathways

    The Eco-Schools USA program is made up of seven steps, incorporating eight environmental pathways.

  • Current Eco-Schools  

    Check the map to see if your schools are Eco-Schools.