Sunday, April 18, 2010

Earth Day is On Its Way: Doing the Math

For Easter, my kids were giddy as can be about their chocolate finds:  filled eggs, bunnies, & baskets.  As for me, I perhaps had the same level of excitement as they did by the gift my father-in-law gave me:  the National Geographic quarterly Special Issue--Water: Our Thirsty World.  Not only was there this amazing fold-out map of the world rivers--which I teach--but on the flip side of it, there was an amazing poster of "Hidden Water."  In super-sized droplets, the poster notes the amounts of gallons of "virtual water" it takes to produce different items from beginning to end, including planting, raising, sometimes feeding, and factory production of an item.

For example:  1 pound of beef and some potatoes with a glass of wine could set you back 248 gallons of water:  185 gallons (the beef) + 31 gallons (the potatoes) + 32 gallons (the wine).   And, depending on your dining attire, you could be out 3,666 gallons of water just wearing a cotton shirt (766 gal./water) and a pair of jeans (2,900 gallons).  That's a mind-boggling amount of water!  You can do  further H2O investigations at National Geographic's interactive website:

Do your own math:  discover your own "Water Footprint" by going to  While you're using this Water Calculator, the site gives you helpful hints on how to diminish your water usage.  The H2O Conserve website also has an education and kids section, the latter of which has a cute video featuring "Aqua," an 8-year old gal in search of water info. A cute little video to show your kids or your classroom.  The education section has a 17-page water curriculum complete with student pages and project ideas.  The site also recommends (as do I) a visit to Water: H2O = Life, the online information about the international traveling exhibit from New York's American Museum of Natural History

While you're calculating, you can't just stop at your Water Footprint calculation.  The next logical & important stop is the Carbon Footprint Calculator.  You can find a kid-friendly calculator at  Input your numbers and the calculator will do the math for you, telling you approximately how many planets worth of energy you are using as compared to others nation-wide.

Of course, once you do all of these calculations, you'll see that "doing the math" is the easy part.  It's important to decide for yourself...what are you going to do with that information??  What changes can and will you make?

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