Tracking your Plastic Footprint

Wednesday 12:00-1:30pm PT / 1:00-2:30pm MT / 2:00-3:30pm CT / 3:00-4:30pm ET Online
Share-a-Thon Part of Share-a-Thon


Ben Maas, Metropolitan State University
Katie Farnsworth, Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus


The Excel spreadsheet will be explained and gone over in the 1 - 2 minutes designated for the activity. An example of a plastic diary will also be shown.


In this homework assignment, students are asked to track their plastic usage over one week by using an Excel spreadsheet (provided) and by making a 'plastic diary. A Google Sheets version of the spreadsheet is also provided. At the end of the week, the class works in small groups in order to compare data and calculate how long it would take for an "average" rate of plastic use to form the Pacific Garbage patch. Students are also asked to make a graph of their plastic usage habits over that week. Each student also needs to identify an one page solution that explains how they can decrease their plastic usage though changes in their personal plastic usage. Students are also asked to consider one way that society could use less plastic, i.e. "We need to ban all plastic." and then assess the likelihood of that plan succeeding. The goal of the homework assignment is for students to become more aware of their daily and weekly plastic usage.


Ben uses this activity each fall in introduction to environmental science as a homework assignment. We discuss the assignment as a class once the students have turned it in to go over what they learned.

Why It Works

This activity helps students visualize their plastic usage as a table, a graph, and compared to the Pacific Garbage Patch. For many students, this is the first time they have visualized their plastic usage, or even tracked it.

Session Connection Information

This session has already taken place.

Presentation Media