The Lifestyle Project at the University of Redlands

by Chris Sinton, Environmental Studies, University of Redlands
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Initial Publication Date: September 15, 2009 | Reviewed: May 10, 2019


This three-week project begins with a measurement of "baseline" consumptive behavior followed by two weeks of working to reduce the use of water, energy, high-impact foods, and other materials. The assignment uses an Excel spreadsheet that calculates direct energy and water use as well as indirect CO2 and water use associated with food consumption.

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Learning Goals

  • Students will recognize the environmental impacts of their lifestyle habits
  • Students will learn what they can do to reduce their environmental impact
  • Students will learn how to quantify their impacts in terms of energy use and pollution emissions

Context for Use

The University of Redlands is a small, private institution located 70 miles east of Los Angeles. This exercise is an integral part of the Introduction to Environmental Studies course that is required for all Environmental Studies/Science majors but is also taken by non-majors. The project is also offered in the Energy and the Environment course. Class size is ranges from 25-30. The Lifestyle Project assignment is conducted in the middle of the semester after the students have been given information on energy resources and air emissions.

Description and Teaching Materials

Student handout (Microsoft Word 56kB Sep15 09) - Provides instructions for each phase of the project, along with information about what students should hand in.
Energy Calculator (Excel 141kB Sep15 09) - The Excel file allows students to record baseline energy use and modified energy use. Graphs of energy savings are automatically generated.

Teaching Notes and Tips

At first glance, the Excel spreadsheet can seem overwhelming for students that are not familiar with Excel. The instructor should first show the file on an overhead projector and walk the students through the spreadsheet elements. It may also help to have a follow up help session after the first week for students that may be having difficulty.

It has been difficult to assess energy from heating/cooling because most students live in dorms and have no control over the thermostat of the building.


Assessment of the project is done via three elements: the project journals, the Excel data sheet, and a final report that summarizes each phase of the project. Complete details can be found in Part 3 of the student handout (Microsoft Word 56kB Sep15 09)

References and Resources

The carbon dioxide emission associated with food choices comes from Bon Appetit's Eat Low Carbon Diet Calculator.

The indirect water use associated with food comes from The Water Footprint Network.