Climate change and sustainability resources

Discover free lesson plans, experiments and activities to explore how chemistry can help us tackle climate change and build a more sustainable future

Get started with 14 ways to teach sustainability in chemistry

Based on the UN's sustainable development goals, our Sustainability in chemistry series brings together tips, ideas and curriculum-linked resources to connect your existing chemistry lessons with sustainability.

Try them out

Global warming and the greenhouse effect

Develop your students’ understanding of the greenhouse effect, and investigate the chemistry behind efforts to reduce or capture greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The greenhouse effect

The corner of large agricultural greenhouse, with plants visible through the glass panels

Experiment

Modelling the greenhouse effect

In association with

Use this demonstration to illustrate the greenhouse effect and the role of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

A photograph of the top of a factory chimney shown against the sky, emitting a dense smoke into the air

Lesson plan

What causes the greenhouse effect? | 16-18 years

Reinforce your students’ understanding of the cause of the greenhouse effect using this lesson plan with a demonstration and activities for 16–18 year olds.

A coal-fired power station with steam rising from its cooling towers and electricity pylons nearby

Resource

The greenhouse effect and global warming

An activity worksheet to test student understanding of global warming.

The carbon cycle and sequestration

A photo of young people at a climate change protest

CPD

How to teach the carbon cycle at 11–14

Ensure your students have a firm understanding of the chemistry behind climate change

An image showing the hand of a man who is planting seeds

Feature

Grounded: Keeping the carbon beneath our feet

Can soil help address climate change?

EiC317 - Feature - Carbon sequestration - Hero

Feature

Carbon dioxide gets stoned

Locking Earth’s excess carbon dioxide away by turning it into rock

Energy and alternative fuels

From hydrogen fuel cells to solar power, use these resources to find out chemistry can help us cut emissions and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

A photograph of an electric car connecting to a charging station at the side of a street

Lesson plan

Alternative fuels and low-carbon technology in cars | 16-18 years

Explore how cars can be fuelled using low-carbon technology, including hydrogen and hybrid power, in this lesson plan with activities for 16–18 year olds.

Image - feature - Smith main 1

Feature

Fuelling the future: solid phase hydrogen storage

The portable and safe storage of hydrogen will be fundamental to the success of fuel cell-powered cars

Three clear empty plastic drink bottles, against a plain white-grey background

Experiment

A hydrogen powered rocket

In association with

Try this spectacular demonstration to make a rocket using a plastic drink bottle fuelled by hydrogen and air. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

A picture showing solar panels with blue sky and white colours top left corner to illustrate an article about fuelling the future with hydrogen, solar and wind power

Feature

Fuelling the future

Switching off coal and oil

Batteries and their impacts

Batteries are essential to the devices we depend on every day. They’re also key to new green technologies, including solar power and electric vehicles. But how do they work? And what impact do they have on the environment?

An image showing a recyclable battery

Feature

New power, old batteries

Closing the loop in lithium-ion battery recycling from electric cars

An image showing old mobile phones

Resource

Recharge your batteries | 14–16 years

Find out how lithium-ion batteries work, and the issues surrounding their manufacture and disposal

Five silver and yellow AA alkaline batteries against a yellow background

Experiment

Rechargeable cells: the lead–acid accumulator

In association with

Use this practical to demonstrate the chemistry behind rechargeable batteries, using a lead–acid accumulator cell. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

An aerial photo of a lithium mine in Bolivia

Resource

Lithium: separation, mining and battery power | 11–14 years

Test your 11–14 students’ knowledge of separation techniques; elements, mixtures and compounds; periodic table trends

Sustainable production and consumption

Inspire your students to explore the science of recycling and learn how chemical scientists are creating more sustainable materials to reduce waste and pollution.

Plastic waste and recycling

Mountains of waste plastic

Feature

Plastic waste

Can science solve it? This article includes teaching resources

An illustration showing different types of period products, from pads to tampons to cups

Feature

Single-use plastic in period products

Forget bags and straws. Disposable period products are a much great contributor to the amount of plastic littering our environment

Bales of compacted cans

The Mole

Recycling plastic bottles

Recycling plastic bottles prevents the plastic from going to landfill, saves energy and reduces our dependency on oil. But what do we have to do to put the bottle back on the supermarket shelf?

Sustainable plastics

A photo of tree trunks showing their growth rings

Resource

Plant-based plastics | 11–14 years

Put chemistry into context and encourage your 11–14 students to use their critical thinking skills with these classroom activities

A close-up photograph of two potatoes against a neutral background

Experiment

Making plastic from potato starch

In association with

Try this class practical to make a plastic using potato starch and investigate the effects of adding a ‘plasticiser’. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

An image showing the September issue of Education in Chemistry in its compostable packaging

Feature

What's in a bag?

Creating compostable plastic

The environmental impact of fashion

Clothing labels showing the words Wardrobe Warriors

Feature

Fixing fashion

What’s the environmental impact of our clothes throughout their life cycle?

An image showing a recycling symbol made out of fabric fragments

Resource

Assessing the life cycle of fashion | 14–16 years

Examine the environmental impact of our clothing with these resources

Protecting our oceans

From microplastics to acidification due to carbon dioxide emissions – our oceans are under pressure. But chemical scientists are at the forefront of work to reduce and repair the damage. Find out more about the problems facing marine environments and investigate acidification hands-on.

Discarded plastic and other rubbish floating on the surface of water, with fish visible below

Feature

The massive problem of microplastics

As plastics fill up and pollute our oceans, recognising their value rather than thinking of them as disposable could help us deal with what has turned into a large, global problem

A large ocean wave rising from blue water and breaking into white spray

Resource

Chemistry of the oceans | 14–16 years

A booklet aimed at students aged between 14 and 16 years. The text is supported by questions, tables of data and diagrams.

Branching staghorn coral bleached white on the Great Barrier Reef

Feature

The other carbon dioxide problem

Carbon dioxide produced by human activity is acidifying the ocean at an unprecedented and alarming rate

Bubbles in water

Experiment

The reaction of carbon dioxide with water

In association with

Form a weak acid from the reaction of carbon dioxide with water in this class practical. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

Clean, sustainable water

Find out how we can use chemistry to improve access to clean, safe drinking water and learn about desalination, water analysis and the water cycle.

Water analysis

Seawater splashing against a rocky shore

Experiment

Separating salts from seawater

In association with

Try this simple practical to show that seawater contains a mixture of different salts. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

An aerial photograph of the surface of seawater

Experiment

Dissolved substances in tap water and seawater

In association with

Compare the solids and gases dissolved in tap water and seawater in this class practical and demonstration. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

Condenser set up in classroom laboratory

Resource

Simple distillation – practical videos | 14–16 students

Video resources showing the simple distillation of liquids using a Liebig condenser.

Water treatment and purification

  • Water purification – practical videos | 14–16 students

  • Advances in water treatment

  • Precious water

  • Water for life

The water cycle

An aerial photograph of cumulus clouds above the sea, with shadows and a ship visible below

Resource

The life of water

Get hands on with H2O, changing states of matter and the water cycle. These experiments and investigations involve water in the context of space

Food, farming and nutrition

Sustainable agriculture means providing enough nutritious food for everyone while protecting our climate and environment. Find out how chemical scientists are helping to develop new approaches to farming and reducing food waste, and investigate the chemistry behind the food we eat.

Food chemistry

An illustration of a man wearing a white napkin (head out of shot) with a knife and fork sitting down to a plate with a skull and crossbones on, warning of toxic foods

Feature

Toxins in food

Many foods contain toxins such as oxalic acid. How do we balance the risks and benefits to health?

A watercolour image showing a salt shaker above a plate on a red check tablecloth

Feature

Pass the salt

The pros and cons of NaCl

A variety of different breakfast cereals in bowls on a wooden surface, with a glass jug of milk and spoons at the side

Experiment

Extracting iron from breakfast cereal

In association with

Try this class practical or demonstration to extract food-grade iron from breakfast cereals using neodymium magnets. Includes kit list and safety instructions.

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Magnificent molecules

Gluten

Ida Emilie Steinmark investigates a compound found inside some of our favourite foods, but unable to be enjoyed by everyone

A photograph of yellow-orange pills arranged in rows on a blue background; in the bottom row, a different, red pill stands out

Resource

Vitamins and the chemistry behind them

From practical experiments to a directed activity related to text (DART), try these activities for 11–16 year olds to investigate the chemistry of vitamins.

A photograph of somebody's hand pouring cooking oil from a plastic bottle against a white background

Lesson plan

‘Healthy’ fats, obesity and measuring unsaturation | 16-18 years

Measure the level of ‘saturation’ of fats and oils using iodine, exploring the relation to obesity, with this lesson plan and experiment for 16–18 year olds.

Reducing food waste

fruits

The Mole

Waste not, want not

Elinor Hughes investigates some of the latest developments in recycling food waste 

Sustainable agriculture

An image showing a policeman checking the methane content of a sheep's breath using a breathalyser

Soundbite

Can seaweed-eating sheep curb methane emissions?

Seaweed may not be the silver bullet to farming’s methane problem

Image

Resource

Organic chemists: contributing to food production | 16–18 years

This scientific case-study highlights the importance of organic synthesis in more efficient food production.

Clay soil field

Resource

Soil science

In association with

A collection of information sheets and presentations that look at the nature of soil particles and the nutrient requirements of plants. 

Additional resources

Job profiles

From monitoring the chemistry of our oceans to developing new, biodegradable plastics, chemical scientists are working to reduce our impact on the environment and make change possible.

Explore the job profiles below or visit A Future in Chemistry to find out more.