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Lesson eight: Measuring emissions

This lesson explores how emissions of particles and gases into the air are measured and monitored around Aotearoa New Zealand. 

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There are lots of different activities that emit particles and gases into the air. Some of these particles and gases affect our health. Others, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) can change the climate. But how do we know which of these particles and gases cause the most damage? 

Petrol used in cars, and wood and coal used for heating all emit carbon dioxide and particles. The amount of gas and particles created depends on the fuel type used. 

The number of things that emit anything to the air, what fuel they run on, and how they are being used are all important parts of an emission inventory. An emission inventory is a big list, or spreadsheet, that includes everything that emits in an area such as a town, region or country.  

Things you might include in an emissions inventory

Things in your house that would be included in an emission inventory include a car, fireplace, gas cooker or motorbike. Other things in town included in the emission inventory could include trains, buses, factories, ships and quarries. 

Everything in the inventory has an emission factor, which is how polluting that thing is. The emission factor for cars is how much carbon dioxide is produced for every kilometre driven. 

The emission factor for wood fires is the amount of pollutant (woodsmoke and gases) for every kilogram of wood burned. 

For both wood fires and cars, newer models are usually cleaner and more efficient than older models. 

Follow the instructions below to see how you can create your own emission inventory with your class. 

Key summary points 

Emission inventories list everything that can pollute the air in a town, city or region. 

Things can emit different amounts of pollution depending on the fuel used and how often it is being used. 

Activity: Build your own emissions inventory  

Students can do this activity by themselves or with their class – it’s suitable for Year 7 and 8 students. 

Watch the instructions (teacher guide video) below and download the sample spreadsheet

Quiz: Measuring emissions

Check out our air quality quiz over on Kahoot

The quiz works best on Kahoot, but if you prefer a text version, you can download it as a PDF.

Worksheet: Measuring emissions

Download worksheet.


Principal Scientist - Air Quality