Soil Impact Survey


How are my community's agricultural practices affecting the amount of carbon stored in soil and released from soil into the air?


Use the concepts below to apply your understanding of soil health and carbon to your community and neighborhood. Complete a survey of your community’s development and natural spaces, and examine the activities and technology that impact soil health and carbon levels there.


How is land used in your community?

Estimate the percentage (%) of your community's land that is covered by each:

Developed Areas

Homes, streets, parking lots, businesses, factories, and industrial farms

Natural Spaces

Landscaped parks, gardens, trees and shrubs along road and sidewalks, grasslands, forests, beaches, and lakesides

1805 roadtrip
Bare Soil

Dirt roads, eroded areas, vacant dirt lots, construction sites, and unplanted fields

How is carbon released or sequestered in your community?

Carbon levels in the atmosphere can be affected by non-soil-based actions as well as soil-based actions. Non-soil-based actions that release carbon into the atmosphere include factory emissions, fires, lawnmowers, and gas-fueled transportation. Non-soil-based actions that decrease or prevent carbon emissions include bikes, gas fireplaces, and certain types of public transportation. On this Quest and in this survey, we are focused only on the soil, atmosphere, and carbon connection. As you survey your community and neighborhood, describe only actions and technology that are soil-based.

How is carbon in soil released into your community’s air? 

List and describe what soil-based actions and technology are affecting the amount of carbon being released into your community’s air.

  • conventional agricultural practices
  • bare soil
  • un-farmed fields or gardens
  • dirt roads
  • baseball fields
  • eroded areas
  • bare soil along sidewalks and road medians

How is atmospheric carbon sequestered into your community’s soil? 

List and describe what soil-based actions and technology are affecting the amount of carbon being sequestered in your community’s soil.

  • regenerative agricultural practices
  • trees and other plants
  • native and/or perennial grasses and plants
  • potted plants
  • planted medians and sidewalk spaces

How large is your community?

How might the size of your community affect the amount of carbon released and sequestered there?



Urban communities are big cities with lots of people and buildings. They have a high population where there are more than 1,000 people per block.




Suburban communities are an "in-between" of urban and rural communities. They are usually smaller towns just outside of urban cities.



Rural communities are small towns further away from big cities, with smaller populations.

What is your individual carbon footprint?

Calculate your individual carbon footprint. Here are a few ways to do this:

Questions to Consider

Respond to these questions after completing the survey on your community's carbon impact and the calculation of your personal carbon footprint.

  • What do you think are the primary places and reasons carbon is being sequestered in soil around you? 
  • What do you think are the primary places and reasons carbon is being released from the soil near you?
  • What ideas do you have for how to sequester more carbon and release less of it?  
  • Who in your community might be helpful to talk with about soil health and carbon solutions in your community?
  • How are your community’s soil and atmospheric carbon levels affected when…
    • trees, grass and other plants are removed?
    • soil is covered for development?  
    • people till soil for gardens, landscaping and farming?
    • people remove oil, gas, or minerals from the soil?
  • What's a carbon footprint? What did you find out about yours? What are you willing to do to reduce your footprint?

You have looked in depth at the ways that humans have affected the health of soil around them. You know now that soil health is connected to the health of its larger ecosystem - unhealthy soil has a negative effect on the ecosystem's living organisms and nonliving parts. You've probably started noticing a few problems with how your soil is being treated.
Let's get started on being part of the solution!