So you’ve got a handle on what your carbon footprint is and how you can go about reducing it. But what about your Ecological Footprint? The difference is more than semantics.
Your Ecological Footprint measures the area of land it takes to sustain your lifestyle. It is a measure of the land or marine area required to produce the food that you eat and the resources that you consume on an annual basis. The measure also takes into account the land required dissipate or absorb the waste that you produce. This measure goes beyond one year, as well. When an ecological footprint is calculated it based on the acreage needed to be able to sustain your needs year after year. If you calculate the global population and the planet’s total acreage, you find that each person has approximately 1.8 Global Hectares (gha) to use and live off of without exhausting our resources.
A comprehensive look at our actual resource use reveals a startling trend. Sometime in the late 1980’s the total of our collective Ecological Footprints exceeded the actual acreage of the planet. So what does that mean? Put simply, we are using more resources than we have, and can be reproduced, on our planet. That means it’s only a matter of time before we exhaust many of our resources. The guilty parties reside mainly in developed Western countries. The average US Ecological Footprint is 9.6 gha, compared to an average Footprint of 1.6 gha in less developed China.
So what can you do? For starters, you should determine your own Ecological Footprint. A great place to start is the Global Footprint Network, they have quizzes and suggestions for how you can lower your own use of resources. Many pioneering sustainable communities have been able to find creative ways of lowering their footprints as well. A list of some good resources is included below. Good Luck!