REFE Project

What is the Ecological Footprint?

What is an ecological footprint and why should we care about it? All of us have stumbled across the term “ecological footprint” at one point or another and heard the question, how many earths does it take to support your lifestyle? Which sounds exaggerated at first, but unfortunately, it is the truth.

Let’s begin, by asking the question, what is an ecological footprint? The ecological footprint is a way to measure the impact and demand your lifestyle has upon the environment. It is expressed as the amount of land and water required to produce what we consume and to absorb the waste we generate. Which might sound confusing at first, but simply means that all of us have demands, that nature is expected to meet. These demands can vary from having a car, eating an avocado for breakfast, or living in a house. The less sustainable your demands are the lager because your ecological footprint. But as we know, nature has a limited amount of resources, which means not all of our excessive demands can be met forever.

Have you ever heard of the “earth overshoot day”? It marks the day every year, where people all over the world have exhausted all the resources the earth naturally provides. This day serves as a reminder that our resources are limited and we cannot be wasteful with them. The only reason it is possible for some of us to be lavish with them, is because others are not. The ecological footprint varies from country to country and from person to person. For example, the average ecological footprint in Romania per person is 2.71 gha while it is 0.98 gha in Nepal. If everyone were equally as unrestrained with resources, as some are, we would need more than one earth.  

Many believe that when it comes to reducing your own ecological footprint that it means renouncing the life you have lived before. But it does not have to be this radical. There are simple ways to slowly become more conscious and live a more sustainable lifestyle. For example, reducing the use of disposable plastic, switching to renewable energy, eating less meat, recycling and supporting locals. If you’re a student taking notes on paper, consider using both sides of the page to consume fewer trees. If you live in a crowded city, consider using public transport or a bicycle instead of your personal fossil fuel car. For more practical tips and tricks, follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

Most people do not know how big of an effect one’s own lifestyle has on the environment. By calculating your ecological footprint you become more aware of it. It will then help you manage your ecological assets more wisely and reduce your ecological footprint.

So how sustainable is your lifestyle? Find out and take action!

If you would like to calculate your own ecological footprint, here is the WWF footprint calculator. This is the one tuned for the UK, as not all regions have footprint calculators yet.

Photo credits: Markus Spiske, Unsplash