What is an ecological footprint?

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According to the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), an ecological footprint can be defined as “the impact of human activities measured in terms of the area of biologically productive land and water required to produce the goods consumed and to assimilate the wastes generated.”
In simpler terms, it could be said that an ecological footprint is the amount of nature that it takes in order to support an economy. The Global Footprint Network helps to promote the development of sustainability and measures resources used in relation to the amount of resources available.

While an ecological footprint compares the amount of resources people consume, a carbon footprint measures only the amount of greenhouse gases released as a result of fossil fuel burning, according to the CCEA.

How is the ecological footprint of an individual calculated?

The ecological footprint of an individual can be calculated by adding up the demands of an individual/group of individuals within a biological space. The Global Footprint Network provides a free online tool to help calculate a person’s ecological footprint, in the form of a questionnaire.

Typically, questions such as:

  • How often do you eat animal products?
  • Which housing type best describes your home?
  • How energy efficient is your home?

are used to help make this calculation, in order to provide feedback.

How is an ecological footprint calculated? 

An individual/s ecological footprint is calculated by adding up the demands of an individual/s that compete for the same biological space. These materials are individually interpreted into an equivalent number of global hectares.

Why is measuring an ecological footprint important?

As the global population increases, so does the demand for earth’s resources. Ecological footprints are important as they measure this demand and consumption in relation to the available resources. 

Without measuring ecological footprints, scientists would struggle to understand both the availability and conservation of resources.

How can we reduce our ecological footprint?

Typically, food is a prominent contributor to an individual’s ecological footprint. According to the WWF, food makes up for around 10% of an average person’s ecological footprint.

As outlined above, meat consumption plays a prominent role in increasing an individual’s ecological footprint. Other activities that increase ecological footprint output include high amounts of energy use, not recycling, or choosing to travel with a car over short commutes. 

We wrote an article discussing how to live more sustainably here.

What is biocapacity?

Biocapacity is a shorthand version of biological capacity. Biological capacity is the ability of an ecosystem to produce biological materials as well as absorb carbon dioxide emissions.

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