What’s Your Ecological Footprint?

“Human activities consume resources and produce waste. As our populations grow and global consumption increases, it is essential that we measure nature’s capacity to meet these demands on our planet. The Ecological Footprint has emerged as one of the world’s leading measures of human demand on nature. It allows us to calculate human pressure on the planet and come up with facts such as: If everyone lived the lifestyle of the average American, we would need 5 planets. Ecological Footprint Accounting thus addresses whether the planet is large enough to keep up with the demands of humanity.”  Learn more at Global Footprint Network.


Did You Know?

“The food system is responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions while unhealthy diets and high body weight are among the greatest contributors to premature mortality.”

“Our study provides a comparative analysis of the health and climate change benefits of global dietary changes for all major world regions. We project that health and climate change benefits will both be greater the lower the fraction of animal-sourced foods in our diets. Three quarters of all benefits occur in developing countries although the per capita impacts of dietary change would be greatest in developed countries. The monetized value of health improvements could be comparable with, and possibly larger than, the environmental benefits of the avoided damages from climate change.” Read the PNAS report “Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change.”


According to an August 29, 2016 press release from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, “If everyone in the Chesapeake Bay drainage area consumed only the recommended amount of protein, the associated reductions in nitrogen pollution would be equivalent to what is needed to save the Chesapeake Bay. That is one of the findings of an exercise by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the University of Virginia (UVA) to estimate the collective impact of specific lifestyle and household choices on nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake Bay.”

“Food production, particularly of meat products, is responsible for more nitrogen emissions than any other footprint component. What’s more, the typical U.S. citizen consumes roughly 30 percent more protein than he or she needs” said Dr. James Galloway, Professor of Environmental Sciences, at UVA. “If everyone in the watershed consumed only the recommended amount of protein, reductions in nitrogen emissions would be substantial.”


We cannot continue to have our way with the planet without forever changing it. Our only realistic options are—to walk as lightly as we can, to change from a negative to a positive impact, and to protect our biological diversity. Although time is running out, we may still be able to prevent irreversible damage to the biosphere. We need to muster the will to save the natural world and the wisdom to have enlightened restraint.

The vision of a protected planet must rely heavily on integrating our activities with the natural cycles. I see future households run by solar and renewable energy, with equipment that is technologically advanced so that just a little sunlight can power it. I see one child, two children, or no children in that household, with adults working in businesses that add to the quality of life without requiring the use of a great deal of matter, and the matter that is used having been recycled in factories also powered by solar energy. I see food waste from meals consumed in the household being turned back into soil components through the process of composting. I see members of the household traveling in vehicles that get thousands of miles to the gallon; using communication equipment to reduce the amount of travel that is needed. I see highways that are biologically integrated into the landscape with under and overpasses for nonhuman life forms, no longer serving as enormously long biological barriers that fragment habitat. I see protected areas expanded and degraded lands restored. Most of all, I have a dream that all people have learned about ecology. –Dr. Jan Beyea (1993)


Measure Your Ecological Footprint

Water Footprint Calculator. What’s your water footprint? “This calculator helps you estimate your total water use. You know water comes from the tap, but do you know how much water goes into your sandwich? Your gadgets? The electricity that powers them? Soon you will!” GRACE Communications Foundation

Bay Footprint Calculator. “Our lifestyle choices have a big impact on our Bay and its rivers and streams. Everything from how we get around to the food we eat contributes to the pollution affecting our region. But it can be tough to know just how exactly your day-to-day life affects the health of the Bay and its rivers and streams. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has partnered with researchers from the University of Virginia to create the Bay Footprint Calculator: a simple, fun tool that will help you and your family find new ways to reduce pollution and help Save the Bay.” –Chesapeake Bay Foundation

▪Your Living Habitats Make Up Your Footprint. “Our lifestyle choices make up our environmental carbon footprint. Measuring yours takes less than 5 minutes and could change the way you live…” World Wildlife Fund

▪Ecological Footprint Quiz. “The Ecological Footprint is a resource accounting tool that measures how much biologically productive land and sea is used by a given population or activity, and compares this to how much land and sea is available. Productive land and sea areas support human demands for food, fiber, timber, energy, and space for infrastructure. These areas also absorb the waste products from the human economy. The Ecological Footprint measures the sum of these areas, wherever they physically occur on the planet. The Ecological Footprint is used widely as a management and communication tool by governments, businesses, educational institutions, and non-governmental organizations.” Earth Day Network

Ecological Footprint Calculator. “Footprints. We make them everywhere we go. But unlike the impressions we leave in mud or sand, which we can clearly see, our Ecological Footprints outline the space we each need to survive. Understanding exactly how big our Ecological Footprints are can be difficult because they encompass all the space and resources we need to live—light (energy), air, water and soil. Learn how the choices you make affect the size of your Ecological Footprint.” –https://islandwood.org