3 Ways of Measuring your Ecological Footprint
Do you know when we find a pair of shoes at a store that seems perfect but when we try them on we find out they’re super tight and uncomfortable? It’s very likely we’re going to leave them there.
Unfortunately, this footprint doesn’t work that way… Since 1970 we’ve been putting on more than we can, and all this discomfort, that should be ours, is felt daily on the planet, in a future of natural resources scarcity and degradation of our ecosystems.
But how can we know how much do we put on? We’ve all heard about the Ecological and Environmental Footprint, but how do I measure mine?
WHAT IS AN ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT?
The Ecological Footprint is an estimation of the extent of bioproductive field (land and sea) needed to support the lifestyle of a particular population unit, from a single person to city.
All the activities and choices we make, the products we consume and the services we use require a certain “portion” of the planet to generate the necessary natural resources and absorb the residual of all the production, distribution and use process.
The sum of all these portions gives us the value of our ecological footprint, in global hectares– that’s the number that shows us the negative impact in the environment left by our activity.
Nowadays, the ecological footprint is considered one of the great standards of sustainability. Most calculators compare the value of the ecological footprint with the planet’s biocapacity (capability of regenerating its natural resources) showing, as a result, the comparison between what we should have used and what we are demanding to the environment, - this difference shows us how sustainable we are in our daily routines.
3 ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT CALCULATORS
In this article, we’ve selected 3 Ecological Footprint Calculators available in English online with different level of depth and focus.
ISLANDWOOD CALCULATOR – THE MOST EDUCATIONAL
This calculator is a simple and introductory tool that makes a shallow estimate of the ecological footprint. But it has something that stands out - as we are answering the questions, this calculator presents statistic data, news, and tips about each specific category.
This tool was produced by a Seattle environmental training center focused on children education but has a lot of information that any adult will find useful. It is appealing, simple and informative, but if your intention is to have a more accurate calculation, this will not be your first choice.
WWF CALCULATOR – THE MOST PROACTIVE
This ecological footprint calculator was developed by WWF, one of the world’s largest organizations in the field of biodiversity protection and environmental conservation. The tool is intuitive and super simple to understand – as you answer the questions, tips appear on the right side of the screen clarifying some details of the questionnaire and presenting some facts about the themes asked.
What’s the big problem? It focuses only on the UK. For other countries this tool may not be the most accurate to calculate the footprint - some questions are made in "pounds", which might be confusing for some people. However, by using this calculator, we get a sense of the areas of consumption where our impact is greatest, the total carbon emissions from our lifestyle and comparing our value with the world’s and UK’s average.
At the end of the questionnaire, we are presented with some tips regarding areas where we most need to change behaviors. By clicking on the orange button, we are taken to another page where we find several general tips on how to reduce our ecological footprint, with a practical language, concrete measures, and content accessible to all.
GLOBAL FOOTPRINT NETWORK CALCULATOR – THE MOST COMPLETE
The Global Footprint Network is one of the reference entities regarding the Environmental Footprint. Its founder, Mathis Wackernagel, formalized the term “Ecological Footprint” at the beginning of the 90s. For that same reason, it’s not surprising that this is one of the most complete calculators online.
In their site there’s a very intuitive and appealing tool to calculate the footprint, with different levels of precision – throughout the calculation, the questionnaire asks if whether want or not to add more detailed information promising to give a more accurate estimate if we do.
In addition to our ecological footprint result in “planets”, it also shows us our Overshoot Day – the day of the year when we would spend all the available annual resources if the population had the same environmental footprint we do.
This calculator also gives us detailed values by consumption categories of our ecological footprint and the emissions of our carbon footprint. It refers as well the amount of environmental footprint related to the use of state services and the importance of pressuring governments to adopt greener policies.
At the end of the questionnaire, it presents solutions in 4 areas: City, Energy, Food and Population. In each of them, we can find statistic data and tips, relating each area with some of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals.
IS THERE MORE?
With a little extra search, we can find millions of other options to calculate our ecological footprint. The best strategy will be to see the key points of each tool and cross calculators according to your goals.
What’s important is having the notion of the need to change behaviors and adopt alternative ways to the unconscious consumerism that has shaped the last years. There are many well-known tips; there’s only one part left: changing our habits and routines.
Did you already know these calculators? Do you know other examples? Comment below other interesting tools you know to calculate the ecological footprint and tells us what do you think of our suggestions!
Thank you for sticking around. If we can only gauge what we measure, it’s time to get a sense of how much we’re actually putting on/wearing! ;)