Our Ecological Footprint IB Geography What is an Ecological Footprint? The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earths ecosystems. It compares human demand with planet Earth's ecological capacity to regenerate. What does it represent? The calculation takes into account: Arable land: the amount of land required for growing crops Pasture land: resources required for growing animals for meat, hides, milk, etc. Forests: for fuel, furniture and buildings Oceans: for fish and other marine products Infrastructure: transportation, factories and housing Energy costs: land required for absorbing carbon dioxide and other energy wastes. Using this assessment, it is possible to estimate how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it would take to support humanity if everybody lived a given lifestyle. So where are we at now? • For 2008, humanity's total ecological footprint was estimated at 1.8 planet Earths – in other words, humanity uses ecological services 1.8 times as fast as Earth can renew them. Every year, this number is recalculated — with a three year lag due to the time it takes for the UN to collect and publish all the underlying statistics. Ecological Footprint Calculator Calculate your own ecological footprint by going to: http://www.myfootprint.org/ Print your results page. Then on a separate sheet of paper answer the following questions: Where category was responsible for the majority of your ecological footprint? What actions can you take to reduce your ecological footprint? Biocapacity The capacity of an area or ecosystem to generate an ongoing supply of resources and to absorb its wastes Overshoot Overshoot occurs when humanity’s demand on nature exceeds the biosphere’s supply, or regenerative capacity. We have been in ecological overshoot since the mid 1980s Ecological Footprints do not: Attempt to predict the future Indicate intensity with which a biologically productive area is being used Evaluate the social and economic dimensions of sustainability Instead, ecological footprints provide snapshots of past resource demand and availability Top 10 Countries by Ecological Footprint Highest Footprints gha/pers Country Lowest Footprints gha/pers Country 15.99 UAE 0.6 Bangladesh 12.22 USA 0.66 Namibia 10.31 Kuwait 0.73 Sierra Leone 9.88 Denmark 0.75 Burundi 9.54 New Zealand 0.75 Chad 9.43 Ireland 0.76 Mozambique 8.49 Australia 0.78 Haiti 8.45 Finland 0.79 Bhutan 7.66 Canada 0.80 Guinea-Bissau 7.53 Sweden 0.82 Togo How do we measure our Ecological Footprint? Your ecological footprint is expressed in "global hectares" (gha) or "global acres" (ga), which are standardized units that take into account the differences in biological productivity of various ecosystems impacted by your consumption activities. Your footprint is broken down into four consumption categories: carbon (home energy use and transportation), food, housing, and goods and services Carbon Footprint The carbon footprint is the amount of land and ocean area required to absorb the carbon emissions associated with a visitor’s home energy use and transportation. How can you reduce your carbon footprint? Reduce your carbon footprint by: Walk, bike, or take public transit whenever possible. Avoid allowing your car to idle. If you'll be waiting for more than 30 seconds, turn off the engine (except in traffic Install compact fluorescent bulbs in all your home light fixtures Keep thermostat relatively low in winter and ease up on the air conditioning in summer. Clean or replace dirty air conditioner filters as recommended to keep the A/C operating at peak efficiency. Dry your clothes outside whenever possible. Defrost your refrigerator and freezer regularly. Choose energy efficient appliances Food Footprint The food footprint is the amount of cropland, pastureland, and marine fisheries supporting annual food consumption plus the land and ocean area required to absorb the carbon emissions associated with food production, processing, and transportation. How can you reduce your Food Footprint? Reduce your food footprint by: eat low on the food chain shop often at farmers markets or natural food stores select certified organic foods when they can eat fewer big meals maintain a garden for their vegetables and herbs have lower footprint values. Housing Footprint The housing footprint includes the spatial area of land taken up by a particular housing unit, the forestland area needed to produce wood products used in construction and furnishing, the cropland area displaced by household water consumption, and the land and ocean area required to absorb the carbon emissions associated with housing construction and maintenance. How can you reduce your Housing Footprint? You can reduce your housing footprint by: Choosing furnishings that are second-hand, recycled, or sustainably produced. Use biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products. Wash cars rarely, or better yet, take them to a carwash. Commercial carwashes use less water per wash than home washers, and they are also required to drain used water into the sewage system, rather than storm drains. Take shorter, less frequent showers-this not only saves water, but the energy necessary to heat it. Goods and Services Footprint The goods and services footprint includes the amount of land and ocean area required to absorb the carbon emissions associated with manufacturing, transport, and disposal of goods, the land area used for commercial activities, and the forest area required to produce pulp and paper products. How can you reduce your Goods and Services Footprint? You can reduce your Goods and Services Footprint by: Buy less! Replace items only when you really need to. Recycle all your paper, glass, aluminum, and plastic. Don't forget electronics! Compost food waste for the garden. Buy recycled products, particularly those labeled "post-consumer waste."