Maybe you’ve started to dip your toe into the waters of the sustainability movement, and you’ve heard some chatter about footprints. Carbon footprints, global footprints, ecological footprints — any kind of footprint, really. “What gives?” You may ask. Well, I’ll tell you.
The most accepted”footprint” these days is an ecological footprint. An ecological footprint is “a measure of how much biologically productive land and water area a human population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its wastes, using prevailing technology”. It’s also another way of expressing carrying capacity, which is the total population a certain set of resource sources and sinks can sustain and absorb. The USA has the largest carbon footprint of any nation on Earth, which means that even though we may not have the largest percentage of the global population, we use the largest percentage of resources.
When you fill out a footprint calculator, it asks about certain behaviors, including how much you spend on your electricity bill, how often you eat meat and how often you use fossil fuels. It takes these behaviors and gauges how much land is necessary to produce all the food, fuel and power to keep you at your standard of living. It then tells you how many Earths it would take to produce all the resources needed if everyone on the planet lived the exact same way you did.
When you fill out this quiz, you may be alarmed to find that your footprint would take 3, 4 or even 7 Earths to sustain over the long run. While you can lower this through making more more sustainable life choices (i.e. conserving water, eating less meat or using alternative transportation) there is a certain amount of this calculation that is immobile the second you click “USA” as your home nation. The US uses resources to produce crops, maintain an army and basically do things every government does. We just happen to do it more wastefully than most.
FInding out your personal ecological footprint is a great way to put your lifestyle choices in perspective, and to see what kind of an impact your lifestyle and choices make. Interested in finding out how you score? Check out this handy calculator to find out for yourself.