ecological footprint

Big foot? Small foot?

Ecological footprints: measuring lifestyle impact

This article is here courtesy of Share International magazine, PO Box 971, N. Hollywood, CA 91603 USA.

What impact do your eating habits, living conditions and mode of transportation have on the earth? And how many acres of land are needed to produce your food, shelter and fuel?

The answer is your ecological footprint a way to measure what effect your lifestyle has on the planet's ecosystems. Now that mark can be measured using a simple Internet calculator posted by an Oakland, California-based group called Redefining Progress.

The 13-question 'footprint calculator' asks questions about everyday eating habits, such as how many daily meals you consume that include animal-based products like eggs, meat or dairy. The questionnaire also asks about annual transportation patterns amount of air travel, use of ride sharing, fuel efficiency and home size, and whether energy-efficient electrical appliances are used.

Using this data, the program computes the number of acres needed to maintain your standard of living. The website allows users to keep check on their monthly consumption using a spreadsheet program calculator engine.

The group also analyses data on a global basis and posts statistics on human consumption. While current world population numbers mean there should be 5 to 6 acres to support every human being on the planet, research by Redefining Progress shows that many earthly inhabitants are using far more.

The United States leads the pack in leaving the biggest mark on the environment, according to the group's website ranking of 1995 numbers from nations around the world. On average, Redefining Progress found, US citizens need about 24 acres to maintain their current lifestyles. The United Kingdom uses 11 acres per person, while Japan uses 10. China is toward the bottom of the list, at 4 acres per person.

Meanwhile, citizens in some developing nations have a much more diminished environmental impact. It takes 2 acres to sustain a resident of Pakistan and Ethiopia, about 1 for someone living in Bangladesh.

Redefining Progress recommends that Americans reduce the size of their ecological footprint by embracing the concept of sustainability. Better use of natural resources and decreasing consumption will help make it possible for everyone to "secure their quality of life within the means of nature," according to the group's website.

The footprint calculator can be found at

More information: Our Ecological Footprint Reducing Human Impact on the Earth by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees: <>

Of course we should try to reduce our own ecological footprints, but bear in mind that most of the world's problems come from the huge, inefficient footprints of governments and corporations -- they are the biggest sloppiest consumers. But the "fo otprint" idea is interesting -- how about eliminating taxes and just charging people based on the size of their footprint! The environment would benefit enormously and human productivity would be rewarded instead of penalized by taxation. Tell your view s to The Progress Report:

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