Footprint calculators can inform how we live and let live.

I found a post on the following list:

kate ming-sun outdoors

that includes a link to a “footprint calculator”.

These are always fun, so I am sharing this one, as well as a much borrowed and rewritten post based on the one Kate posted just a couple of days ago.

A little over 7 billion humans currently share the Earth. In 1959 we each shared our home with 3 billion other humans.  Our population has more than doubled in less than my one lifetime. We cannot sustain this kind of growth.

Every other species on Earth lives in a relatively definable range or habitat. However, we humans keep pushing our own boundaries as well as expanding those of some species that are more destructive than others. Browsing magazines in a waiting room yesterday, one article stunned me with the description it gave of the many species that are invading habitats in the US and doing significant harm to native plants and animals, disrupting entire ecosystems. 

No wonder scientists are sending probes to Mars seeking evidence of life and water in our solar system. I just read an article in the March 2014 issue of Natural History magazine called “What Is It about Planet Earth?” that lays out the basics of what has kept life going for billions of years on our special home planet.

Even though biological and geological processes are always and will eventually bring the earth to balance, it may be at the cost of our own species extinction. What if we took better care of this home planet? I am concerned about the environmental legacy we are leaving the born and yet to be born and the message we’re sending those future generations.

In the early 1990s, scientists at the University of British Columbia came up with an easy-to-use calculation that has been adapted and modified by many organizations including the World Wildlife Fund, the Center for Sustainable Economy, and the Earth Day Network among others. This calculation looks at your food consumption habits, travel habits, the type of home you live in and how it’s fueled, consumer goods habits, and then factors in where you live and allocates you a portion of societal services such as government, military, infrastructure, etc. Once you’ve entered all of your inputs the calculator tallies up how many acres of natural resources your way of life requires.

The specificity of questions and available answers from calculator to calculator leaves you with a potentially wide range of results. None of them allow for inputs that could benefit humanity in general, such as planting trees. It focuses solely on activities you can do to reduce your own footprint.

The benefit of these calculators is that they show the result in a simple and easy to understand form.

This particular calculator shows me that if every person in the world lived the same way I do we would need 1.56 Planet Earths to support all of us. My scores that most closely approximate that of others in my country are my carbon and housing footprints, which are each about one-third of the scores of the average US citizen. Short of moving to an even smaller home and flying fewer than the 3-4 times a year up and down the west coast that I did this year. or moving to a less-developed nation, I can’t do much about the services.

I am already making better choices than most about how and what I eat: no meat or dairy, a little fish and mostly locally sourced ingredients. Our household generates far less waste than most and in addition to using our recycle and yard waste bins to the maximum (as well as living in a community with waste management systems in place that supports these habits!) we do as much composting as we can on site and return those nutrients taken up by growing our food through our compost spinner and worm bin.

Little changes can go a long way. If we are going to retain our wild spaces to be cared for and protected for the wildlife limited to the conditions specific to wildlands we each need to reduce our own footprint. My intention is to include in my own life and work the notion that everyone needs time in nature to reconnect with themselves and nature.

Do you know what your ecological footprint is? Calculate it at this link and let me know in the comments what you think of your results. Have you found a more accurate calculator than this one? Please share it.

About heinsight2010

Living into my legacy years in Northwestern Washington, gathering my memories and experiences into a coherent whole to make my mark in the world, I write, paint, walk, talk, share stories, dance and learn my way through the changes of life, while finding ways to contribute to sustainable community with as much love and compassion as I can.
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3 Responses to Footprint calculators can inform how we live and let live.

  1. Kristi H says:

    I used the calculator and came up with a score of 2.66. The pie chart at the end showed a big wedge for marine fisheries. Huh? We don’t eat fish. I took the link on ways to reduce my footprint, and found long lists of things we’re already doing. This was pretty frustrating. We can’t afford a new green-built house or solar panels, and there isn’t good public transit where I live (plus, I work at home! which I guess means I don’t commute by mass transit so I lose points there). I’ll look for a better calculator.

  2. Yeah, this one does leave some things to be desired. “Most of the time, sometimes, not usually” and the like as choices leave a lot of wiggle room. I did take one that was very comprehensive, asked for actual numbers on BTU’s used on average per month and the like that required me to dig out utility bills, etc. and I would put more stock in that. Was it the way the “vegetarian” option was phrased? or the fact that you live in Anacortes that maybe bumped that marine fisheries piece. Hmmm?

  3. Kristi says:

    I also should have averaged out my airplane miles instead of using this year’s and last years as my annual mileage. Didn’t fly at all in 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008, 2007!

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