What is an Ecological Footprint?

The term “ecological footprint” is thrown around topics of sustainability as a commonly understood concept – but is it? In fact, your ecological footprint is the basis of a sustainable lifestyle, whether you realize it or not. But what does it mean to have a footprint exactly?

The idea of an ecological footprint is essentially the most common and successful way to measure the demand individuals and society create on nature, as well as comparing how much is needed to how much is actually being consumed. The Global Footprint Network is one of the premier resources both for understanding and for calculating footprints in a variety of circumstances. The footprint system essentially measures the amount of given resources (water, land) which are being consumed in contrast to the natural capacity these resources have to be used and replenished. The system also accounts for the effects of increasing technology, and the potential impact on and ecosystem based on waste created in production. So basically, it compares “human demand against nature’s supply of biocapacity.”

These effects can be calculated for a myriad of scenarios, from separate nations to the entire globe, and from the footprint of global finance, to business, to the personal footprint of one individual.

So why does it matter? Well, to put it simply, if people as individuals, groups, and societies do not understand the demand that they are putting on their environment, and what the environment can actually withstand, then there is no way to change and adapt to what nature can allow. If we do not understand the harm that is being done to the earth and change our behavior, the damage could be irreparable.


By Grace Interlichia, class of 2014




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