The Ecological Footprint

When discussing environmental impacts, our “footprint” on the earth is something that is thrown around quite often. A lot of projections and estimations come from data gathered for our footprint so its important to understand what it actually is.

The overarching Ecological Footprint compares two things:

  1. The amount of biologically productive areas on our planet
  2. How large of an area is needed to absorb waste produced by humans and generate resources as humans consume them

Interested in calculating your personal footprint? See here.


The Ecological Footprint can also be broken into more specific ones like the water footprint and the carbon footprint.


The Water footprint

Water footprint measures direct and indirect freshwater use by humans, which includes producers and consumers. Water consumption contributed by households includes showers, laundry, and dish washing while water consumption for corporations including water used during manufacturing. If you would like to measure your water footprint and learn how to reduce it, see here. See here if you’re curious about the water footprint of a certain country or of the entire world, see here.


The Carbon footprint

Carbon footprint can be separated into two categories:

  • The overall carbon footprint
    • The amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, or industry
      • Greenhouse gases result in the greenhouse effect where the sun’s warmth is trapped. They include:
        • Carbon dioxide
        • Methane
        • Nitrous oxide
        • Hydrofluorocarbons
        • Perfluorocarbons
        • Sulfur hexafluoride
  • The amount of carbon dioxide in the air
    • The amount of land and sea area required to offset carbon dioxide emissions from human activity such as:
      • Driving or flying
      • Home energy
      • Agriculture and food production

Interested in calculating your carbon footprint and reducing it? See here.


Written by Linda Shackles, Class of 2017

Photo by Katelyn Kenderdine – I found my birth certificate today, and my feet were so long and skinny, gross!