Imagine that human life is a barefoot beach walk toward the ocean. At the very beginning, your footprints on the dry sand are barely visible, but with each step you take, they become deeper and more substantial. At some point, you realise that your footprints have filled the entire beach, and there is not a single spot left where you haven't been. Now you have to move to another beach because you've used up all the sand space this one had offered you. But what if there were no other beaches?
Just like walks on the sand, many of your daily activities such as buying groceries from the supermarket, taking a cab to the airport or shopping in mass-market increase the size of your footprint. It does not mean the size of your feet is increasing but the number of home planets you use up to sustain your life certainly does.
The term that indicates how many hectares of forest, pasture, farmland and marine land are needed to renew the resources consumed and absorb the waste products produced is called ecological footprint.
For many years, the ecological footprint, just as humanity's demand for nature's resources and anthropogenic impact on the environment, has outpaced our planet's biocapacity and its ability to regenerate.
Humanity’s ecological footprint is measured by the Global Footprint Network. GFN’s methodologies measure the levels of consumption of natural resources and compare them against the volumes of renewable reserves available.
The map below provides an insight into the ecological deficit and ecological reserve each country possesses today.
Isn’t it shocking that only 51 countries out of 193 have biocapacity that exceeds t population's Ecological Footprint? Practically it means that 142 countries on planet Earth require a whole other planet or two to sustain their living habits in the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, the multiple international laws and regulations related to citizens' resource consumption are unable to fully restore the planet's balance unless each individual is willing to change their environmental habits. The simplest change any person can make is to calculate one's demand for natural resources - your ecological footprint. GFN’s ecological footprint calculator is available here.
If your test results have given you food for thought, here are several steps you can take every day to reduce your ecological footprint:
I. Replace disposables with reusables
II. Separate waste and recycle
III. Observe your shopping patterns and think about what you can eliminate or reduce
IV. Save resources: switch off lights and close taps.
V. Use eco-friendly products in your household.
VI. Do your research.