Ecological footprint is a method of gauging humans’ dependence on natural resources by calculating how much of the environment is needed to sustain a particular lifestyle. In other words, it measures the demand vs. the supply of nature.
- One way of measuring sustainability is the ecological footprint, which is a method of gauging humans’ dependence on natural resources. It calculates how much of the environment is needed to sustain a particular lifestyle.
- The ecological footprint can be calculated for different populations, including individuals, cities, regions, countries, or the entire planet. You can even calculate your personal ecological footprint.
- The units for ecological footprint are global hectares (gha), which measure the amount of biologically productive land with a productivity equal to the world average.
- An area is considered unsustainable if a land’s ecological footprint is greater than its biocapacity (if its demand of nature is greater than its supply).
Ecological Footprint Definition
More specifically, the ecological footprint measures the amount of “biologically productive” land or water that enables the population to sustain itself. This measurement takes into account the resources a population needs to (1) produce goods and (2) “assimilate,” or clean up, its waste. Biologically productive land and water can include arable land, pastures, and parts of the sea that contain marine life.
For some perspective, some ecological footprints of several countries are listed below. These values were listed for the year 2014 in the Global Footprint Network’s Open Data Platform:
- United States: 8.4 gha/person
- Russia: 5.6 gha/person
- Switzerland: 4.9 gha/person
- Japan: 4.8 gha/person
- France: 4.7 gha/person
- China: 3.7 gha/person
Ecological footprints and carbon footprints are both ways of measuring something’s impact on the environment. However, a carbon footprint measures the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, organization, or activity. A carbon footprint is measured in units of carbon dioxide equivalents, which quantifies how much a certain amount of a greenhouse gas would impact global warming in reference to carbon dioxide.
Ecological Footprint Calculation
The ecological footprint considers many variables, and the calculations can become complicated. To calculate the ecological footprint of a nation, you would use the equation found in this research paper by Tiezzi et al.:
- This year, you are harvesting 2 tons of corn and 3 tons of carrots from your farm.
- Your farm’s average yield per hectare for carrots is 8 tons/ha for corn and 10 tons/ha for carrots.
- The yield factors for your corn and carrots are both 1.28 wha/ha. Here, wha stands for world-average hectare, which describes how much area of a specific type of land has a productivity equal to the world average.World-average hectares differ from global hectares in that global hectares do not discriminate by the type of land, and so allows for the direct comparison between vastly different products.
- The equivalence factor for your corn and carrots are both 2.52 gha/wha.
If you want to find out your own ecological footprint, some organizations have set up online calculators. Check out the following for a few examples:
- “Ecological Footprint.” The Sustainable Scale Project, Santa-Barbara Family Foundation, www.sustainablescale.org/conceptualframework/understandingscale/measuringscale/ecologicalfootprint.aspx.
- Galli, A., et al. “An Exploration of the Mathematics behind the Ecological Footprint.” International Journal of Ecodynamics, vol. 2, no. 4, 2007, pp. 250–257.
- “Handout: Ecological Footprints From Around the World: Where Do You Fit In?” Sierra Club BC, Sierra Club, 2006.
- “Open Data Platform.” Footprintnetwork.org, Global Footprint Network, data.footprintnetwork.org/#/.
- Srinivas, Hari. “What Is an Ecological Footprint?” Urban and Ecological Footprints, The Global Development Research Center, www.gdrc.org/uem/footprints/what-is-ef.html.
Original Article: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-ecological-footprint-4580244