The (Ecological) Footprint You Leave Behind


When first introduced in the 1990s, the Ecological Footprint tried to explain the relationship between human demand and nature’s resources. By definition, the ecological footprint represents the “appropriated carrying capacity” (Wackernagel, 1991) and evaluates the amount of natural resources humanity needs and uses for its everyday activities. 

Today most people don’t need to produce their own food. We usually go to the store, buy the food and water we need, and afterwards we deposit the garbage without thinking too much about where it goes. It’s easy to forget that all of these “resources” are provided by nature: the land area used for food and crop production, the water reserves, the forests and oceans that clean out our air from pollution.

When looking at the shelves in the supermarket, we realize we can find almost everything we need, so it’s very easy to forget that all of nature’s resources are actually limited. In fact, we highly depend on nature and our lives will change dramatically when we begin to lack these resources. 

Your impact on Nature

It is worth knowing that every single activity has its own ecological footprint. From the way you drive your car to the type of food you eat, you can reduce or increase your ecological footprint in every aspect. For example, if you regularly eat beef, you increase your ecological footprint and decrease your sustainable actions, as beef is produced from cattle that require a large portion of grazing land. But also, cows produce methane which is a greenhouse gas similar to carbon dioxide, which highly affects the health of humans and the environment.

Similarly, the transportation you use also affects the environment. If using public transport, the effects are much smaller. But, driving your car all the time releases high amounts of carbon dioxide, which accumulates in the atmosphere and is one of the main causes of climate change. 

So, what can you do?

First, you can start by measuring your ecological footprint. Then, you can take some considerable actions, such as:

  • Eat less or completely avoid eating beef.
  • Use public transport as much as possible.
  • Eat locally grown foods.
  • Use energy-efficient technologies.
  • Try to reduce waste.
  • Stop buying “fast fashion” items.

Overall, try to be more eco-friendly. So, what is the footprint YOU leave behind?

Reference: Wackernagel, M. (1991). Land Use: Measuring a Community’s Appropriated Carrying Capacity as an Indicator for Sustainability and “Using Appropriated Carrying Capacity as an Indicator, Measuring the Sustainability of a Community.”, Report I & II to the UBC Task Force on Healthy and Sustainable Communities, Vancouver.

Radmila Janković

I am a PhD student and a research scientist passionate about sharing science and making science fun and more accessible for everyone. A huge cat lover interested in everything about the world that surrounds us.

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