Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#89... Reduce the size of your ecological footprint

It takes you and me a certain amount of space to live our lives. I'm not just talking about the rooms in my home when I say that, however. I'm talking about everything that's required for life -- food, clothing, furniture, transportation, medical needs, etc. Our earth provides it all for us, but unfortunately, it's not often that we think about how many trees it took to make the lumber that supports our walls or our morning newspaper, or how much land is used for growing our food, or how much petroleum goes into our vehicles and the many polymer items that we find in our homes these days. There are thousands of things that come together to help us to live, and all of them contribute to what's called our ecological footprint, or the demand we put on our earth's ecosystems.

The term ecological footprint was coined in 1992 by William Rees, a professor at the University of British Columbia. If I wanted to determine the size of my ecological footprint, I could try to add up how much biologically productive land and sea it takes to produce the resources I consume and absorb the waste I create. Not an easy thing to figure, as I'm not always aware of the details of how my daily life impacts the planet. But there are smart people who have taken Rees' concept and worked it into questionnaires that have helped me to figure out how much my life is costing the earth. It's not exact because I can't punch in every variable that I would like to, but it gives a pretty good idea of where my life creates too much waste, and shows me a few things I can change to make my life easier on the planet.

So today's suggestion is to take the questionnaire at or and learn about your own ecological footprint. Then take it a second time, making small adjustments to the values you put in the first time (like, perhaps, eating vegetarian a few more times each week, buying green power, or composting) and see about ways to reduce your ecological footprint. It's a challenge worth taking, because the ecological footprint of most North Americans is huge in comparison to those of our brothers and sisters on other continents. Since we all share the planet, it's about time we in North America share more fairly by becoming aware of and reducing the impact our lives have on our earth's limited resources.

I took the myfootprint quiz again today. If everyone on the planet lived like I do, we would need 2.57 earths to sustain our present population. So there's lots of room for improvement in my life. How about yours?

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.


  1. Mine was 4.7. Ouch! BUt good because I've got room for improvement...and here I thought I was doing so good..I'm groaning to myself over here.

  2. The first time I did mine, it was 7.8. So congratulations!


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