The Ecological Footprint tracks human demand on natural capital. It is a sustainability calculator, an ecological accounting system, measuring how much biologically productive area is needed to maintain the consumption, lifestyle and economy of an area or region, or even the entire world.
This includes the areas needed not only for nutrition, clothing and the provision of energy but also for waste management and carbon capture to counteract human activities.
The Ecological Footprint reflects biocapacity, meaning the biologically productive area that is available.
This concept was developed by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver between 1990 and 1994. Through their research the Global Footprint network was founded.
There is a map on the Global Footprint Network’s website which illustrates the biocapacity of each country and how big their ecological footprint is per capita. In Germany in 2016, the biocapacity per capita lay at 1.6 global hectares, however the ecological footprint at that time was 4,8 global hectares per capita, signifying a deficit of -3.2 global hectares per capita.
Since 1971, humanity has been in ecological overshoot, with annual demand on resources exceeding the earth’s biocapacity. Resources such as trees and plants are growing back slower than they are being consumed. Each year, we are taking much more from our ecosystem than it can regenerate: an ecological deficit. The problem therefore becomes self-perpetuating, the effects of which will be greater on other countries and future generations. We are depleting the raw materials that will be needed in the future to secure and maintain living standards.
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Open Data Platform
Calculate your own ecological footprint by using the tool on the ‘Brot für die Welt’ website (Bread for the World). There are thirteen questions to answer, some of which you can roughly estimate. The tool not only calculates your ecological footprint but correspondingly offers suggestions on how to reduce your score. Nutrition, mobility, and domicile all play a part in the calculation.
There are several ways you can reduce your overall score:
- Nutrition: consume fewer meat products and, where possible, buy locally sourced, seasonal products. Frozen or chilled products also burden our environment. Try to avoid frozen food and buy fresh ingredients instead.
- Mobility: Cycle more, use car sharing whenever possible and try to avoid flying.
- Living: Only heat your home in winter when really necessary, insulate your house or apartment and try to use energy efficient equipment wherever possible.
- Consume: Only buy things as they are needed, reflect on whether you really need something before making a purchase.
- Calculate your carbon footprint and off set all or part of your annual CO2 emissions at the end of the year.