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What is an Ecological Footprint?

written by: •edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 4/5/2011

Humanity requires all that nature provides, but often we are left to wonder how much natural resources we are using at present and how much we are suppose to use. It is here that ecological footprint comes to use.

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    Overview

    800px-Human welfare and ecological footprint 

    An ecological footprint can be defined as a system that measures the demand of human beings on the natural unit of Earth. To make this concept simpler, let’s take an example. Humanity requires all that nature provides, but often we are left to wonder how much natural resources we are using at present and how much we can afford to use. It is here that ecological footprint comes into the picture. It measures the demand of humanity on nature. In fact it measures the amount of land and water that the human population requires to produce those resources that they are going to consume using the existing technology. Also, it takes into account the waste management system required to manage waste effectively to reduce pollution, especially land and water pollution.

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    Background

    It was conceived in the year 1990 by Mathis Wackernagel under the supervision of Prof. William Rees at the University of British Columbia. This system is now used by businesses, scientists, governments, individuals, agencies and institutions all over the world in order to monitor the usage of ecological resources and advance sustainable expansion. Believe it or not, with this system we are actually able to measure the pressure of human population on the Earth. This, in turn helps to manage our ecological assets and also take action to support the world so that human beings can live within nature's bounds.

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    Ecological Footprint Analysis

    This method makes a comparison of the human demand with that of the ability of the biosphere to regenerate resources and thereafter provide services. It is done by assessing land and marine areas that are biologically productive. At the end of the survey, the footprint values are categorized for food, carbon, goods and services, and housing.

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    Ecological Footprint vs Carbon Footprint

    The difference lies in the fact that carbon footprint takes into consideration the net greenhouse gasses discharged whereas ecological footprint is far more encompassing and measures the overall human pressure on Earth.

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    Reducing Ecological Footprint

    This can be easily done by reducing the consumption of meat and making a shift towards vegetarian diet. It is a universal fact that a vegan diet is more close to ecology than a non-vegetarian diet, and the resource requirements for raising meat are tremendous. Yet another way of reducing ecological footprint is by purchasing fresh food from the farmers produce as they are organically produced and more environmentally friendly in nature. Reducing your transportation costs (and buying locally-made products) is another significant way to reduce your ecological footprint, because the compounds emitted from vehicles are known to disturb the ecological balance. You must also reduce your refrigeration costs as much as possible by minimizing the amount of time the door spends open or using a high-efficiency model with environmentally friendly refrigerants. Organic foods also serve to eliminate the environmental impact of pesticides.

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    What is Your Ecological Footprint?

    Every human that lives on Earth has an ecological footprint. If you are wondering how to determine your ecological footprint, then you have to keep a check on several factors like whether you are wasting fuel or gasoline, whether you are wasting energy, whether you are polluting the environment or not, are you knowledgeable enough to recycle as well as reuse what you have already consumed. Living a carbon free life will also be very helpful in reducing your ecological footprint. If you're looking to make a real and permanent change, look to things you can sustain and, better yet, those that improve your quality of life in the long run.

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    Reference

    Low Impact Living, http://www.lowimpactliving.com/scores?gclid=COe8vtO1rpsCFQ_xDAodCS8qBw

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    Image Credit

    Wikimedia Commons/Travelplanner