Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ecological Footprint (Environmental Information)

Earthday Network and Redefining Process have a great calculator in which you can calculate your ecological footprint. Basically an ecological footprint is the amount of acreage that is neccessary to support a person's life style. Worldwide, there is only about 4.5 acres of land available per person. Sadly the average American ecological footprint is 24 acres per person, which means that it would take at least 5.3 planet Earths to support the human population if everyone consumed as much as we do.

I love this calculator, however, though it is a pretty good assessment, it is only an estimate and doesn't take in account factors as recycling, using more ecological friendly products, and only generalizes how much energy/waste a person really consumes (some people consume less and some people more). However, it is a good indicator that many people, especially those that live in western countries, are consuming much more than the planet can support. Not to mention, this leaves little resources for other species!

Though it is pretty sad how much we actually consume, there are many things we can do to reduce our ecological footprints. First, eat more locally grown, unprocessed, organic, and vegetarian meals. Locally grown foods are more eco-friendly because they are not transported over long distances (so less fuel and pollution) and they also support the local economy. Unprocessed, organic, and vegetarian meals are not only healthier (studies have shown organic foods contain more vitamins than conventional foods), but also more ecofriendly. For example, it takes about 12-16 lbs of grain and 2,500 gallons of water to make 1 lb of beef. Also, try to drive less, car pool, take public transportation, buy a more fuel effecient vehicle, or take a few minutes to plan your activities to reduce pollution/emissions (make 1 trip instead of 2). Use more energy effiecient products--it's not only better for the planet but friendier for the wallet too. Also don't forget to reduce (probably the most important), reuse, and recycle, and, when you can, use ecofriendly products! :)

Though I think it'd be awesome if everyone suddenly became veggie and took public transportation, I realize that it may not be possible or practicable in some instances for people to do so. Being more ecological minded doesn't mean you have to become "new-agey" and accept every new eco-trend you hear about (though there is certainly nothing wrong with that ;) ), but it's about making good choices, taking responsibility for human actions, thinking about the future, and doing what you can.

Making changes can be quite overwhelming, especially with all the conflicting information that's out there. My advice: start slow and do what you can! For example, if you want to eat better, are concerned with the treatment of animals, or have moral or spiritual concerns with eating meat, but find the thought of becoming pure veggie daunting, you can start slowly. One idea: replace a few meals (not all) with some veggie meals. Eating less meat and more veggies, fruits, legumes, and whole grains is not only healthier, but helps prevent against many diseases (due to the reduction of fats, and the increased source of vitamins and anti-oxidants). Instead of eating burgers for lunch, try an awesome veggie burger or pizza. If you are feeling adventurist, try a tasty tofu stir fry or a delicious Indian Curry. Yum!

Though you may not be able to everything you've heard about to reduce pollution and your ecological footprint, try to do what you can. Every step you do, is a closer step towards a more sustainable and happier planet :)


beXn said...

I got 10 acres but thought it would be less considering our 100% vegetarian, 95% public transportation lifestyle :(

Solarkat said...

Hi Bexnnie,

Don't be sad--I've taken it a couple of times and that's around what I got. I can't wait until I move to a place where there is actually decent public transportation. (It didn't take into account factors like organic produce, recycling, and for some questions two of the answers applied for me, depending on the day!)

You probably got a 10 because you travel and the amount they calculate for airplane travel (gas) is really high! Also you have less people in your household.

I think there is a very, very long form you can fill out from their website that more adequately assesses the ecological footprint, but I think you have to make the calculations yourself.