Student Post – Measuring your Ecological Footprint

Ecological Footprint

By Serena Windett, student in Prof. Popov’s Introduction to Sustainability Studies class


The term “ecological footprint” is unfamiliar to a lot of people around the world. It is important because it measures the impact of a person or community on the environment. As defined in the Oxford dictionary, a person’s ecological footprint is expressed as the amount of land required to sustain their use of natural resources. A person’s ecological footprint will show how much they consume in the context of land use. I was completely unaware of the consequences that my actions cause regarding the Earth and its environment. After learning about my ecological footprint, I feel obliged to change the way I live in order to have a better impact on the environment.

It is difficult to measure your ecological footprint without help. On the Earth Day Network website, there is an ecological footprint quiz that gives you a better understanding of your interaction with the Earth and how many resources you use. The quiz asks you questions about different categories of resources, ranging from food and energy to transportation and housing. The results from my quiz were not delightful. If everyone lived like me, we would need 4.3 planet Earths to provide resources. It takes 19 global acres of the Earth’s productive area to support my lifestyle, while producing 19.2 tons of carbon dioxide. A global acre is explained as the unit we use to measure the productivity of an average acre of land. The majority of the acres on Earth are used to produce energy. On a pie chart, 46% of my footprint went towards services, food is 18%, shelter is 11%, mobility is 10%, and goods are 14%. Initially, I was shocked, because I never thought about my impact on the Earth and its environment. Then I thought about what I can learn from the results, and how would it affect me. I will use the results as a wakeup call and make better decisions in my everyday life.

The best part about taking the quiz is that they offer suggestions to reduce your footprint. Since I eat meat quite a few times a week, an alternative would be to reduce the amount of meat products I consume by half. They also mention using energy efficient appliances and solar panels for providing energy in a home. Other ideas that they propose are taking local vacations to avoid flying, and using public transportation one more day each week instead of driving a car. I learned that a large proportion of human emissions come from food production, so my diet is an important part of my carbon footprint. Also, meat is associated with much higher carbon emissions than plant-based food.

When it comes to ecological footprint, it is better to be sustainable because it is better for the environment and for us. The natural resources on this planet are limited so it important that we conserve whatever we have left. Before learning about my ecological footprint, I was aware that my actions have consequences, but had not understood that my daily activities have a global impact on the environment. I was not careless with my decisions in my everyday life, but I learned that I can make better choices. In addition to reducing my ecological footprint, encourage everyone to take the quiz and find out their scores. Global environmental degradation is something that can only be addressed by large-scale changes in how societies interact with the world, so it is essential to encourage other people to become aware of their impacts on their surroundings, in addition to changing our behavior as individuals.