First, let’s define the term Ecological Footprint
The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth’s ecosystems. It is a standardized measure of demand for natural capital that may be contrasted with the planet’s ecological capacity to regenerate. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population consumes, and to assimilate associated waste.
An ecological footprint is the measure of how much of earth’s biological capacity is required by an individual, group, or activity.
Why calculate one’s Ecological Footprint?
Knowing one’s impact on Earth’s ecosystems, helps at taming one’s behavior within a sustainable community. One individual ecological impact added to another’s and further pulled together, with the nearly 7 billion people making the Earth’s population, can give a broad idea of how our human lifestyle tampers with the Planet’s health.
When calculating the ecological footprint, several indicators are entered into the formula. The calculator then processes the information about a person’s actions towards food, housing, transportation, purchasing habits and recycling efforts. The calculations also take into account indices that are linked to the environment in which the subject evolves, generally differentiating between rural and urban areas, for instance, but not only.
Studies have shown that even if we can not reverse the effects of an ecological footprint, we can positively act on its future impact by changing some habits, lifestyle and attitudes. Reducing our ecological footprint is one step forward towards an even more sustainable and happier future. And if this act could become a global effort, we and our descendants would be enjoying a better life, but then, we better start NOW.
How do we reduce our own ecological footprint?
We have four basic categories on which each of us can intervene to reduce our ecological footprint as a whole. We can act on:
- Housing and on
- Goods and services
But reducing our impact on Earth’s health goes beyond the feelgood factor of an individual act. We have the mission to engage our family, friends and community into going this noble path. At our own level, we can trigger positive social change by pulling our entourage towards a sustainable future.
- Reducing our Carbon FootprintThe main impacting activity in the carbon category is transportation and energy consumption, for multiple reasons as various as fossil fuel usage, greenhouse gas emission, unsustainable production plant amongst others. For this reason, to reduce our Ecological Footprint, we will suggest to:
- Use cleaner, greener transport.
- Walk, cycle, or use public transport whenever possible.
- If you have to stay idle in your vehicle for more than 30 seconds, turn off your engine (except in traffic).
- Maintain your vehicle. The from the tires to engine, each part’s defective behavior has an impact on the ecological footprint. Get vehicle serviced regularly so to keep the emission control systems operating optimally. Check the air filter monthly, and keep the tires adequately inflated to maximize gas mileage.
- Avoid short airplane trips-take as far as possible. The train and sea-travels are far more environment-friendly.
- Use cleaner, greener transport.
- Add energy-saving features to your home
- Use low-mercury compact fluorescent bulbs and dispose of old bulbs separately, so as not to mix them with other recyclable waste
- Use a tankless (preferably solar) water heater and optimally insulate your water heating installation.
- In tropical zones like Mauritius where our winters do not require internal heating devices, consider maximizing the openings for better air flux inside the building, in-lieu of installing air-conditioning systems.
- Considering building with energy retaining material like basalt blocks, so that the walls may release warmth grabbed during the day when temperatures tend to go down inside.
- Adopt Energy Saving lifestyle
- Unplug unused electronics through a switchable power strip to stop power leaks.
- Dry your clothes outside… anyway they will smell better withe action of the sun.
- Avoid using machinery or powered equipment when doing the yard or the garden.
- Maintain by regularly defrosting your fridge and freezer.
- Think about investing in greener power. Solar or eolian alternatives for individuals exist but they need to be thoroughly thought of as a long-termed investment.
- Eat more local, organic, in-season foods. Eating imported food entails mass production, transformation, packaging, transportation, advertising before reaching your plate, Besides eating local and organic guarantees minimum contamination with chemical additives and preservatives.
- Shop at your local vegetable market for natural food. Not only it guarantees better food, it also helps the community producers.
- Whenever and wherever possible, cultivate your own food. If there is no place in the yard, consider using your rooftop. You cannot get more local and organic than that.
- When shopping choose foods with less packaging to reduce waste.
- Indulge into less meat-intensive cuisine. Try to have at least one meatless meal per week. Globally, it has been estimated that 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions are associated with meat consumption.
- Choose sustainable building materials, furnishings, and cleaning products.
- Think green when planning any construction. Consider passive solar heating, rainwater catchment systems and recycled materials.
- Choose resource-saving appliances like low flow shower heads, taps and econo-tank toilets.
- As far as possible consider second-hand furniture, either recycled, or sustainably produced.
- For your garden and yard, consider planting drought tolerant plants.
- Use biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products.
- Adopt resource-saving and repurposing habits
- Take shorter, less frequent showers-this not only saves water, but the energy necessary to heat it.
- Run the dishwasher and the laundry machine only when full.
- Prefer collective carwash facilities to home car washing, they use less water and have the adequate sewage systems for this kind of activity. If not, wash your car once a month.
- Using power washing to wash deck, walkways and yards is definite wastage. Let nature do its job.
- Hunt water leaks and fix them.
- Consider buying ONLY when it is absolutely needed.
- Engage into recycling recyclable waste like paper, glass, aluminum, plastic and even electronics. Selective waste sorting is the best option.
- After your selective waste sorting, gather food waste for composting. It will be profitable to your garden. Food waste, when stored in a landfill and mixed with other garbage produce methane gases (a significant greenhouse gas contributor).
- Prefer recycled products.
- You can even create community movements and experiment sustainable activities and implement them on a wider basis.
- Use Social Media and Networks to spread the good words, to tell your own experience and share techniques you use, or learned to reduce Ecological Footprint.
- Create groups on Social Media and Networks with people and friends who have common interests in favor of sustainable development. Connect with influential networks and causes, discuss, comment and initiate collective actions at your own level and create Green thinking dynamics.
With each and everyone doing his bit at home and with the community everyday, our mission of helping the Earth heal from excesses of human behavior will take a new dimension towards a brighter, happier and more sustainable future. Reducing our Ecological Footprint is the ultimate gateway.
This work by Alain BERTRAND is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial – NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. It can be shared, reblogged at will.