Ecological Footprint Calculator Exercise Assignment
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Ecological Footprint Calculator Exercise – Global Footprint Network
The Earth today is faced with many ecological challenges, including declining forest cover, air pollution, collapsing fisheries, and depletion of fresh water resources. Everyone living on Earth uses natural resources. However, how much individuals use varies greatly, and is a result of many factors including the ways in which we satisfy our needs, what decisions we make regarding our lifestyle choices and levels of consumption, and even where we live.
The concept of “ecological footprint” was coined by academics Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees at the University of British Columbia in the 1990’s. Ecological footprint is a measure of how much of the Earth’s biologically productive land and water is needed to produce our food, material goods, and energy, and to absorb our waste. The creation of the ecological footprint calculator exercise has been influential in its ability to allow individuals to quantify how we as humans interact with the natural environment, reflect on our impact, and learn about potential consumption and lifestyle changes that we can make to reduce our footprint.
The ecological footprint calculator exercise utilizes an ecological accounting system to measure human demand on nature. Your individual “ecological footprint” is defined as the amount of biologically productive area that is necessary for your level of consumption. The online calculator allows individuals to answer a series of questions about their lifestyle and consumption choices, tracking the use of six categories of productive surface areas: cropland, grazing land, fishing grounds, built-up land, forest area, and carbon demand on land. Once completed, you will be able to assess and compare your personal impact on the natural environment.
Directions: To provide context for this exercise, we will first refer to the following two resources:
- Watch this short TEDx video of Mathis Wackernagel, founder of the Ecological Footprint Calculator, explaining the concept of ecological footprint: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3M29BY86bP4
- Read about the Ecological Footprint Calculator on the Global Footprint network FAQ page at: https://www.footprintnetwork.org/faq/
Students will then individually complete the online Ecological Footprint Calculator Exercise following the steps below and then answer the questions on the next page. After answering the ecological footprint questions, you’ll be able to see and reflect upon what contributes to your ecological footprint.
- Navigate to the Ecological Footprint Calculator at http://www.footprintcalculator.org/
- Select “Take the First Step” from the homepage.
- You will be guided through a series of questions about your lifestyle. Select the option to “Add Details to Improve Accuracy” to make refinements to your answers.
- When you finish your selection click the arrow on the right-hand side of the page to move to the next question.
- When finished answering the questions, you will be provided with your results. On the results page, note how many earths would be required if everyone on the planet maintained a lifestyle similar to your own.
- Select “See Details” from the bottom of the results page to see more details about your results.
- Answer the questions on the next page.
- We will then discuss our results as a class.
- What does the Ecological Footprint Calculator measure?
- From the first of two results pages, if everyone lived like you, how many earths would be required?
- From the second of two results pages, how many global hectares are required for your lifestyle? (Note: 1 hectare is equivalent to 2.47 acres or 107,639 square feet)
- From the second of two results pages, what is your carbon footprint?
- How do you think your ecological footprint compares to people in other parts of the world? For example, does living in a developing country or developed nation impact results? Does living in a warm or cold climate impact results? Does living in a city or a rural location impact results?
- Is there anything about your results that surprised you?
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