What is your ecological footprint?
The definition of “ecological footprint” is the impact of a person or community on the environment, expressed as the amount of land required to sustain their use of natural resources. Resources are consumed and waste is created during all of the activities in which humans engage.
It is important to measure our impact on the natural environment in order to calculate how long the earth can meet these demands. The ecological footprint is a measure of the supply and demand humans put on nature; how fast resources are consumed and how quickly waste is generated.
Since 1970, humans have placed demands on the earth that earth cannot keep up with. Currently, it takes about a year and a half for the earth to regenerate what is used in one year. It is estimated that if every human on earth lived like an average American, we would need five earths to meet those demands!
What can you do to reduce your ecological footprint? There are plenty of easy things you can incorporate into your daily life! First, think about your transportation. Consider walking, biking or public transportation when possible. If you do this, it is estimated that you will reduce your ecological footprint by as much as 20 percent. Another idea is to carpool when you can to reduce people driving back and forth to the same places.
You can also make small changes in your home. Choosing Energy Star appliances, CFL bulbs, purchasing furniture that is second-hand, and using biodegradable, non-toxic cleaners are all simple steps you can take that reduce your ecological footprint. Keeping your thermostat lower in the winter and higher in the summer also helps (and it helps your bills too!). Also, be sure to turn off all lights when you are not in the room, and unplug electronics when not in use (like computers, TV, phone chargers, etc.).
In addition, your food purchases make a difference. Summer is a great time to purchase local produce. If you purchase produce from local growers, it helps reduce your footprint because that food did not have to be shipped in from California, Mexico or South America. Consider visiting the farmer’s market on Thursday evenings from 5-8 p.m. at BAYarts or at Crocker Park on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Heinen’s grocery stores also carry plenty of local produce right now. Furthermore, when at the grocery store, choose food that comes in less packaging to reduce waste.
It is also a good idea to incorporate water-saving habits into your life as well. Easy ways to do this are to take shorter showers, run the dishwasher and washing machine only when full, and to take your car to a car wash rather than washing it at home. Commercial car washes use less water than you would use at home. Installing a rain barrel to water your plants and garden also saves water!
There are a lot of easy ways you can lower your ecological footprint, and I hope you are able to incorporate some of these ideas today.