How do we calculate the Ecological Footprint?
If you live in a big house with a large garden, it is obvious that you are using a lot of space. Apart from living space you are consuming space for growing your food, space for the roads and rails that you use for transportation and the forests needed to produce your books and furniture. When calculating the ecological footprint, ALL the different ways of consuming space are considered. Energy use is converted into a measure for space consumption by calculating the surface area of wood-producing forest needed to produce the same energy or by the area of forest needed to absorb all the carbondioxide. Both methods produce almost the same result, therefore the results can be regarded as fairly reliable. If solar or wind energy is used, only the production of the material needed is put into the equation.
When calculating the footprint, including all the material and energy consumed, it is obvious that consuming tomatoes in the winter results in a large footprint: the greenhouse is small, but the energy needed to grow them in the winter is far larger compared to tomatoes that are grown on the field in the summer. And if the winter tomatoes are produced in a warm but far-away country, the transport costs cause the footprint to be large.
Using a bike instead of a car, eating locally grown vegetables and fruits, enjoying holidays in your own country, using wind energy and sustainable materials are all matters that decrease your ecological footprint.
If you want to calculate your personal footprint quickly, you can visit websites like www.footprint.org from Switserland where you can do it in German, French or Italian, or www.rprogress.org ‘redefining progress (from Canada) in English or you can do the quiz Earth Day Footprint Quiz