Eco-Footprints

What if it were possible to change the way you impacted the environment? What if you began to make those changes? What would the world look like if we all made those changes? During one of Rona Ambrose’s many press conferences this week, the Federal Environment Minister made reference to an “ecological footprint.

What if it were possible to change the way you impacted the environment? What if you began to make those changes? What would the world look like if we all made those changes?

During one of Rona Ambrose’s many press conferences this week, the Federal Environment Minister made reference to an “ecological footprint.”

An ecological footprint is a measurement that analyzes the impact each person or group has on the environment. The “footprint” marks the biologically productive area required to produce everything a person or group consumes and the space needed to absorb all their waste.

To calculate your footprint, after typing in your country, city size and other basics, you answer a few simple lifestyle questions. When you’ve answered everything, the final screen reveals your footprint in acres and calculates the number of planets that would be needed if everyone lived like you.

A footprint that exceeds the earth’s carrying capacity indicates an unsustainable rate of consumption. Nature can restore renewable resources given time, but according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), as stated in their 2005 Living Planet Report, it now takes more than 14 months for the earth to regenerate the resources we use in a single year.

For change to occur, we have to modify our attitude towards the natural environment by considering our personal impact.

I’ve always believed the world’s resources were mine for the taking. When I took my first ecological footprint quiz five years ago, I discovered that it took 27 acres of the earth’s resources to support me. If everyone lived like me, we would need an astounding 14.9 planets. I just shrugged it off and kept on consuming.

A year later, I took a second footprint quiz and found that if everyone on the planet lived like me, we’d need 16.3 planets to sustain us all. I was getting worse.

So for the next three years I cut back. I walked more, rode the bus, ate less meat and thought that would help lower my print. In spite of my best efforts, when I re-took the test I had a personal footprint of 19 acres and if everyone lived like me we would need 8.2 planets.

The problem is that the earth allows for an estimated 4.5 biologically productive acres per person. Together, the world’s 6.1 billion-strong population leaves a collective footprint of 13.5 billion acres, or 2.2 acres per person. To allow the earth to regenerate, the average footprint of each person should be no more than 1.8 acres.

So how many planets would it take if everyone lived like you? Two? Three? Six? You can take the quiz at www.myfootprint.com.

Over the next several weeks, The Concordian will be asking students, professors and support staff to take the online ecological footprint quiz. We’ll report the results each week. At the end of the winter semester we’ll revisit the students and ask them to retake the test.

This week, graduate journalism student Manusha Janakiram took the online ecological footprint quiz.

Janakiram discovered that even though she is a vegetarian and doesn’t drive, it would take 2.4 planets to sustain us if we all lived like her.

“I was very surprised at first and then I realized that flying probably ruined my chances of an acceptable footprint,” she said. Janakiram currently flies back to B.C. about twice a year.

“Does that mean I’m going to give up flying? Probably not … but perhaps I should look into recycling more.”

Janakiram has set a goal to eventually leave less of a footprint.

“I’d like to live in more sustainable housing later, where I can compost for my own garden. In Victoria, B.C. there are plenty of community gardens, so even though you live in an apartment you still have access to green space to grow your own food if you want.”

Next week Concordia student Louise Sa will take the online footprint quiz. Also: FINAL CURTAIN CALL FOR KYOTO.

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