“The Ecological Footprint is the only metric that measures how much nature we have and how much nature we use.” Global Footprint Network.
Our Ecological Footprint illustrates the impact our consumption of resources has on the environment. It is a great tool that puts this consumption into perspective, allowing us to identify the relative environmental impact of our action and choices. This, in turn, empowers us to reduce our Ecological Footprint and to make better, more sustainable choices.
The Ecological Footprint can be estimated for the world’s population, countries, regions, cities, businesses and ultimately individuals. It’s calculated by comparing our resource use against nature’s supply and ability to absorb our waste. Today, 1.7 Earth’s are required to provide the natural resources and ecological services we use within one year. The day we have used all resources Earth can regenerate in that year, we are going into an ecological deficit or ecological overshoot. Thus, this day is called Earth Overshoot Day and this year it’s going to fall on August 1st. After that day, we cut down more trees than can regrow, emit more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than natural sinks can absorb and we take more fish out of the sea than can reproduce within one year.
If we want to live sustainably within Earth’s Ecological boundaries, using only as many resources as nature can produce within any given year, we need to reduce our Ecological Footprint. And measuring it, is the first step in the right direction. To do so, our footprint can be divided into five different components, including our carbon footprint (or energy use), built-up land, forests, fisheries, cropland and pastures. These five components cover nature’s systems that provide us with the resources we use and to absorb our waste.