The Global Footprint Network is an organization that’s bringing awareness to the human impact on climate change. They’ve worked with over fifty countries by helping them understand their impact on our Earth and how each country can improve.
A large part of their work revolves around their Ecological Footprint Calculator, a tool that gives us insight into how our lifestyle is affecting our planet. This gives leaders an opportunity to create effective sustainability programs, while allowing us to see how our daily habits affect the planet.
HOW DOES THE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT CALCULATOR WORK?
I’m sure you’ve seen tools like this where you enter details about your life; where you live, what you eat, and how much you drive, and it will tell you about your carbon footprint. But the Global Footprint Network takes it a bit further.
The GFN collects a lot of data from areas all over the world. They’re looking for information on the resources we use like the food we eat, how we build our homes, and how we transport goods. They’re also looking for the resources we have available, like how much land and sea we have, how much fuel we produce, and how many resources we export to other countries.
By collecting extensive data from hundreds of countries, the GFN has created a tool that gets down to the nitty gritty.
Instead of entering that you only eat meat ‘occasionally’, you can include that you never eat lamb, but you eat fish ‘infrequently’. Instead of entering that you live in a small apartment, you can enter the exact square feet. You get the idea.
Once you’ve entered all of your information, you’ll receive your results. These results aren’t pulled out of thin air. They’re based on all of the data we talked about.
I’ve got to be honest, I was a little shocked when I saw my results. It turns out that while I thought I was doing a lot, there’s always a few things I could improve on. And that’s okay.
While living in a small apartment and avoiding meat gave me bonus points, driving a car and taking a couple of plane trips a year brought my score down. I might have to bring out my bike again and park the car a little more often.
We’re not sharing this tool with you to make you feel anxious or scared. We’re sharing this because improving our world is important to us and we know it’s important to you too.
HOW WE CAN REDUCE OUR IMPACT: FOOD
What you eat can have a big effect on your carbon footprint.
If you’re looking to reduce your impact, you’ll want to reduce your meat consumption.
In 2006 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a report that assessed the full impact of animal agriculture on the pollution of our air, land, and water. It also looked at the effects of climate change. This report was called Livestock’s Long Shadow.
The report covered a lot of information on the environmental effects of animal agriculture, even stating that the industry is “responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions...This is a higher share than transport” (Source). If you’re interested, it’s a really good read that isn’t full of complicated jargon.
While reducing your meat intake is important, I do want to say you don’t have to do it all at once. When I cut out meat, I did it bit by bit. I had larger portions of veggies, and smaller portions of meat. And eventually I just ate fish. And later I stopped eating animal products altogether.
Meatless Mondays are one way to cut back on your meat consumption. Enjoying a meatless meal one night a week can help you slowly dip your toe into a new lifestyle. If you’ve never made meals without meat, you’ll need some food inspiration. One of my favorite food bloggers, The Minimalist Baker, has lots of vegan friendly recipes, from entrees to pastries. Her 1-Bowl Pumpkin Bread is my favorite recipe and it’s really easy to make.
You can also aim for unprocessed foods that are locally grown. This is an area I need to work on. I’m going to be looking into a farmer’s market where the produce will be local and it won’t be packaged in plastic. If you don’t have that option, you can still check out these DIY reusable produce bags. They help me reduce waste when a farmer’s market isn’t available.
HOW WE CAN REDUCE OUR IMPACT: HOME
One of the things I love about living in an apartment is the small size. A smaller home means you’ll be making less of an impact, as you won’t be using much electricity to light or heat your space.
If you’re not downsizing anytime soon, you can reduce your footprint by monitoring how you use your energy. We make sure to turn off the lights we’re not using, and open (or close) the windows instead of adjusting the thermostat.
Aside from our homes, our shopping habits affect our ecological footprint. By reducing our consumption of unnecessary things, we can save money and reduce our footprints.
Lastly, if you’re not recycling, it’s time to get started! While we talked about how recycling isn’t going to change the world alone, it’s still a very important step in managing the waste we create.
HOW WE CAN REDUCE OUR IMPACT: TRANSPORTATION
This is a tricky one. Some cities come with great transit systems. Others don’t.
If you’re in the latter category, you probably need a car. But that doesn’t mean you have to use one everyday. Getting a ride from a coworker, or opting to ride your bike can save money and energy.
It’s tools like these that are helping us see how we’re changing our planet. We’d love to hear your results and learn about how you’re improving your ecological footprint.
Sarah Price is a green beauty and self care writer with an obsession with holistic skincare. She writes about natural beauty, DIY recipes, self care tips, and more on her self titled blog.
Global Footprint Network: Our Work
Global Footprint Network: Ecological Footprint
Global Footprint Network: Data and Methods
Livestock’s Long Shadow