You know when we find a pair of shoes that looks perfect in a store, but when we try it on we find them super tight and uncomfortable? We are likely to leave them at the store.
Unfortunately, this footprint does not work like this… since 1970 we have shod a lot more than we can and all this discomfort that should be ours is felt daily on the planet in a future of scarcity of natural resources and degradation of our ecosystems.
But how can we know how much we actually wear? We have all heard of the Ecological and Environmental Footprint, but how do I get to the value of mine?
What is the Ecological Footprint?
The Ecological Footprint is an estimate of the extent of bio-productive land (land and sea) needed to support the lifestyle of a given stock, whether a city, home or individual.
All the activities and choices we make, the products we consume, and the services we use require a certain “slice” of the planet to generate the necessary natural resources and absorb the waste from the entire production, distribution and utilization process.
It is the sum of all these slices of land that gives us the value, in global hectares, of our ecological footprint – this is the number that shows us the negative impact left by our activity on the environment.
Nowadays, the ecological footprint is considered one of the major sustainability measures. What most footprint calculation tools do is compare the value of the ecological footprint with the planet’s bio capacity (ability to generate natural resources), showing, as a result, a comparison between what we should have used and what we are using. Demanding on the environment – this difference shows us how sustainable we are in our daily routines.
4 ONLINE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT CALCULATORS
For this article we have selected 4 Ecological Footprint Calculators available online, two in Portuguese and three in English, with different levels of depth and focus.
WWF CALCULATOR – THE MOST PROACTIVE
This environmental footprint calculator was developed by WWF, one of the world’s largest organizations in the area of biodiversity protection and environmental conservation. The tool is intuitive and super easy to understand – as you answer the questions, tips appear on the right side of the screen to clarify some details of the quiz and to provide some facts about the topics asked.
What is the big problem? It is focused on UK only. For residents of other countries, calculating the footprint on this tool may not be the most accurate one – some questions are asked in pounds, which can be confusing for some people. However, by using this calculator, we get a sense of the areas of consumption where our impact is greatest, total carbon emissions from our lifestyle and compare our value with the world and UK average.
At the end of the questionnaire we are presented with some tips regarding the areas where we most need to change behaviors. By clicking the orange button, we are taken to another page where we find several general tips on how to reduce our ecological footprint, with practical language, concrete directions and content accessible to everyone.
FOOTPRINT NETWORK GLOBAL CALCULATOR – THE MOST COMPLETE
The Global Footprint Network is one of the leading environmental footprint entities. It was its founder, Mathis Wackernagel, who formalized the term ‘Ecological Footprint’ in the early 1990s. It is therefore not surprising that this is one of the most complete calculators online.
They feature a very intuitive and appealing footprint calculation tool on your site with varying levels of accuracy – throughout the calculation, the questionnaire asks whether we want to add more detailed information or not, with the promise of giving a more accurate estimate.
In addition to the result of our ecological footprint on “planets”, they also show us the day of our Overshoot Day – the day of the year we would spend all our available annual resources if the world’s population had the same environmental footprint as us.
This calculator also gives us the detailed values of our eco footprint by consumption categories and our carbon footprint with amount of emissions. It also refers to the amount of environmental footprint related to the use of state services and the importance of lobbying governments to adopt greener policies.
At the end of the questionnaire we are presented with solutions in 4 areas: City, Energy, Food and Population. In each of them we can find statistical data and tips, correlating each of the areas with some of the 17 UN sustainable development goals.
In Portuguese the offer is much scarcer – we present three tools that, although falling short of some of the previous ones, give another perspective to the calculation of the ecological footprint.
ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT OF PORTUGUESE MUNICIPALS – LATEST
Right now, this is one of the best online footprint calculators in Portugal – one of the most intuitive, complete and user-friendly.
Launched in May 2019, this is a very interesting partnership between the Global Footprint Network and 6 Portuguese municipalities – Almada, Bragança, Castelo Branco, Guimarães, Lagoa and Vila Nova de Gaia.
This is a version of the last calculator we talked about above, with the same kind of results and conclusions, but tailored to the specific features and conditions of each of these counties. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of them, take the quiz now;) .
ETHNOID CALCULATOR – THE MOST ANALOG
This digital calculator is actually a pdf. 🙂 Super introductory and very vintage (the document refers to the year 2012) this tool was a recurring finding in our search for ecological footprint calculators in Portugal.
For those who want to understand a little bit of the logic behind all the other calculators mentioned above, this analog tool is a good option. The document is already 16 years old but summarizes in a basic and shallow way the calculation of an individual ecological footprint and how the most recent and optimized systems work.
In the end, this calculator presents us with a list of ecological footprint values per capita for some countries, making it possible to compare our result, in an imprecise way, with the national per capita footprint and those of other countries mentioned in the list.
With some extra research you can find millions of other options to calculate our ecological footprint. The best strategy will be to see the key points of each tool and cross calculators according to your goals.
Its important to be aware of the urgent must needed change of behaviors and adoption of alternative ways to the unconscious consumption that has characterized the last years. The tips are many and already known, just missing the other part: change our habits and routines.
Did you already know these calculators? Do you know other examples? Comment on other interesting tools you know for calculating the ecological footprint below and tell us what you think of the ones we suggested!
Thank you for sticking around. If we can only measure what we measure, it is time to realize how much we are actually wearing! 😉