What Is an Ecological Footprint?

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    It’s easy to realize how big your impact on the planet is, but it’s not as easy to do something about it.

    According to Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, two in every three Americans believe global warming is happening. That’s about 66% of the nation. But how many of us are really making an effort to save the environment? And, more importantly, how do we know what to change about our lifestyles?

    Being environmentally conscious doesn’t only mean taking shorter showers and recycling. Some environmentalists — myself included — adore long, hot showers. There are other ways you can make up for wasteful practices. The first step any blooming conservation-lover should embark on is recognizing their “ecological footprint.”

    Your footprint tells you how to affect the environment less, according to your own personal life. You can check this out on the Global Footprint Network calculator for free. It’s simple, colorful, and super informational.

    Using your footprint, it’s not difficult to know where to adjust your actions. Because I travel to India biennially and eat more meat than veggies, my ecological footprint is an extraordinary size. If everyone on Earth lived like me, we’d need three and a half more planets for support.

    In my AP Environmental Science class, kids who biked to school and had healthy diets required the least number of planets. These are the more obvious actions that people can take. However, the footprint can tell you more. For example, if you aren’t ready to become a vegetarian (ultimately the most environmentally-friendly option), you can choose locally-grown products over processed, packaged foods. You can buy fewer clothes, carpool, use public transport — the list goes on.

    In my results, the calculator asked me, “What if you pledged to reduce the amount of animal-based products you currently eat by half?” If every American did just that, we could reduce the number of global acres used by 645 million. That’s approximately the length of 484 million football fields. Animal-based products call for tons of land spent on feeding and grazing. Cows also produce a fossil fuel called methane, which deteriorates the ozone layer nearly as much as gas released from vehicles.

    All aspects of human life require some renovation, especially the works of money-hoarding corporations and harmful agricultural techniques, e.g. monoculture. Yet, as average American citizens, we can help. And now is the best time to begin.

     

    Ritapa Neogi
    Ritapa Neogi is a jellyfish enthusiast from the heart of Portland, Oregon. She now lives in Philadelphia, where she studies journalism at Temple University. In her free time, she reads about deep-sea creatures, plays bass guitar, and fervently supports her concert addiction.

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