Ecological Footprint of A Family

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The world's rate of resource consumption has grown tremendously in the last few centuries, which has been accompanied by a higher speed of industrial and economic advancements, more stable conflict resolution systems, and overall, higher levels of living in the world. Industrialization has been developed to become one of the pinnacle achievements of a society, as shown by how the world reveres highly industrialized nations such as the USA, China and even Australia. Ironically, these countries also lead the pack in the over-consumption of the human share of the biosphere, which makes the balance of the ecosystem tilt towards human beings. This is not a good sign At all, as rampant issues such as waste and waste management, style complications, global warming and distorted distribution of wealth still influence the performance of the biosphere in general. This issue should also be taken more seriously as the human population and consumption levels continue to rise in such as a manner that by 2050, the global resource consumption will have tripled to 140 tons per year. With such critical information, it is important for individuals to also push themselves to reduce their ecological footprint to turn back to the desired average person's ecological footprint in the world. This text is a report on the ecological footprint a family has before and after critical decisions to reduce their ecological footprint by making some behavioural and infrastructural changes. The report seeks to evaluate the impact of reducing one own ecological footprint using the Wackernagel et al. (2000) calculate as a way to promote a more environmentally aware and responsible consumption of natural resources.


The ecological footprint acts as a tool by which one can measure the earth's annual capacity to regenerate to balance resource exploitation while also guiding the resolution son innovations to curb the human consumption rates. It has been revealed that currently, the global human ecological footprint averages at 2.2 global hectares which is 20% more than the earth can currently sustain the human population at 1.8 hectares per person annually (Massari and Ruberti, 2016). This phase of the report  examines the footprint calculate, how it was used to measure a family's current ecological footprint, the strategies used in reducing this consumption levels in order to create a more environmentally friendly ecological footprints, as well as the results from the infrastructural and behavioural changes to the contribution to ecological balance (Chu, Cui and Liu, 2017).

a) The carbon footprint calculator

An ecological footprint is basically a tool which aims to showcase how much nature we have and compare it with how much nature we use. The ecological/carbon footprint calculator is a tool which measures the amount of resource (natural) consumption an individual or large groups such as countries' ecological footprint (Thyberg and Tonjes, 2016). This is measured by measuring how much productive land and sea is used by a given population versus the available land and sea. The concept behind the calculation is that the available resources including productive land and sea sustain human beings demands and also absorbs the waste products produced by human activities. The land and sea include the land used for agriculture and livestock production, fishing, carbon demand on land, build up space and the forest area (Wackernagel, et al., 2006).

b) The world ecological overview

The ecological footprint and biocapacity are expressed in global hectares, which are standardized hectares developed with the world's average productivity. The issue of biocapacity has been on a tipping edge and this has become more prominent as the effects of greenhouse gases and climate change were first broadcasted in the 1960s. In fact by 1970s, some countries were already consuming more resources than their ecosystem could renew in time (Massari and Ruberti, 2016). Currently, this has continued to worsen as studies show that about 80% of the world's population live in countries whose carbon footprint exceeds the biocapacity (Brussaard and Van Noordwijk, 2014). It also means that the current level of resources consumptions demands the biocapacity of at least 1.7 earth, a deficit that grows systematically, year in and out. This ecological deficit is characterised by efforts to curb the issue by importation and inform of the huge wastes and poor waste management, excessive carbon emissions, and liquidation of its resources such as overfishing and reduced forest cover.

c) The Calculation of Ecological Footprint

In the calculation of my family’s eco-footprint using the Wackernagel’s model calculate, we categorised the resource consuming activities and behaviours into six components. The six components are Food, Housing, Transport, Goods, Services, and Waste. The global hectare is a biologically productive hectare which is measured in relation to the average biological performance/productivity in a given year (Chambers, Simmons and Wackernagel, 2014). A global hectare is a standardised unit of measure which takes into consideration the different productivity of different types of land such as build up land, cropland and pasture, climatic factors as well as the annual global performance.

The average global hectare per person is currently 1.8 global hectare (gap) per person yet currently, the human footprint is at 2.2 gap person. This largely differs in different regions as revealed that some countries have very high global hectare rates while other such as Bangladesh (0.6 gha) have quite low global hectare rates. The Australian economy boosts one of the highest levels of ecological footprint with a national average of 6.6 gha (Uddin, Alam and Gow, 2015). The results before creating adjustments to improve our household’s ecological footprint are as follows

i. Food – Food forms 28% of the household’s ecological footprint wand with a family which is a moderate animal products consumers the calculator showed high levels of global hectare average

ii. Housing – Housing consisting of 19% of the product and combined with energy requirements contributed to a high percentage of the household's carbon footprint.

iii. Transport – Transport contributes 11% of the ecological footprint of the household, characterised by private/personal means of transport.

iv. Goods – Goods contributed 15% of the household’s carbon emission and include household items, clothing and electronics.

v. Services – Services formed 20% of the carbon footprint and include services from the government, banking, schooling and telecommunication.

vi. Waste – Waste consists of mainly food products but also include wrappers, old clothing and items disposed of due told age or wearing out. It was the combined from the extras disposed of the other element of the footprint as a whole.

In total, the calculated average household ecological energy was 6.4 gap which is way above the sustainability level that the earth can currently handle at 1.8ha per person. This also meant that 3.6 worlds would be needed if everyone lived as we did. Most of the energy usage be improved both by developing strategies and activities to improve the infrastructural use and the behaviour/ habits that can be changed to improve the ecological ratio, after which the calculations were done to ascertain the new ecological footprints (Wackernagel, et al., 2006).

            b) Changes to be done

While evaluating the ecological footprint, several strategies were highlighted to be used to improve the ecological footprint of the household. These strategies developed were divided into the parts that concerned them as follows.

i. Food – Food consumption has a highly significant ecological footprint – the highest for this household - due to its regular nature and the accompanying activates such as farming, transportation and other value-adding processes. The initial ecological footprint highlighted ways that the household was ending up using a large amount of food that made it take a large share of the global hectares. In turn, several strategies to improve this consumption developed included: Minimizing the buying of processed food items as these use more energy to produce, buy food that is on season hence utilize the resources while they are still available to minimize wastage (Aschemann-Witzel, et al. 2015). Buy goods from farmers' markets to minimize the use of overpriced foodstuffs. Avoid wastage of food by buying all you can afford rather than what you eat and finish to minimize having extra and ending up throwing it away as waste. To minimize packaging by opting to carry shopping bags while also avoid heavily packed foodstuff that is suspensible to have a higher waste product rate. More strategies included avoiding dumping leftover, but rather eat them, improve storage to avoid wastage such as by vermin, keep track of food expenditure and wastage to minimize the behaviour and donate extra food (Aschemann-Witzel, et al. 2015).

ii. Housing and energy - Several steps were made to reduce the carbon emission from the housing. This includes, the house's lighting should be optimized to use natural light in the daytime to avoid electrical energy overuse. The use of low energy/energy saving appliances and lighting, switching appliances at the wall switch, and switching to green power such as a solar heater and actually taking lesser time while showering were also placed as measures to curb energy wastage (Uddin, Alam and Gow, 2015).

iii. Transportation – Parting with personal means of transportation proved to be quite difficult but the option to use public transportation for longer trips was put up in the energy conservation strategy. The option of eventually shifting to vehicles which used the rechargeable battery and/or hybrid vehicles opted as a further strategy. Experts recommend regular service including checking tyre pressure, engine performance and avoid idling a car for more than a minute as it keeps needless combustion.

iv. Goods - The household has an excessive amount of goods which are not used, which are categorically wasted. Additionally replacing older technology such as mobile phones and other goods such as clothing, furniture and house appliances which are not viable in the long run has seen wastage of products which use a lot of energy to produce. The strategy to reduce this was by reducing consumption of unnecessary products by actually crosschecking the need for these products, recycling products such as plastic and metal and reusing the products including clothing rather than buying extra (Thyberg and Tonjes, 2016). The strategy involved also minimizing packaging to avoid ending up owning a lot of waste products.

After the resultant changes, we went over and calculated the new ecological footprint and the resultant global hectares. The new calculations based on the Wackernagel calculator showed a massive reduction in the number of global hectares to a minimum of 1.6 global hectares which means that the household was below the recommended sustainable level of 1.8 global hectares per person.


a) Importance of Ecological Footprint

 An ecological footprint is a tool by which an individual or organizations can evaluate their activities to ascertain whether they are on par with the desired levels of economic and environmental sustainability and conservation. At the individual level, it is important in helping one realize why he/she is part of the ecosystem and the role they play in maintaining/ disrupting the world's sustenance levels. It can be used in geographical regions such as countries to predict future occurrences and develop environmental and human-interest issues policies such as agricultural and waste management (Hoekstra and Wiedmann, 2014).

b) The Highest Carbon emitters

1. Food

Energy emits the highest number of carbon emissions in the word, and it is a common energy to say we are all made of energy. The energy comes in different forms such as heat, light, motion and sound yet poor utilization has been the leading source of unsustainable eco-balance. In fact, food is energy stored in different forms and studies have shown wastage of food has a heavy carbon emission (Aschemann-Witzel, et al. 2015). One kilogram of wasted food can result in an equivalent of 1 kilogram of carbon emissions, the highest rate of environmental waste. In fact, in 2013, a UNEP (2013) study found that each year, food produced but not eaten is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the environment each year and it resulted to wastage amounting to $ 750 billion annually, something that has been steadily rising.

The report notes that 44% of wastage occurs at the upstream stages in the post-harvesting such as handling, and storage while 46% occur in downstream processes; the processing, distribution and consumption stages. This is also disheartening because wastage also translates to those who cannot access this resources, further increasing the unsustainability gap. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Director-General recommends each individual and organizations to make changes, both infrastructural and behavioural to minimize food wastage by re-use or recycle or all means necessary. He further notes that at least a third of the annual food production goes to waste while at least  11-20% of the world’s population struggle to meet daily food ration requirements and about 870 million (1 in every 7 people) go to sleep hungry (Aschemann-Witzel, et al. 2015).

While most of the time when talking about food and sustainability, it is widely directed towards hungry people, at the other side of the ridge is the people struggling with being overweight and obesity which also leads to environmental unsustainability. The WHO (2016) reports that the level of obesity has tripled from the 1976 statistics in which at least 1.8 billion people in the world are overweight. In fact, the Australian government Dietary Guidelines recommends against excessive consumption of meat, and eat more plant-based products while minimizing the reliance of highly processed food. Reduction of these types of food will reduce the consumption of energy, including the ones used in the processing stages, and avoid storing excessive and unhealthy calorie intake (Aschemann-Witzel, et al. 2015). It will also minimize wastage and help create a balance on individual global hectare balance.

2. Goods and Wastage

Chu et al (2017) note that there is a newly developed type of waste called e-waste which has been developed due to consumer habits that include the drive to buy new products leaving the old ones to waste. For instance, this is seen in the buying of technological devices such as mobile phones, clothes and appliances. E-waste from phones, office and home appliances and other technologies is one of the steadily growing forms of waste which are slowly biodegradable. Additionally, household waste such as used wrappers, clothes plastic and metal-based appliances and other materials lead the pack in household-based waste. By controlling the waste, including reusing, proper disposal to enable industrial recycling can help reduce the unsustainable growth of carbon-emitting waste.

3. Transportation

Transportation has recently surpassed industrial processes as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. This includes the highly popularised growth of private means of transportation. By reducing the use of fossil-fuelled vehicles, it is a huge step in reducing the level of carbon emission that has been unsustainable for a long time (Moldan, Janoušková and Hák, 2012).

The limiting factor for human life on this planet is the regenerative capacity of the biosphere; all people are entitled to generate a lifestyle that is as rich as anyone else. Humans cannot demand more than a modest and fair share of global productive habitat if ecosystem services/other species are to be protected and if equity is to be achieved.’

 While the fact to be ‘rich' has become the standardized pinnacle of human achievement has influenced many individuals and organizations to chase economic activities that offer the highest reward for their efforts. This is seen, for instance when a farmer opts to use chemicals to produce a better harvest in spite of the knowledge that chemicals may not be environmentally sustainable and could affect the fertility of the farmland in the long run. It also influences industrialists to dump their waste products in rivers and other water bodies (which is cheaper) rather than proper disposal that allows a better chance of a proper breakdown of these chemicals to the environment. It should be wrong for humans to only base their decisions on environmental sustainability, which sometimes may not be visible to the eye but rather, use moral based attitudes and opinions to establish how they will exploit resources and manage the waste products from their economic ventures (Chambers, Simmons and Wackernagel, 2014). 

 Equity is the quality of being fair and impartial, and it creates a challenge especially for ecosystems which produce more emissions than the bio-capacity to manage annually. When looking at the Bangladeshi ecological footprint of 0.5 gha, the issue of environmental exploitation leads to a dilemma, as it may also suggest the country does not exploit its resources highly enough and this may result to cases of hunger. Similarly, comparing this with the ecological footprint of Victoria (6.8 gha) and the whole of Australia (6.6 gha) this race to exploit the ecosystem and become rich becomes unhealthy to biodiversity itself. Checking my new household eco-footprint of 1.7 gha, it allows one to maintain a rich lifestyle while also putting the environmental issues ahead, striking a homeostasis (Chambers, Simmons and Wackernagel, 2014).        But the tough bit comes in actually reinforcing this kind of change without feeling like nature is asking too much. Furthermore, the solution may actually lie in individual change rather than the attitude that seeks to leave this sort of eco-balancing to industrial organizations and governments while the human beings as individuals show lack of tangible concern and action towards the over-exploitation (Massari and Ruberti, 2016).


This report highlights the calculation of the ecological footprint of a household based on a calculator developed by Wackernagel et al (2000). The report notes that the ecological footprint is 6.7 ground hectares which means that the lifestyle needs the sustainability levels of at least 3.5 worlds. After some radicle changes in lifestyle including energy conservation, proper food management and waste management the calculator shows the new footprint developed is 1.7 global hectares which are on par with the needed individual footprint of 1.8 global hectares (gha) that enables a sustainable biosystem in the world. The study notes that world average individual footprint is at 2.2 gha which means that the rate of waste release is not sustainable, especially in developed and many developing countries. This can be attributed to poor home and industrial resources and waste management and sacrifices can be made such as more prudent consumption. The report also notes that resources need to be exploited in the hunger prone areas as the bio-capacity gives room for balance between human consumption and environmental conservation and when either is not balanced, there will be negative effects such as the uncontrolled greenhouse gases or hunger.


Aschemann-Witzel, J., de Hooge, I., Amani, P., Bech-Larsen, T. and Oostindjer, M., 2015. Consumer-related food waste: causes and potential for action. Sustainability, 7(6), pp.6457-6477.

Chambers, N., Simmons, C. and Wackernagel, M., 2014. Sharing nature's interest: ecological footprints as an indicator of sustainability. Routledge.

Chu, S., Cui, Y. and Liu, N., 2017. The path towards sustainable energy. Nature Materials, 16(1), p.16.

Hoekstra, A.Y. and Wiedmann, T.O., 2014. Humanity’s unsustainable environmental footprint. Science, 344(6188), pp.1114-1117.

Massari, S. and Ruberti, M., 2016. Ecological footprint: Principles and methodology. In Life Cycle Approaches to Sustainable Regional Development (pp. 71-76). Routledge.

Moldan, B., Janoušková, S. and Hák, T., 2012. How to understand and measure environmental sustainability: Indicators and targets. Ecological Indicators, 17, pp.4-13.

Thyberg, K.L. and Tonjes, D.J., 2016. Drivers of food waste and their implications for sustainable policy development. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 106, pp.110-123.

Uddin, G.A., Alam, K. and Gow, J., 2015. Estimating the relationship between grain crop consumption in Australia and environmental sustainability. The Journal of Developing Areas, 49(6), pp.49-60.

van Noordwijk, M. and Brussaard, L., 2014. Minimizing the ecological footprint of food: closing yield and efficiency gaps simultaneously?. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 8, pp.62-70.

Wackernagel, M., Kitzes, J., Moran, D., Goldfinger, S. and Thomas, M., 2006. The ecological footprint of cities and regions: comparing resource availability with resource demand. Environment and Urbanization, 18(1), pp.103-112.

October 24, 2023

Environment Science

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Global Warming

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