Huge Ecological Footprints!

The sum total impact that a person, organization, product, or nation has on the environment…everyone has one but is it within your means?

This is a very pressing matter, why isn’t this the subject on everybody’s mind?  We as Canadians have massive ecological footprints.  In fact, we have the 8th largest footprint per capita  according to the World Wildlife Fund in 2012.  As a high-income country we have a footprint 5 times as big as a low-income country, that saying it would require THREE and a half planet Earths to support our standard of living (WWF).

Why is it that in a Victoria coffee shop, people are chatting about everything BUT how huge our personal ecological footprints are. And how little responsibility we are taking to reduce the environmental costs of our luxurious lifestyles.  We are guilty.  Was it not a slap in the face when an ecological footprint calculator broke down your personal lifestyle and told you that YOU are part of the problem. 

What I wonder is “why didn’t the remainder of our day change?” We still forget to turn the lights off before hopping into the car, SUV, or truck to run that 5-minute nearby errand that could have been walked or cycled.  Why are these shocking results not triggering us to forever change our ways?

Our footprint is generally being ignored and excuses are made everyday.

We blame the science: For instance this calculator I used ( had only one location, Calgary AB, this skewed my results since that city isn’t mine.  It runs on roughly 19% renewable energy, well in BC we are mostly using hydro – that’s clean power isn’t it? Well, I have to have a car because in Canada distances are so great between places….and public transit is terrible outside of city centers.  Excuses excuses

These are beside the point, an ecological footprint calculator is such a fantastic tool.  It was designed with the input of professionals and delivers a clear result.  The result may not be to the utmost accuracy that we each crave if we are at blame; however it is ingenious in my opinion.  If we were to fuss over the inaccuracies of the tool, the solution would mean the quiz would require more time to complete – this means significantly less citizens would take the time to complete it.  I think it delivers a precise enough calculation and illustrates it in a visual way that a result is easily processed by adults and children.

 When I, an environmentally conscientious individual who makes all the best choices I can, get my results it does feel like a slap in the face.  Inevitably I go back and tweak my answers to a seemingly less demanding lifestyle, it makes no difference to the amount planets I require.  It’s awful, because I know the majority of our nation isn’t buying locally  isn’t vegetarian, isn’t commuting using car-pooling, cycling or public transit, and they aren’t avoiding purchases of excessively packaged goods.  What I’m getting at, is that the small choices I make feel futile, I feel outnumbered by those who simply disconnect from the issue.

We need to use this powerful tool, maximize it’s potential for changing our average citizens behaviour.  There are nations working on this today, there is one initiative that stands out called, Ten-in-Ten Initiative (Global Footprint Network), which is a movement to make the ecological footprint a globally accepted metric.  It could be as prominent as GDP one day, as it should.  Natural capital has become a leading competitive factor in global affairs.  So far 57 national governments have engaged with the program, 20 have reviewed it, an 7 nations have formally adopted it (

Hopefully in the future with initiatives such as Ten-in-Ten, this topic will be on the tips of everyones tongues as they adapt to more manageable lifestyles within the ecological limits of a sustainable economy. I found the sequel to The Story of Stuff, it’s the Story of Change and I think it compliments the ecological footprint calculator by inspiring consumers return to a community of citizens each with responsibility to the sustainability of their community. These days social media offers the luxury of making public statements every minute without requiring anyone to put their proclamation into action. A good example of this is Ghandi’s amazing quote “Be the Change” because it is posted everyday and the majority of users mean little by it. Our youth today needs a jump start into action and completing an ecological footprint is a good place to start the wheels turning.

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