What is Our Ecological Footprint?

2018 MSE Graphic

Since the 1970s, the annual demands of humanity on the Earth’s resources have exceeded what the Earth can regenerate each year. Today, humanity uses the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to provide the resources we consume and use to absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year.

We use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate through overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from late September in 2000 to August 2 in 2017.

Under a business-as-usual path, human demand on the Earth’s ecosystems is projected to exceed what nature can regenerate by about 75 percent by 2020. We must begin to make ecological limits central to our decision-making and use human ingenuity to find new ways to live well, within the Earth’s bounds. This means investing in technology and infrastructure that will allow us to operate in a resource-constrained world. It means taking individual action and creating the public demand for businesses and policy makers to participate.

The richest 10% of Canadian households are leaving behind an ecological footprint of 12.4 hectares per capita. To put that finding in context, their per capita ecological footprint is 66% higher than the national average, which is 7.5 hectares per capita. What is your personal ecological footprint? There are many websites that will help you calculate your footprint. One you might try is www.footprintcalculator.org.

So, What Can We Do? Many industries are beginning to migrate to a Green Industry model. A Green Industry is challenging to define but successful green industries have some defining attributes:

  •  sustainably produced inputs;
  •  minimal use of virgin raw materials;
  •  production processes that minimize the use of water, energy, and materials;
  •  production processes free from harmful toxins;
  •  reuse and recycling of solid waste streams;
  •  substantial reductions in emissions or effluents of harmful greenhouse gases and pollutants; and
  •  products that are built for longevity and durability.

When purchasing products, look for labels that indicate the product is produced sustainably. Sustainable certification organizations include:

  •  Forestry Products: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
  •  Fish Products: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
  •  Material Products: Association for Contract Textiles (SFC)

The familiar Rainforest Alliance Certification looks at sustainability for many products.

By supporting business that are developing sustainable goods and services we can all help to reduce the human impact on our Earth. To explore these issues further, join us at MSE 2018: Restoring our Relationship with the Natural World on May 24-25 at the Rene Caisse Theatre in Bracebridge.

If you have ideas on how we can restore our relationship with the natural world, let us know what you think. Join the conversation by sharing your ideas in the comments below or on the MSE Event Page on Facebook.

Comments are closed.