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The Ecological Footprint Represents the Impact Human Actions Have on Nature

The ecological footprint represents the land and water area needed to produce the food, materials and energy used by the humankind, and the management of the waste and emissions they produce. The ecological footprint is used to depict how much the humankind is overusing the Earth’s resources over its capacity. By making the right decisions everyone of us can reduce the strain of the ecological footprint put on the Earth.

The ecological footprint is a term used widely to measure sustainable development. It can calculated for example to depict a person, a household, a product, a city or a country. The footprint is usually measured in global hectares. One global hectare is an area the size of a hectare, the productivity of which matches the global average. The ecological footprint can also be demonstrated by measuring it in “Earths”  – where one Earth represents the biological capacity of the Earth in that particular year. As of now, the humankind is consuming at a rate of approximately 1,7 Earths a year.

The Earth Overshoot Day depicts the  date on which humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year.

The ecological footprint concept is closely connected with the concept of the Earth Overshoot Day that is used to demonstrate the relationship between consumption and the Earth’s capacity. It is the calculated illustrative calendar date on which humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth’s ecosystem’s annual biological production. In 2016 the Earth Overshoot Day was on the 8th of August, when in 1970 it was only on the 23rd of December. This year it is expected to be on the 2nd of August.

Finland’s ecological footprint if relatively large

The ecological footprint is usually used to depict specific countries’ consumption, and their footprints are often evaluated and compared with other countries. For example, in Finland consumption is so high, that if everyone on Earth lived as Finns, over four Earths’ natural resources would be needed to sustain the level of consumption.

Making choices to decrease the ecological footprint

People can influence the size of their ecological footprint through their choices. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions has a big role in making the ecological footprint smaller, because these emissions make up 60% of humankind’s ecological footprint. Individual people can reduce their ecological footprint e.g. by driving less, eating less meat, living more compactly, using less water and favoring lasting and ecological products. You can calculate your own ecological footprint e.g. here.

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