Qué es la huella ecológica

One of the most relevant methods to measure how sustainable human activities are is the ecological footprint, an interesting way to calculate what is needed to support a person’s consumption and what is its environmental impact.

What is ecological footprint?

Ecological footprint, also called environmental footprint, is a measure of the impact that humanity has on the planet. It´s the ecologically productive surface necessary to produce the resources consumed by an individual, as well as that necessary to absorb the waste it generates.

The concept of ecological footprint was developed in 1996 by William Rees together with his student Mathis Wackernagel, who designed it as a method to understand the sustainability of human society, based on its consumption and the possibility of satisfying its demand with local resources.

To calculate the population´s ecological footprint, several factors are taken into account, all derived from the population´s average consumption activities. The measures to be considered are:

  1. Area needed to produce plant foods.
  2. Land to be used for raising, feeding and exploiting livestock.
  3. Maritime area dedicated to fishing.
  4. Forest hectares necessary to absorb the CO2 emitted by human activity.
  5. Space required for urban buildings and other forms of human infrastructure.

Ecological footprint worldwide

The global average ecological footprint was calculated for the last time in 2005 and has yielded a result of 2.7 hectares per person. The problem is that it is estimated that the productive land and sea space that the planet is capable of providing is only 1.8 hectares per person.

This means that human activity, worldwide, demands at least 0.9 hectares of land per person more than it is possible to obtain. Taking this to percentages, 33% of the land needed to produce resources and absorb waste simply does not exist.

How to know my ecological footprint?

Finding the exact ecological footprint of a person is quite difficult and is not a simple calculation that can be done at home. However, there are several web pages that allow anyone to take a questionnaire and, based on the answers, get the portal to calculate their ecological footprint.

Also, many websites that follow this initiative provide advice to respondents on how to reduce the ecological footprint based on their answers. This goes a long way toward raising awareness of this index globally and informing people about how to achieve it together.

As we already mentioned, there are several websites that provide this service, although footprintcalculator.org is the best known of them and has the advantage of being available in 7 languages.