No, this not at all means that we paint ourselves green and carry on with our lives. By living green we mean making our life choices sustainable – sustainable in terms of what we eat, what we wear, what we purchase from the market, how we travel, what we do in our workplaces, the structures we live in and many such life aspects. ‘Green’ is a fashionable and ‘in’ word to use. The choices we make in our lives determine our planet’s sustainability.
Every person on this planet consumes his share of total resources. This is calculated by measuring the individual’s total consumption or more scientifically. An ecological footprint is defined as the impact of an individual or the community in the natural setting. This is usually expressed as the amount of land needed to stick up for their use of natural resources. We need land to grow the food we eat, to dump the trash we create and to endanger natural resources. By measuring the ecological footprint, we decide whether our planet Earth is large enough to sustain our demands, the undying demands of humanity.
Sides of Ecological Footprint Accounting
There are two sides of ecological footprint accounting. The asset side represents the bio-capacity that has the biologically productive areas on earth, preferably the forests, crop lands, pastures and fisheries. Bio-capacity is actually the availability of land and water resources on earth. If these lands are left un-harvested, they tend to absorb wastes and toxicities, especially the carbon emissions we generate. This bio-capacity is then compared to our demands to nature, on the other side of the balance sheet. We demand energy, food which also includes seafood and fiber, settlement land, timber and paper. We can measure both ecological footprint and bio-capacity in global hectares (gha). 1gha gives the productivity of one hectare of land as compared to the average productivity of the world.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, it takes 1.5 years for the earth to regenerate what we use in just one year. This is an overshoot, shockingly maintained by liquidating the resources on earth. If put another way, we all need 1.5 planets to support our activities today. Mind you, this overshoot is an underestimated threat to the mankind – not good for our social, mental and physical health and, of course, the Earth. This explains why it is essential to measure our own ecological footprint as individuals, organizations, households, communities and nations, to assess the pressure we have exerted on our planet. This is a serious issue which hasn’t been addressed adequately. In fact, many of us don’t even know about it. But if you are aware of it and want to contribute to the preservation of the planet, you may do the following things:
Food: Try to buy organic and locally grown food on a regular basis since it requires less fuel for their transportation. Also, buy those foods that use less of petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers. This way you can stay fit and healthy.
Goods: Try to be a ‘green consumer’. Evaluate each and every good and service in terms of its impact on the environment and not just in terms of its utility in your life. Support reusable or recyclable products so that you do not collect trash for your planet. Be well-informed about the ingredients used in every product (food, cosmetics and drugs, to name some) you use.
Housing: Try and save electricity, water and other energies by changing your habits. Use energy-saving lights. Switch off your laptops, TV, AC and other electronics when not in use. Use green landscaping if you have a yard, ‘green your home‘ by making use of plants for decoration and opt for kitchen waste management at home.
Transportation: Carpooling and use of mass transit are smart measures. Explore use of more alternative fuels. Inculcate the habit of walking manageable distances.
Waste: Categorize your wastes into biodegradable (wood and paper) and non-biodegradable (plastics) items.
This is how one can contribute to the planet. If I say, it’s the need of the hour, then I might sound cliché… but yes it is the need of the hour. There are several online ecological footprint calculators easily available for you. So, try and find out how big your footprint is!