The Ecological Footprint of a Zero Waste Wannabe
Have you heard of Earth Overshoot Day?
Earth Overshoot Day is the day each year that we use more resources than the planet can support. The closer Earth Overshoot Day is to December 31, the closer we are to living within our means of what the planet can support.
Earth Overshoot Day = (Planet’s Biocapacity / Humanity’s Ecological Footprint) x 365
In 2018, Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 1. Each year, the date moves up. In the last 14 years, we’ve moved the date up a full month. As recently as 1970, Earth Overshoot Day was December 29.
In less than 50 years, we have gone from needing just over one Earth each year to needing 1.7 Earths to support us.
The Global Footprint Network also has a really cool tool called the Ecological Footprint Calculator. This tool allows you to not only calculate your ecological footprint, but also your personal Earth Overshoot Day.
I calculated my ecological footprint for the first time last January, and revisited the tool this week to see how far I’d come in the last year. The results were surprising.
My 2018 Ecological Footprint Results
Fast forward to this week, and I’m less proud of the results.
My 2019 Ecological Footprint and Earth Overshoot Day results.
My footprint actually grew in the last year! And my Personal Earth Overshoot Day is June 5! It would take 2.4 Earths to sustain us if everyone lived like me. Ughhhh.
P.S. The Earth Overshoot Day for the United States is March 15. We can’t even make it a full quarter without overshooting our resources!
When I looked at the different categories, I noticed that the Shelter category had increased. I am now living in a house (granted, with two other people), and it’s a much older house than my apartment was last year. So, that actually kind of makes sense.
Then, out of curiosity, I retook the test as if I were living in a tiny house, since I’ve started looking into that possibility. That did significantly help, but it wasn’t nearly as much as I was hoping. And that Mobility category just kept staring me in the face...
My 2019 Ecological Footprint and Earth Overshoot Day results if I lived in a tiny house.
So, I thought to myself, “what would my footprint look like if I lived in a tiny house AND finally got a Vespa and drove that most of the time instead of my car?”
That hardly helped. How could I possibly go from a 25 mpg vehicle to a 98 mpg vehicle and end up with that little of a difference??
My 2019 Ecological Footprint and Earth Overshoot Day results if I lived in a tiny house and swapped out most of my driving with a Vespa.
Finally, after all of this, it hit me. I’m flying to Kenya this summer. What if I lived in a tiny house, drove a Vespa, and didn’t go to Kenya and instead only flew back to Ohio once this year?
All I can say is wow. Talk about impact. My Earth Overshoot Day dropped to late October, and my need for Earths dropped to 1.2! Wow.
My 2019 Ecological Footprint and Earth Overshoot Day results if I lived in a tiny house, drove a Vespa, and did not fly internationally but did fly back to Ohio once.
Does this mean that I’ll be dropping my Kenya trip? Absolutely not. To me, traveling is more than just visiting a place. Traveling is an opportunity to learn a new culture, understand the world outside of your own, develop empathy, and elevate yourself to the best version of yourself. (It’s also a chance to use all of that Swahili I learned in undergrad but never get to practice.)
It does mean that I’ll be sure to offset the carbon footprint of my trip.
I also don’t have plans to travel internationally after this summer, so this is not an average year for my footprint.
I’m so glad that I did this exercise, and now I know actionable steps I can take to reduce my impact on the planet. Plus, I’ll save money in the process. It’s amazing how often living more sustainably can positively impact our wallets as well. I’m ready to move forward continuing to work towards a more sustainable future for myself and the planet.
Have you calculated your Ecological Footprint? Were you surprised by the results?
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