Today – April 22nd 2007 is Earth Day.
Article via the Winnipeg Free Press »
What’s your footprint?
Sun Mar 18 2007
By Lindsey Wiebe
When it comes to the environment, (shoe) size matters
WHEN it comes to measuring how sustainable your lifestyle really is, there are few tools more popular than the ecological footprint.
Since the idea was coined in the early ’90s, checking your eco-shoesize has become one of the top ways of calculating your impact on the planet.
The phrase has also taken a firm foothold — no pun intended — on the way people talk about sustainability. A quick Google search turns up over 960,000 website mentions, not to mention the 4,200 bloggers pondering the idea.
Although popular, the term isn’t without controversy, much of it stemming from the numerous calculators, surveys and quick-and-dirty quizzes on the Internet, encouraging users to measure their ecological footprints.
One quiz hosted by the environmental group Earth Day Network (www.myfootprint.org) lets users measure the total global hectares that would be needed if everyone lived like they did, and compares it to the total amount of usable space on the planet.
My footprint came out to five global hectares, and a blunt conclusion. “If everyone lived like you,” the quiz asserted, “we would need 2.8 planets.”
But even that dispiriting number is low compared to Canada’s average of 8.8 global hectares per person, according to the website — somewhere between four and five Earths.
The quiz has logged millions of visits worldwide since it launched in 2003 — and generated no small amount of criticism. One social networking website logged hundreds of ratings and comments on the Earth Day quiz, ranging from encouraging to dismissive to downright indignant.
“I always use public transportation, I’m a vegan, I live in a small apartment… what exactly do they want me to do?” wrote one anxious user.
Sometimes the criticism focuses on the questionable accuracy of the surveys, which rely on rough figures and estimates. As well, some of the factors that matter — where you live, for example — are hard to control.
But providing an exact measurement isn’t the aim of the survey, said John Talberth, an economist with Redefining Progress, a California-based policy group that partners with the Earth Day Network on the quiz.
Instead, he said, the goal is to help people “learn about the connection between their lifestyles and how much room we all have here on the planet.”