An ecological footprint is the impact a person has on the environment. It is expressed as the amount of land required to sustain the natural resources used to support a person’s lifestyle, measured in terms of biologically productive land.
The size of a person’s footprint is influenced by factors such as the size of their house, the types of food and beverages they consume, the mode and extent of transport they use and the amount and type of clothing purchased.
The average Australian ecological footprint is about four times the sustainable level.
The Global Footprint Network calculator can estimate your ecological footprint. However, given the complexity involved in establishing the type and extent of natural resources used to support a person’s lifestyle, it is inherently difficult to exactly calculate one’s ecological footprint.
Your ecological footprint compares the total resources you consume with the area (land and water) that is necessary to replenish those total resources.
The carbon footprint also considers your resource use, but only the greenhouse gases released due to the burning of fossil fuels to support your lifestyle.
Consequently, your carbon footprint is only a component (about 60%) of your ecological footprint.
Changes to your lifestyle can reduce your ecological footprint, such as switching to renewable energy, reducing your reliance on fossil fuels for transport, minimising new clothes purchases, changing your diet and reducing your waste.
However, even with a concerted effort to reduce your ecological footprint, you will never be able to eliminate it by simply reducing the natural resources that you use.