Ecological Footprint is one way of measuring the amount of space we need in a year to supply all our material use and absorb all our waste. Global calculations show that we are consuming over one third more than what nature can reproduce. For industrialized countries this rate is even faster. North American consumption and waste generation would require two extra Planet Earths if the rest of the world copied this production and consumption model. Currently about three quarters of the current consumption goes to the 1.1 billion people who live in affluence, while one quarter of the consumption remains for the other 4.6 billion people.
Example: Ecological Footprint of the Netherlands?
When an ecological footprint was done for the Netherlands, researchers found the country should in reality be 14 times bigger in order to supply all the resource, water, and energy used by Dutch consumers, as well as to absorb all the waste produced by Dutch citizens.
This led the Dutch government to establish a Factor 10 reduction target in their National Environmental Action Plan. Analysis of the Dutch footprint found 50% of the footprint is due to carbon dioxide absorption, and this has spurred the Dutch government to focus on climate change remediation. It has also created ecodesign centers, where examples of Factor 4 products can be demonstrated to small- and medium-scale industries.
Material Intensity Per Unit of Service (MIPs) is a way of measuring the use of resources during a product’s life cycle.
Redefining Progress is the main resource for information on Ecological Footprints.
Also, you can calculate your own personal Ecological Footprint.
Ecological footprints have been done for regions in Canada, Scotland and the city of London, UK.
For the Scottish and London study, see www.bestfootforward.com/.