January 27, 2012

Putting Our Eco-Footprint On A Diet

Unless we reduce consumption, we are going to need more planets.

January is a time of new beginnings, and hope. It is when many people launch change in their lives, like going on a diet.

As North American's obesity rates have mushroomed, so has the per capita ecological footprint. At 10 acres per person, our demands on the bio-capacity of the Earth are 50% greater than the average European's. Right now is a good time to put this excessive footprint on a diet.

Most diets require that one eats less, and eats foods strategically in order to maximize nutrition. Similarly, the way to drop resource-use weight is to consume less, and more efficiently.

But what are the best ways to trim the consumption gut?

The Eco-footprint Diet

  1. Don't drive when there is an alternative – use public transport, cycle or walk
    Over a quarter of all car journeys made are less than a few kilometers. Walking, cycling or taking public transport helps reduce congestion and emissions. On average we can reduce our total ecological footprint by as much as 20% if we don't own a car. If you must drive, use a smaller vehicle with a smaller, more efficient engine.
  2. Grow vegetables or buy locally grown organic, eat less meat, and reduce food waste
    Our diet accounts for about 1/4 of a person's footprint. Growing a garden, and using food more efficiently, could reduce our footprint by 11%. Growing as much as we can of our fruit and vegetables reduces energy and waste in transport, refrigeration and packaging.  Buying locally-grown, seasonal food reduces food kilometers and uses less packaging. Organic and other forms of low-input farming consume up to 40% less energy. The ecological footprint of vegetarians who eat a moderate amount of milk and eggs is about 40% lower than those who consume a low-meat diet.
  3. Don't fly. Take the train when possible, vacation locally.
    Aviation has the fastest growing carbon emissions of any industry sector. A single passenger’s share of a return flight from Toronto, Canada to London, England has nearly four times greater impact on the climate than the average person in India has in an entire year.
  4. Instead of buying new things, make what you've got last, buy second-hand, or borrow
    On average 10% of our footprint is made up of the consumables we buy. Our houses are often cluttered with items we only use or wear a few times. The average drill is used for just 15 minutes in its lifetime. Rather than buying something, consider whether you could borrow instead. Start a tool co-op and/or a free store with neighbours.
  5.  Make your home energy efficient and support green energy initiatives  There are many measures you can take around the home. For example, turning appliances off instead of switching them to standby, improving your home's insulation, and adjusting your thermostat. A four degree adjustment could save the average home 5% of their total ecological footprint. Other footprint-reducing measures include using window coverings to keep heat in (or out), not heating or cooling rooms you are not using, and keeping doors shut to keep heat (or cool) where you want it. Contact your energy provider to see if they have green alternatives such as wind or solar power-generated electricity.

  6. Reuse, Repurpose, Refuse, Recycle
    We throw away over a ton of material every year. Much of it can be reused or repurposed in creative ways. Refuse overpackaged products when shopping. Donate unwanted items to charity shops. Use your local recycling collection.
A larger eco-footprint does not necessarily mean a better quality of life, just as weighing 400 pounds doesn't mean you are better off than you would be at 150 pounds. Like losing body weight, trimming the eco-footprint feels great.
    Note: With determination one should be able to reduce their footprint by 50% or more, without a reduction in quality of life. All side-effects of the eco-diet are beneficial once past the initial withdrawal symptoms. After a while you will experience a general sense of well being, freedom, and balance.                            

    Adapted from: source


      1. Great diet recommendations. Love the analogy of not being better off if we weigh 400 pounds versus 150. Bigger certainly isn't always better.

      2. We think we are "too big to fail" as a species.

      3. Anonymous2/02/2012

        The idea of reducing our footprint with even simple things like just walking more places is so easy. Recently, I was fortunate enough to get a job only three blocks from where I live - this has been great because now instead of driving almost 10 hours a week (arggg) I walk to work - I don't even mind the rain. And you are also right on the money about reducing our eco-footprint bringing a certain calm and sense of freedom. I feel so much less stress - and I certainly feel like my quality of life has improved. Thanks again for an inspiring post.


      4. Karen,

        Congratulation on your new walking commute. In the same vein, I saw an interview with talk show host Regis Philbin, who was about to retire.

        He said that one of the favourite things about his last 15 years in TV was living across the street from the studio so he could walk to work.

        With all the glitz and glitter of his job, I found it wonderful that walking to work was one of the things that he cherished the most.

        We don't have to see living with a lower footprint as a sacrifice. It often is, as you and Regis know, an improvement.

        Thanks for sharing your good news!


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