Friday, 07 September 2012 13:30

What is an Ecological Footprint?

We’ve already examined and defined a carbon footprint, but have you ever heard of an ecological footprint?  An ecological footprint compares human demands on nature with the Earth's ability to regenerate resources and provide services.

Ecological footprints are ever changing because of advances in technology and a three-year lag for the UN to collect and publish statistics.  However, it is a standardized measure that begins by assessing the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population uses.  This is then contrasted with the planet’s ability to absorb associated waste and ecological capacity to regenerate.  Think of it like how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it would take to support humanity given an average lifestyle.  In 2007, humanity's total ecological footprint was estimated at 1.5 planet Earths.  This means humans are currently using ecological services 1.5 times quicker than Earth can renew them.

William Rees was the first academic to publish about an ecological footprint in 1992.  He supervised the PhD dissertation of Mathis Wackernagel who outlined the concept and offered a calculation method.  Rees penned the term ecological footprint in a more accessible manner than the original name of “appropriated carrying capacity” after a computer technician described Rees’ new computer as having a small footprint on the desk.  Wackernagel and Rees published the book Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth in early 1996.

The implications are dire according to Rees who wrote in 2010, “…the average world citizen has an eco-footprint of about 2.7 global average hectares while there are only 2.1 global hectare of bioproductive land and water per capita on earth. This means that humanity has already overshot global biocapacity by 30% and now lives unsustainabily by depleting stocks of ‘natural capital’.”

We’re definitely overspending the planet’s resources.  Just take a look at man-made global warming and climate change.   We need to continue on the path to seeking a sustainable lifestyle, and do it on a global scale.  All of us working together can reduce the amount of the earth’s resources that we consume.  Start with yourself and get creative with how many ways you can save energy and recycle.  What’s great about beginning with energy efficiency is that it can save you money too.  Then there are cost effective ways to offset the rest such as by contributing to Carbonfund.org’s development of renewable energy technologies and carbon emissions reduction projects.  The important thing is to get started right away.

Published in carbonfree blog
Friday, 08 June 2012 11:45

Five Ways to be Chic and Eco-Friendly

There’s quite a bit of buzz in the news about eco-friendly clothing, but you may be asking yourself why.  Here are five reasons to go green with your clothing choices. 

1)      Keep toxic chemicals off your skin.  Did you know that conventional cotton uses 25% of the world's pesticides?  Those same pesticides can be harmful to you if they are absorbed through your skin.  Seek out Certified Organic textiles that are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers, and are certified by an international governing body such as Control Union, Institute for Marketecology (IMO) or One-Cert.

2)      Get informed about the labor and shipping practices employed to make the clothes you buy.  All those pesticides already mentioned, well, they’re not good for you or the farmers that grow cotton using them.  Also keep in mind where the clothes were manufactured, which you can often find on the label.  Think about all the greenhouse gas emissions generated if that t-shirt you’re considering had to be shipped across the ocean.

3)      Buy antibacterial and durable clothing – it’ll save you money and keep you healthier in the long-run.  Bamboo fabric can have up to a 99.8% antibacterial rate.  This reduces bacteria that thrive in clothing and cause unpleasant odors.  So you’ll smell better and be less likely to have a skin infection or allergic reaction.  Tencel is a completely biodegradable fabric that retains its shape after its first washing and is naturally wrinkle resistant.  Its durability is maintained whether wet or dry.

4)      The earth has finite resources; buy clothes that are sustainable.  Polyester is mainly made out of oil, which is not a renewable resource, and to make matters worse it is not biodegradable either.  Sustainable textiles include organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and soy fabrics.

5)      Lastly, consider vintage clothing.  Buying clothing that was chosen once before is environmentally friendly, and a great way to maximize your clothing budget.  If you need an outfit for a special event, check out a consignment store first.  Oftentimes, they’ll help you find what you’re looking for because they have the time and staff that know the available stock.

If you prefer to buy new, look for clothing that is created with reclaimed, recycled, and vintage materials.

Shopping for clothes has an often overlooked environmental impact.  It pays for us to use our purchasing power to make ourselves chic and reduce our carbon footprint.

Learn more about eco-friendly fabrics here: http://www.the-eco-market.com/eco-friendly-fabrics.html.

Published in carbonfree blog