I have just learned that New Zealanders would need more than 4 planets if their lifestyle was experienced by all the people on Earth. Another way of saying it is that an average New Zealander lives on 7.7 hectares whereas it is estimated that there are only 1.8 “bioproductive” hectare per person.
I had a look on www.footprintnetwork.org to compare country trends… The data is given on graphs in Global Hectares per Capita (GHC), between the 1960’s and 2005-2007 depending on the countries. It also shows the “biocapacity”. The data is a few years old, unfortunately.
NZ: 5 Global Hectares per capita in 2006
France: 5 GHC in 2006 (increase since the 60’s)
US : 8 GHC since 1980
China: 2 GHC (has rocketed since 2003)
Danemark: 8.5 GHC ! Champions!
Afghanistan: 0.5 GHC ! Real champions!
Japan : 4.5 GHC
Sweden : 6 GHC
Poor countries GHC varies between 1 and 2.
World average: One and a half planet in 2007.
Recent studies are greatly needed, because the trend has not globally improved since 2007 …
Hence the great value of Ella Lawton’s project: it is a 3-year programme to measure footprints related to built settlement types, then establish a vision of the theoretical ideal scale and form of built settlement, then put it in practice in rural and urban environment, and eventually enlarge and empower the rest of the country and beyond…
There are other initiatives in the world based on ecological footprint, like the One Planet Sutton, Foot Prints Wales but if you google “footprint US”, you find … a company that sells shoes, of course!
Environmental footprint is a great awareness tool
So I tried…
The footprint network quiz is interactive and easy to do. It concludes I use 1.9 planet and 3.4 bioproductive hectares! OMG!
I pledged to halve my meat consumption, to reach 1.6 planets and the only way I can yet improve to 1.5 is to pledge to buy less packaging, which “I do”.
It does not make a difference with this quiz if I travel to Europe every 4 years instead of 3.
It is well under the New Zealand average but far too much!
Worse! The Ecological Footprint Quiz by the Center of Sustainable Economy says that I need 2.21 Earths!
I am reassured by the fact that questions are quite general and do not consider the fact that we have nearly no electrical appliances, for example.
So I tried more detailed calculators, and for them, I need my electricity bills, my vehicule logs, and bank account statements…
Here is the Carbon Footprint calculator result:
Although half the NZ average, I still feel I need to improve a lot. I “played” around with the questions. I would need to halve my electricity consumption ( which would be quite hard), fly only as far as Sydney, buy only local food (and no meat) and get rid of my car to reach the world target. I am not there yet but I know what my goal is…
WA$TED is a NZ clever TV programme and book and website with a comprehensive household footprint calculator specifically designed for NZ. I am somewhat reassured, because it enables me to enter the exact number of lights and appliances etc, which are quite low and therefore I end up with a 3/4 hectare footprint. There is no international travel in this calculator so I would need to add about 1 ton of CO2 for travelling to France every 3 years, that is about 1 hectare and I am just within the available land for me. Just! This seems too light compared with other results.
I am not sure how CO2 tons convert in global hectares. The Ecological Footprint Standards 2009 from the footprint network says “A2.3 The assessment calculates the Footprint of carbon dioxide emissions (e.g., converts tonnes of carbon dioxide into global hectares) using the same methods as the National Footprint Accounts” but I was unable to find it. From various sources on the Internet, I estimated that 1 ton of CO2 is roughly equivalent to 1 hectare. In average, 1 hectare would be able to absorb about a ton of CO2 per year. This needs further research. Would my teacher know?
The most serious is the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development emissions online calculator . It finds that I create 4.5 CO2 tons per year, which is fairly consistent with other results.
It slowly kicks in that although I thought my household was quite sustainable, it is actually twice bigger than what our Earth can make and take and therefore I MUST halve my own footprint. I should have done only the Wa$ted test and I would have felt quite content!
So now HOW do we reduce our carbon footprint?
The Centre for Sustainable Economy advises how to reduce our eco footprint. I feel I do a lot of this already…
In June 2011, an article in the Guardian explains HOW a household can greatly reduce its footprint. Seems easy.
It is actually quite complex. Patagonia has designed an interactive tool to visualise the travels of several products. They are accompanied by interesting videos. For example this Capilene path:
It is amazing to see how many kilometers (therefore carbon) a simple jumper encapsulate, even one that is made by a company that cares. It just give a glimpse of what we need to think about when buying.
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