What is the Ecological Footprint? The Ecological Footprint is a resource accounting tool used widely as a management and communication tool by governments, businesses, educational institutions and NGOs to answer a specific resource question: How much of the biological capacity of the planet is required by a given human activity or population? What does the Ecological Footprint measure? The Ecological Footprint measures the amount of biologically productive land and sea area an individual, a region, all of humanity, or a human activity requires to produce the resources it consumes and absorb the waste it generates, and compares this measurement to how much land and sea area is available. Biologically productive land and sea includes area that 1) supports human demand for food, fiber, timber, energy and space for infrastructure and 2) absorbs the waste products from the human economy. Biologically productive areas include cropland, forest and fishing grounds, and do not include deserts, glaciers and the open ocean. Current Ecological Footprint Standards (www.footprintstandards.org) use global hectares as a measurement unit – which makes data and results globally comparable. Which Footprint calculator should I use? There are a number of online Ecological Footprint calculators in use today. When evaluating other Ecological Footprint calculators, the most important consideration is whether the calculator is actually measuring the Ecological Footprint and not just using the term footprint as a proxy for general environmental impact. These calculators may offer interesting insights but they are not aligned with the international Ecological Footprint Standards, which were adopted in 2006 in order to ensure that Footprint studies were both credible and consistent. The Ecological Footprint as defined by the Ecological Footprint standards calculates how much biologically productive area is required to produce the resources required by the human population and to absorb humanity's waste. Approximately 90 percent of all leading Ecological Footprint practitioners worldwide have joined Global Footprint Network and have agreed to adhere to these standards and to use a common set of data. For globally comparable and credible Ecological Footprint calculator results, look for transparent information on the methodology used, and check to see if the calculator was created by a Global Footprint Network partner, as partnership requires compliance with Ecological Footprint standards. What is biocapacity? Biocapacity is shorthand for biological capacity, which is the ability of an ecosystem to produce useful biological materials and to absorb wastes generated by humans. What is overshoot? Overshoot, which in this context is shorthand for ecological overshoot, occurs when a population‟s demand on an ecosystem exceeds the capacity of that ecosystem to regenerate the resources it consumes and to absorb its wastes. The Ecological Footprint is often used to calculate global ecological overshoot, which occurs when humanity‟s demand on the biosphere exceeds the available biological capacity of the planet. By definition, overshoot leads to a depletion of the planet‟s life supporting biological capital and/or to an accumulation of waste products. How is an Ecological Footprint calculated? Ecological Footprints can be calculated for individuals, groups of people (such as a nation), and activities (such as manufacturing a product). The Ecological Footprint of a person is calculated by considering all of the biological materials consumed and all of the biological wastes generated by that person in a given year. All these materials and wastes are then individually translated into an equivalent number of global hectares. To accomplish this, the amount of material consumed by that person (tonnes per year) is divided by the yield of the specific land or sea area (annual tonnes per hectare) from which it was harvested, or where its waste material was...
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