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How Big is Your Footprint?

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It's no secret that the number of resources we use and the waste we produce affects our environment

It's no secret that the number of resources we use and the waste we produce affects our environment. We can define the intensity of our individual effect by using ecological footprint analysis, developed by Dr. William Rees, professor of community and regional planning at the University of British Columbia and coauthor with Dr. Mathis Wackernagel of Our Ecological Footprint (New Society, 1996).

According to the ecological footprint analysis conducted by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in 2003, the average Canadian's ecological footprint is the third-largest in the world. Each person in Canada, on average, consumes 7.25 hectares of land and sea worldwide. Yet only 1.7 hectares of the Earth's productive biosphere is available for human use. What are we trying to do, compete with Big Foot?

To ensure Earth can sustain future generations, Canadians need to reanalyze our consumption and downsize our footprints. The practice of restoring, recycling, and reusing is part of it, but as consumers, we can do more. For example:

  • Buy more locally grown and organic food and fewer processed and packaged foods.
  • Hang clothes to dry.
  • Reduce use of air conditioners.
  • Use energy-efficient bulbs and appliances.
  • Unplug cell phone chargers (if it feels warm, it is draining electricity).

To find out the size of your ecological footprint and to periodically track your progress, visit mec.ca/splash.jsp.

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