An Ecological Footprint in Context

What is an Ecological Footprint?

An ecological footprint is essentially a measure of resource consumption. There are a variety of different ecological footprint calculators available. Each one asks a number of different questions about your day-to-day practices related to diet, transportation, housing, goods and services. From this data, it translates the amount of resources used into the total amount of land required to produce these resources. From there it multiplies your individual use by the total population of the planet. This is why calculators provide both a value in hectares (the individual amount) and the number of planets (your individual resource use multiplied by the human population).

What is an Ecological Footprint, really?

Ecological footprint calculators are based on an outdated concept of linear design. It assumes that all that what we consume is translated into waste. It reinforces ideas of limitations rather than abundance. It supports the idea of “do less bad” rather than “do more good”. It does not take into consideration how our day to day practices can truly add to the environment. It also misses the idea that waste will not remain “waste”. The resources we use are not “gone forever”. When we look at waste more clearly, we can see it is all building blocks for other designs. It is not a liability. It is an opportunity. If we are able to extract materials from dirt, we most certainly can extract materials from the goods we’ve produced. Landfills and sewage systems are actually huge sites of materials. The more we move away from linear (product to waste) thinking, the more we will be able to design for abundance (product to pieces to new products). We see this style of design everywhere in nature and we are seeing it more and more in the world we live in.

Calculating your Ecological Footprint

An ecological footprint calculator can be helpful to be more aware of the resources you use. Remember this is only one part of the picture. The more important aspects of what you create and add to the world around you are not considered in this calculation.

To calculate your ecological footprint, go to the Global Footprint Network free online footprint calculator:

Make note of your values as this will be used in the Beyond Footprints assignment

Keeping Ecological Footprint Calculations in Context

I have had student’s become quite confused in believing their lifestyle alone used more than a whole planet to support. This of course is not the case. Remember, an ecological footprint takes the resources you use, translates it into a land based area and multiplies this figure 7 billion times (the population of the planet) to determine the “number of planets” figure.



McDonough, W. (2013). The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance. Retrieved from

One thought on “An Ecological Footprint in Context

  1. Pingback: Looking at man’s closest friend | From guestwriters

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