Ecological Footprints

Ecological Footprints   [WLO: 3] [CLOs: 3, 6]

The ecological footprint is a tool for helping us to visualize the impacts we make on the environment. For a brief overview of the concept, please watch this one-minute video The Ecological Footprint Explained (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. prior to beginning work on this discussion.

In this week’s class discussion, you will have the opportunity to learn more about how connected you are to the ecosystems and biosphere that you inhabit. Everyday choices can impact our environment; through those choices, we can either add to our environmental impact, or reduce it.

In a course-long project beginning this week, you will take on the challenge of lessening your impacts on the environment, through reducing the size of your ecological footprint. Specifically, you will identify possible lifestyle changes that would reduce the amount of resources you use and/or the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that you produce. In a course-long experiment, you will determine whether or not it is possible to make a measurable difference in your environmental impact through a few simple actions in your daily life. The first step, of course, is to determine your ecological footprint right now. To do that, you will calculate three footprints: an overall ecological footprint that takes most of our daily behaviors into consideration; a carbon footprint that focuses on our daily carbon emissions that are contributing to global climate change; and a water footprint that assesses daily water use.

Part A: Ecological Footprint

Use the footprint tool from the web page What Is Your Ecological Footprint? (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. to calculate your ecological footprint. At every opportunity, please select the “add details to improve accuracy” option. At the end of the footprint activity, make a note of how many earths would be required if everyone lived like you. Then click on “see details” to obtain the following information:

  • Your ecological footprint, in global hectares (a hectare is about two and a half acres).
  • Your top three consumption categories.
  • Finally, research some ways you might reduce your      footprint, identifying a few specific ones that you might put into      practice throughout the course.

Part B: Household Carbon Emissions Footprint

Next, use the Carbon Footprint Calculator (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. to calculate your household carbon emissions footprint. After answering all the questions:

  • Make a note of your carbon emissions footprint in      pounds. Is that above or below the average household carbon footprint      in the US?
  • Also, explore specific actions you might take to reduce      your footprint. Which of them might be practical to undertake in the next      five weeks?

Part C: Water Footprint

Finally, use Water Footprint Calculator (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. to calculate your daily water footprint. After answering all the questions:

  • Make a note of your gallons per day water footprint.
  • Record the top three contributors to it.
  • Scroll down the page to access a series of “Tips”      buttons you can click on for advice on reducing your footprint. Again,      make a note of some specific ideas you see that might be practical to      implement over the next five weeks.

Discussion Post Requirements

Your discussion should include all the information you gathered about your consumption habits from your three footprint calculations, including all numbers with units.  

Then, examine the numerical results of your three footprint calculations by answering the following questions:

  • What did you learn that surprised you about your      consumption habits?
  • Propose a minimum of five lifestyle changes you could      make that would reduce one or more of the three footprints. (These do not      have to be the ones you use in this course-long project; over the course      of the discussion, you may opt to select other ones based upon classmates’      recommendations. You will be recording your final choices for lifestyle      changes in your Journal at the end of the week.)
  • For each lifestyle change, identify which footprint you      would be lowering by doing it. Discuss potential obstacles to making those      changes, and then suggest ways you might overcome those obstacles.