Calculating your own footprint

Footsteps
© Federico Piras, "tribute to my bike". www.flickr.com (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Everyone leaves their own footprint. Whether it’s our choice of home or car, holiday destination or weekend menu plan – every decision we make has consequences for resource consumption. Our footprints can often be reduced using simple measures – if you know about them.

There are different ways of calculating your footprint. What all of the indicators have in common is that they consider the entire lifecycle of products and services. This is important because our consumption has an impact on the environment not only through the use of products and services, but also through the extraction of raw materials, transport, production and waste disposal.

The ecological footprint is the best known indicator for resource consumption. It constitutes a kind of global resource accounting system and has the advantage of expressing resource consumption in a clearly understandable number. The footprint measures the area that is needed to cover an individual’s resource requirements. Both the area required to produce food, clothing and energy and that needed to deal with the consequences of their consumption – for example to bind the CO2 released by the process – are taken into account in by the footprint. The Global Footprint Network, which calculates the footprint of countries, calculates that Switzerland uses about three times more resources per capita than available.

A person’s individual footprint can vary significantly from the average. For this reason it is useful to calculate your own resource consumption in global hectares. Footprint calculators are available here:  

http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/
https://private.ecospeed.ch/private/

Ecopoints

The Swiss federal authorities use a comprehensive set of footprint indicators to determine the environmental impact of products and services. Material and energy flows are recorded throughout the entire lifecycle, and the associated emissions generated and resources required to provide the products and services are identified. This makes it possible to incorporate a broad spectrum of environmental topics like climate, biodiversity and nitrogen problems. Emissions and resource consumption are evaluated on the basis of their impacts on humans and the environment. Policy targets are also taken into account here. For example, the policy target of reducing Switzerland’s CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050 reduces the capacity available for the emission of this greenhouse gas. In this way, resource consumption can be measured in ‘ecopoints’ (Umweltbelastungspunkte) and products and services are assigned an ecological ‘price’. This quantification makes it possible to compare different forms of environmental impacts with each other.

Last modification 13.08.2015

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