How to Calculate Ecological Footprint in 2 Easy Steps (Find Your Now)

Knowing how to calculate ecological footprint is an important weapon in the fight against climate change.

Finding your ecological footprint with the two simple steps below is easy and just takes a little practice, but if you prefer you can use this footprint calculator, which does all the work for you, measuring your carbon emissions equivalents, and then transforming that information into the ecological impact your lifestyle has on the planet.

Calcuate Your Ecological Footprint

It’s no secret that humanity must lessen its consumption of Earth’s resources if it intends to survive, and one of the best ways for an individual to get involved is by changing their lifestyle in small but meaningful ways in order to lessen the impact that they have on the environment.

It will require collective action to slow man-made climate change, lessen resource consumption, and push back Earth Overshoot Day (the figurative measurement when humanity has consumed all the renewable resources available) in order to establish a globally green environment. However, you can start by making changes in your own lifestyle that adhere to ecological footprint standards.

In fact, you can learn how to calculate ecological footprint in two easy steps… and get started making a difference today.

How To Calculate Your Ecological Footprint and What To Do With The Data (Understanding Global Resources)

There are many websites that provide tools to calculate your ecological footprint. These online resources typically measure your footprint, based on your lifestyle, and provide you with data which delivers either your individual ‘Earth Overshoot Day,’ or a carbon emissions equivalent (sometimes both, like the one above), and they also provide ideas for potential changes that you can make to reduce your eco-impact.

Of course, you can figure this number (date) manually, but it would take quite a bit of time and a lot of math. Fortunately, environmental scientists have removed the legwork, and you can find your calculated land ecological footprint quickly and easily with two steps.

Step 1: Grab as much information as possible about your lifestyle.

Stuident with a laptop entering information to learn how to calculate ecological footprint using an ecological footprint calculator.

Step 2. Input the data into a calculator.

That’s all there is to it. Of course, you can learn the steps to manually know how to calculate ecological footprint, too. The process is explained below.

Here’s How it Works

Ecological footprint calculators (like the Global Footprint Network’s data and the one above) tend to work like this:

  1. You are provided with a series of questions about your routines. You can either make a generalization, or you can input more accurate information. These questions tend to be about the types of food you buy, the home you live in, the amount of people you live with, the energy efficiency of your living spaces and where that energy is sourced from, as well as your waste/recycling habits.
  2. After you have supplied the calculator with your information, you receive your data set, which includes your overshoot day and the number of earths that would be needed to sustain a global population with your ecological footprint, as well as various ways that you can make your life more sustainable.

Depending on the offerings, ecological footprint information can point out that you live below the threshold or above it. Certain calculators also catalog and retain the maintenance of national footprint accounts and bio-capacity accounts, and then annually calculate the ecological footprint of over 200 countries, territories, and regions. Many use UN affiliate data sets and freely provide all of their research and calculations for your perusal.

Their intent is to give you the tools to take actionable steps towards a future where the Earth’s resources can provide for everyone and not be overtaxed by consumption. And their plan is not limited to individual change, many incorporate ideas that merge individual change, social change, and political change to create a more equitable society where ecological limits are central to decision making.

For example, some data platforms demonstrate the balance that must be achieved for sustainable living. By using the average ecological footprint of a population, they can calculate whether a nation has either an ecological deficit or an ecological reserve, which is based on resources footprint calculator figures like this take the amount of renewable resources and subtract the resources that are used each year to figure the results.

When a country, like the United States, has an ecological deficit, it means that the combined ecological footprint of all who reside within that nation is greater than the bio-capacity of the land on which they reside.

For countries then, like Brazil and Finland, that have an ecological reserve, the opposite is true. The combined ecological footprint of those who reside within a nation is less than the bio-capacity of the land on which they reside.

To demonstrate this, here is a table of nations with the highest overall ecological deficits based on calculations made by the global footprint network.

#Country NamePercentage of national ecological footprint that exceeds bio-capacity
1Singapore10,300%
2Bermuda5,610%
3Réunion2,580%
66United States of America133%

And here is the chart of the nations with the highest ecological footprint per capita.

#Country NameEcological footprint per capita in global hectares
1Qatar14.7
2Luxembourg12.8
3United Arab Emirates8.9
8United States of America8.0

To put this into context, the globally available bio-capacity per person is 1.7 global hectares. So, if a nation’s average ecological footprint data is 8 global hectares, that means that the nation’s citizens are using almost five times the resources and waste that the Earth can regenerate and reabsorb in a year.

The Difference Between a Carbon Footprint Calculator and an Ecological Footprint Calculator

You would be forgiven for thinking that an ecological footprint calculator is, for all intents and purposes, the same as a carbon footprint calculator. However, there is, in fact, a difference between these two tools.1

You are probably aware that a carbon footprint is a measurement of the greenhouse gas emissions equivalents that are produced directly or indirectly from any activity. It can be an incredibly useful tool for individuals and businesses looking to minimize or offset their carbon footprint, because it pinpoints areas that are the biggest greenhouse gas emissions producers. This is particularly important given that in 2022, most United States residents have an average carbon footprint of 17.6 tons (16 tonnes) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). To put this into perspective, the average global footprint is 4.4 tons (4 tonnes).2

What Then Separates a Carbon Footprint From an Ecological Footprint?

An ecological footprint is still a measurement of the pressure exerted on the planet by humans, but it is expressed through global hectares (gha) or by a number of Earths. It is an estimation of the natural resources required by each individual to support and sustain their needs.

Calculating your global footprint ecological footprints requires knowledge of two things:

  1. The bio-capacity of the Earth: essentially, the Earth’s capacity to produce resources for human consumption.
  2. The ecological impact of human activity: the amount of natural resources that are, annually, consumed or used up by human activity, as well as the waste generated from that resource use.

The calculation then is simple. You must only subtract the ecological impact of human activity from the bio-capacity of the Earth.

What this shows is how much biologically productive land and water would be needed to sustain a specific population, and, unfortunately, the calculation from a network of studies shows that at the current rate of consumption, the world will not be able to sustain humans for much longer if there are not substantial changes made to the consumption patterns of the general populace. Humans must become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

In fact, yearly consumption of natural resources is already unsustainable.

What Is Earth Overshoot Day?

Groups like the Global Footprint Network have established Earth Overshoot Day. This date is representative of the moment at which humans have already used up the natural resources that can be reproduced in a year.

In 2021, that day was July 29. Now, in 2022, the overshoot day for countries has been figured. It fluctuates between years, but it has, on the whole, been drifting closer to the start of the year over the past ten years.

Earth Overshoot Day for ow to calculate ecological footprint using data from resources consumed.

But by committing to make your life more sustainable, taking the measure of your ecological footprint global situation, and lessening your carbon and ecological footprints, you can help push back Earth Overshoot Day.

So, if you decide to calculate your ecological footprint, it is not meant to cast blame on your lifestyle. Instead, it is meant both as an educational tool and encouragement to act against man-made climate change within your means. This can take many forms from changing your daily routines or purchasing zero waste products to advocating for sustainability and conservation efforts, carbon taxes, and other legislation designed to cut down on the greenhouse gas emissions of businesses (calculate your business carbon footprint here) and governments. But you need to decide what is right for you without compromising your health and well being.3

Ecological footprint calculators are important educational tools. They demonstrate a person’s marked impact on the planet. But that’s only important if they also provide individuals and organizations with the tools to change consumption and use habits. That’s one of the benefits of looking for organizations that are focused on providing solutions. Not only do they teach you how to calculate ecological footprint, they give you the power to change within your means in ways that will positively impact the plant for decades to come.


References

1Lim, A. (2020, October 26). What Is Ecological Footprint? Definition and How to Calculate It. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from Treehugger: <https://www.treehugger.com/what-is-ecological-footprint-4580244>

2Calculate Your Carbon Footprint. (2021). Retrieved November 19, 2021, from The Nature Conservancy: <https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-footprint-calculator/>

3Home. (2021). Retrieved November 18, 2021, from Global Footprint Network: <https://www.footprintnetwork.org/>

4Tools & Resources. (2021). Retrieved November 19, 2021, from Global Footprint Network: <https://www.footprintnetwork.org/resources/>