On the first day of my environmental science class, we took a very eye-opening quiz on our lifestyle choices and how they affect the planet. After entering in information such as how many miles we drive per week, how much meat we eat, our house size and its renewable energy sources (or lack thereof), and just about everything from yearly air travel to how much locally grown food we consume, the quiz concluded with startling results.
Global FootPrint Network is on a mission to “help end ecological overshoot by making ecological limits central to decision-making,” with the vision “that all people live well, within the means of nature.” Overshoot day is when humanity’s consumption and use of resources overshoots the amount nature has or can replenish.
The organization’s Ecological Footprint Calculator succeeded in revealing to my class how many Earths it would take to sustain the entire world if everyone lived and consumed as each of us does. We learned about our personal overshoot days, as the calculator takes into account “how fast we consume resources and generate waste” in comparison to “how fast nature can absorb our waste and generate new resources.” All of our lifestyle choices were called into question—why we consume as much as we do, why our energy sources aren’t as green as they could be, why we didn’t bat an eye at sustainability and instead marched through life thinking that the earth and all of its resources are for ours taking and using; we don’t have to give back. To say it in a less harsh way, the results showed our ignorance to the affect our daily lifestyle and choices have on the environment around us.
TAKE THE QUIZ HERE: http://www.footprintcalculator.org/
As you can see, to live as my family does, it requires 3.2 earths to sustain the entire world’s population. Our “overshoot day” was April 26th. Looking at the data made me realize how easy it is to forget that the earth doesn’t just exist for us. All of us are constantly driving on our man-made roads and bridges; bending our necks down to look at whatever’s flashing across the screens of our phones; locking ourselves away in our homes, forgetting that water, food, air, and everything else that drives our existence come from the outside. What grabs our attention is when Mother Nature screams back. The list of natural disasters in 2017 seems endless: Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Maria in the Dominican Republic, an 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Mexico, monsoons in Bangladesh, wildfires in California. Then there are the political disasters of denying the existence of climate change and withdrawing from the Paris Accord. Sometimes, efforts at creating sustainability and protecting the environment seem like an uphill battle, even a battle that we’ve already lost as individuals, businesses, countries, and as the world.
However, my environmental science class has emphasized this all semester: not all hope is lost, and sustainability is possible with a collective effort. 2018 is here, and with it comes an even more pressing need to take care of our earth. After finding out the results of your Footprint Calculator, the quiz offers solutions for becoming more green and lessening your impact. Options like trying a vegetarian recipe once a month to reduce meat consumption, challenging your city’s legislation on sustainability, and utilizing public transportation or a bicycle instead of driving are all attainable and important goals. Overshootday.org offers tons of solutions in the realms of energy, populations, cities, and food, with numerous pledges one can commit to for a greener lifestyle.
Since I took the ecological footprint quiz, my family has made some of those changes to our lifestyle. We have discussed ways in which we can tap into renewable sources for providing power to our home. I don’t leave any electronics charging overnight or let any chargers stay plugged into the wall if they are not being used. Reusable containers have replaced most plastic bags used in lunches in my household. We are using LED light bulbs and turning off lamps and lights when we leave rooms. Small changes, yes, but with the possibility of a huge impact if they are practiced over long periods of time
I encourage you to check out your Ecological footprint and take the quiz here. It all starts with small changes, with standing up and saying to the loud and busy and consuming world that yes, this environment, this world, this earth is important to me. Let’s make 2018 the year we do that.