My Ecological Footprint

I have always been concerned about my individual, and our collective impact on the planet.  I have never doubted that we collectively have an enormous influence on earth.  But how can I determine my individual impact?  I am not adept in either math or science, but I am capable of learning.  In the early aughts, I went looking for some accounting of humans and our resource use and found  Redefining Progress.  They have developed a quiz you can take to estimate your ecological footprint.

When I first took the eco footprint calculation in ~2003 my score was 4.62 Earths needed to support my consumptive lifestyle for everybody.   That obviously is not sustainable.  1 or less is the sustainable number here as we only have the one planet on which to live.  I was way below the US average, but still way too consumptive.  I was already recycling, and had switched to florescent lighting.  I drastically reduced the meat in my diet and reduced the amount of driving I do.

Prior to taking the quiz, I had already determined that I wanted to live in a way that everybody could live.  I wanted to find a way to live in society, but in balance with nature.

I thought it was time to revisit the quiz and see where I am right now.  Having made changes, I am ready to do a little more. According to Redefining Progress my current Ecological Footprint is 2.62.  That means for everyone to live my lifestyle, 2.62 earths are needed.  Still too high.

The initial push on my part to reduce my consumption was very successful.  But it was also relatively easy.  Now I am faced with more difficult choices.

The fact of the matter is:  We as a species are yearly using more resources and generating more waste than our planet can create and absorb.  We are overshooting – living beyond our means.

It is very challenging to face one’s own greed.  I need to make a major change in my lifestyle.  I don’t want to feel this need.  I want to be able to think “oh they could be wrong” or “i don’t make a difference, so why bother” or “i already do enough – i shouldn’t have to do more”.

But spiritually, I need to try to live with a footprint of one.  In the 90s, I gave a child up for adoption.  I can’t help but think how my excess is taking away from her future.

Doing the right thing is important to me.  It is important to always strive to do what is best ethically.  My mother laid my foundation in ethics.  Mom taught us (my sister and me) to treat each other as we wish to be treated.  She also taught us to respect the Earth. This can be challenging in today’s culture.

But I am trying.  It is hard for me to talk about this at all, even on the blog.  I am contributing to the destruction of the planet by my lifestyle, which is very frugal.  I live in the inner city, use compact florescent bulbs,  drive less than 25 mile a week, use tote bags for all my shopping, recycle everything i can, buy used when i can.   I pick up recyclable “trash” when i am out and about – I toss is in my car and empty it when I take in household recycling.   90% of my crafting materials are acquired at thrift stores.

In order to bring my footprint size down now, I am becoming a vegetarian.  I was raised with meat at almost every meal.  I drastically cut my meat consumption in the 90s when I began learning how we get that meat to the table.  I didn’t want to face the fact that even eating a little supports an industry that is destructive.  I bought what is called eco-friendly,  but if i am eating more that what is sustainable how do i know?  I don’t.  Sure there is some amount of meat I could eat that would fall within the carrying capacity of the planet, but what is the amount?  How do I determine that amount.  And with a growing population, that number is going to get smaller and smaller.  Easier to just give up the meat.

Doing so gets my eco footprint down to 1.83 earths – still too high.  But I can’t do everything at once and I’d rather give up meat than my car.

The Earth produces a finite amount of resources There is so much temptation to consume all kinds of things and since I am of this culture, I am conditioned to it, but I have been fighting that conditioning since I was a little child.

No matter what I do, everybody has their own personal ethics system.   I can only change myself.  If I come to the determination that I need to change because what I am doing is unethical, then I need to change.

I don’t know if it is possible to live in balance with what the earth can provide and still have any mobility.  If i stick with being a vegetarian and switch to public transit, I am still at 1.65 – not sustainable.  But it is closer.

I have to try.  Must,  because I know the only ethical way to really live and have any contentment is to be within the regenerative carrying capacity of Earth.

How do you feel about your ecological footprint?  Do you feel obligated to try to live sustainably?  I hope so, because we are all in this together.

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