Ecological Footprint

Bill Drummond
Bill Drummond
Associate Professor, School of City and Regional Planning

How would you describe this method?

Ecological footprint models calculate global, national, regional, or local supply of arable land (weighted by productivity) and compare it to the comprehensive demand for land. Global ecological footprint analysis finds that our current demand for resources is 50% higher than the planet’s available resources. The demand for arable land (ecological footprint) includes land required to produce products and land required to dispose of waste. It is calculated in categories that include cropland, grazing land, forest products, fishing grounds, urban land, and (forest) land for carbon sequestration. The available supply of land is the sum of cropland, forest land, etc. weighted by productivity.

How is this big idea used or could be used in your work, in relation to sustainable communities?

The ecological footprint provides a means to identify the gap between current practice and full sustainability at various levels from the neighborhood to the globe, and the method also allows the tracking of progress toward sustainability. Because the method utilizes basic units of land, it converts the somewhat abstract concept of “sustainability” into readily understandable units of acres (or hectares) on the ground.

Learn more:

World Wildlife Fund. (2014). Living planet report 2014; Species and spaces, people and places. London: World Wildlife Fund.

Wackernagel, M. and W. Rees. (1996). Our ecological footprint: Reducing human impact on the earth. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.