What is the Ecological Footprint? | WWF

What is the Ecological Footprint?

The Ecological Footprint is an environmental accounting tool that measures how much area of biologically productive land and water an individual, population or activity requires to produce all the resources it consumes and to absorb the waste it generates, using prevailing technology and resource management practices. 

How is the Ecological Footprint measured?

The Ecological Footprint measures the supply of and demand on nature. On the supply side, biocapacity represents the planet’s biologically productive land areas, such as forests, croplands, grazing lands and fishing grounds. These areas, especially if left unharvested, can also absorb much of the waste we generate, especially our carbon emissions.
Biocapacity can then be compared with humanity’s demand on nature: our Ecological Footprint. The Ecological Footprint represents the productive area required to provide the renewable resources humanity is using and to absorb its waste.  The productive area currently occupied by human infrastructure is also included in this calculation, since built-up land is not available for resource regeneration.

How is the Ecological Footprint calculated?

Humanity's Ecological Footprint is spread across six land use categories: cropland, grazing land, fishing grounds, forest, built-up area, and land for carbon absorption. 

An interesting way to look at ecological footprint is at the national level, and see how much countries consume versus how much they actually have. A nation’s consumption is calculated by adding imports to and subtracting exports from its national production. 

Results from this analysis represent the apparent consumption of biological capacity within a country. A country has an ecological reserve if its Footprint is smaller than its biocapacity; otherwise it is operating with an ecological deficit. Today, most countries, and the world as a whole, are running ecological deficits.

To learn more about the Ecological Footprint, its method, accounting framework and input data, visit: footprintnetwork.org



Check out this video on the UAE's Ecological Footprint, with the animation made out of newspaper!