What is your ecological footprint?

Everything you do takes its toll on nature.

Imagine your day-to-day, your routine, what you eat, what your wear, how you get to work or to school, how do you go on holidays… do you have any idea of how big your ecological footprint is? How many resources you use up? How many planets do we need to keep consumption at current levels?

A small step for mankind, a big help for the Earth

The metric used to calculate the relation between human activities and natural resources consumption in our planet is called Ecological Footprint. This means that the ecological footprint measures the impact that each one of us has on the environment and tells us how many planets humanity would need if everyone on Earth had the same behaviour.

This concept arose in the 90’s but steadily gained popularity and, fast-forward to nowadays, it is used to measure the impact that mankind has on the terrestrial ecosystem, being also a measurement of how the world economy depends on Earth’s natural resources.

Evidently, a small ecological footprint is ideal. This means that the less planets we need to support our lifestyle, the better – especially since we only have this one.

Not to be confused with Carbon Footprint

The carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced by human activities. This means that the carbon footprint "is part" of the ecological footprint.

What goes into my ecological footprint?

Your ecological footprint (and everyone’s for that matter) is affected by every single thing you do. From from the amount of water used at home, to the leaky kitchen tap, the morning coffee on your way to work, the choice of more energy-efficient appliances, eating more processed food or using cars… In fact it’s all connected.

Did you know that choosing local produce helps reduce your ecological footprint? For a very simple reason: if the fresh produce you use is locally sourced, on the one hand, less petrol will be needed to transport it; on the other hand, with shorter travel distances, the cooling needs of certain groceries are also reduced, thus minimising the amount of energy spent on this type of operation.

Oops! I have a giant ecological footprint… what now?

If your ecological footprint is larger than it should (one planet or less), the only way is to try and reduce it. This starts with a change of habits. To reduce you ecological footprint try:

Reducing the ecological footprint is caring for our planet.
  • Saving water, electricity and gas – know the top water wasters at home;
  • Traveling more using public transportation, and less by car. If it really is impossible to avoid using your car, try ride sharing with your co-workers, for example;
  • Walking, jogging or cycling to work;
  • Having at least one vegetarian meal a week;
  • Saying good riddance to single-use plastics. Choose a thermos or reusable cup for your coffee breaks or fabric tote bags to carry your groceries;
  • Not wasting food. Know 9 tips to avoid food waste;
  • Buying local, be it food, clothes or other items;
  • Recycling and reusing whenever possible;
  • Choosing renewable energies.

Ecological Footprint: How many Earths does the world need?

Based on 2021 data, the current global ecological footprint is of about 1.7 planets. This means that the world needs almost two Earths to be able to support its lifestyle. The latest numbers put the UK’s ecological footprint in 2.6 Earths – which means that if all the seven billion people on the planet lived the same way as UK residents, we’d need more than two and half planets.

The ecological footprint obviously changes from country to country and the 2021 data suggests that developed countries are using much more resources than developing ones – being the US, Australia and European countries in the lead.

The Jerónimo Martins Group is present in Portugal, where the ecological footprint corresponds to 2.8 planets on Earth, in Poland, where the ecological footprint corresponds to 2.9 planets, and in Colombia, where the ecological footprint is 1.2 planets.

Overshoot day happens every year…

The idea of ecological footprint is tightly linked with another, more recent, concept: the Overshoot Day. This is not, however, a day to be celebrated, but rather to be avoided.

The D day

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when the natural resources consumption exceeds the planet’s capacity to regenerate said resources in that same year. This is, simply put, the day in which the world has used up all the resources available for that entire year.

Complicated? We’ll make it simple. Think of resources as money: a salary must last, at least, for a whole month, right? Now, if this monthly salary is spent in just half a month, the remainder of the month will be in the red. The same thing happens with the Earth Overshoot Day: if we use up all of the natural resources our planet is able to provide for a whole year in just a few months, the rest of the year will be in the red as well.

Although every country has its own date – according to that country’s habits, traditions, and approach to renewable energies – there is a yearly date that applies to the whole planet. In 2021, the Earth Overshoot Day takes place on July 29. The organisation that does all the math on Overshoot Day explains that the global Ecological Footprint increased by 6.6% compared to 2020, the year that registered the furthest Earth Overshoot Day day since 2006 (August 22). Although the lockdown caused a sharp drop in CO2 emissions during the first six months of the year, the story quickly reversed in the following months. At the same time, the organisation adds that deforestation and degradation of the Amazon forest also contributed to this substantial decrease in the number of days.