Ecological footprint: action required

Ecological footprint: action required

Ecological footprint: action required

A recent article by the World Economic Forum really kept me thinking about a subject, which already had been on my mind for quite some time, but it reminded me again of our collective responsibility: how to better manage our ecological footprint.

The article (click here for more information) states regarding the global picture: “Earth Overshoot Day – the point at which humans use more than the world’s resources – takes place earlier and earlier each year. This year it will fall in July. Up until the 1970s, the planet was able to produce more than we consumed on an annual basis: now we are using up resources at a rate of 1.7 Earths a year”.

Viewing the graphs in the article, I must admit I’m quite worried and also shocked that there hasn’t been any real progress to be seen during the last few years.

That we focus on CO2 footprint reduction, in order to limit global warming, is great and essential. Yes, our circular economy thinking is becoming more and more part of our daily lives but does it really encompass all aspects? Shouldn’t our entire personal focus be much more about looking at our own ecological footprint and what our behaviour results into?

To be honest: I need to rethink what this all means for my personal life. We take things for granted, as I live in a part of the world where there are no shortages. Except perhaps the somewhat restricted and smart use of drinking water in case we experience a hot summer, like we did last year.

Shouldn’t we develop more insight into our daily life patterns and what this all means for our ecological footprint. We started to link products now with CO2 emissions over its product lifecycle. From creation, and usage to end of life situation. But to be perfectly honest, we are only in the early stages yet. Yes, I know that when I drive my car, what the CO2 emission has been. The public discussions on meat and its environmental impact is becoming larger. But to know the CO2 numbers for, for example, eating a peanut-butter sandwich few times a week is another thing. You may consider the latter a ‘silly example’, but it illustrates that we must make this subject of ‘ecological footprint’ very concrete and approach it in a very pragmatic manner. And to be honest: we still have a long way to go. So practical guidance is required. And I’m realistic enough to see that this will be a difficult journey, viewing how the Netherlands is struggling with the energy transition and what this means for a normal household.

Hence our, or at least my focus on this subject must change. How to do this most effectively? I’m not sure yet, but at least I will try to do my best. The difficult part will be to change our living habits. The minimum action is to write about it and to create discussion and hence awareness. Not by pointing fingers, but by engaging each other in information-sharing encounters. Because by knowing and realising, we can act better.

Ideally each product should have, besides the obvious euro value, a CO2 value and an Eco value. I recently mentioned to a colleague: let’s use the analogy of the airmiles card, and see if we can visualise each product into actual environmental contributions and savings. We have the technologies to support us, so nothing is stopping us, except perhaps our own willingness.

Note: The author of this article, Thijs Aarten, is involved with various transition projects.