Myles Thompson

Going Green

In Going Green on November 27, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Going green is going to be a challenge. In fact, I have no idea where to start. Just now I tweeted this question to several environmental organisations: does anyone know of a scale to measure an individual’s ‘greenness’? I’m looking for some sort of green fitness test to show where I’m failing and how I can improve. I’ll also send some emails to environmental specialists and see what they suggest. I’m hoping to take stock of my current lifestyle, and to repeat the process at the end of 2012 – to see how much I’ve progressed. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  1. Hello Myles, first of all, well done. I think you will find going green both challenging and rewarding, and ultimately a net benefit to you life. Anyway, what you are looking for is to measure your ‘ecological footprint’. here is the wikipedia definition:

    The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth’s ecosystems. It is a standardized measure of demand for natural capital that may be contrasted with the planet’s ecological capacity to regenerate.[1] It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population consumes, and to mitigate associated waste. Using this assessment, it is possible to estimate how much of the Earth (or how many planet Earths) it would take to support humanity if everybody followed a given lifestyle. For 2006, humanity’s total ecological footprint was estimated at 1.4 planet Earths – in other words, humanity uses ecological services 1.4 times as fast as Earth can renew them.[2] Every year, this number is recalculated — with a three year lag due to the time it takes for the UN to collect and publish all the underlying statistics.

    While the term ecological footprint is widely used,[3] methods of calculation vary. However, standards are now emerging to make results more comparable and consistent.[4]

    There are lots of online calculators of ecological footprint you can go to and see how you are doing now. Try this one for example:

    What you want to aim for, if you are to be a responsible member of this planet, is to have is a personal ecological footprint of around 1.3! The average in Denmark is 8.26 (!) one of the highest (worst) in the world acutally, worse than even the USA, so you might find you have a lot of work to do! (or you might find it very very easy to make big reductions.

    Here is the technical bit:

    Per capita ecological footprint (EF) is a means of comparing consumption and lifestyles, and checking this against nature’s ability to provide for this consumption. The tool can inform policy by examining to what extent a nation uses more (or less) than is available within its territory, or to what extent the nation’s lifestyle would be replicable worldwide. The footprint can also be a useful tool to educate people about carrying capacity and over-consumption, with the aim of altering personal behavior. Ecological footprints may be used to argue that many current lifestyles are not sustainable. Such a global comparison also clearly shows the inequalities of resource use on this planet at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

    In 2006, the average biologically productive area per person worldwide was approximately 1.8 global hectares (gha) per capita. The U.S. footprint per capita was 9.0 gha, and that of Switzerland was 5.6 gha per person, while China’s was 1.8 gha per person.[10][11] The WWF claims that the human footprint has exceeded the biocapacity (the available supply of natural resources) of the planet by 20%.[12] Wackernagel and Rees originally estimated that the available biological capacity for the 6 billion people on Earth at that time was about 1.3 hectares per person, which is smaller than the 1.8 global hectares published for 2006, because the initial studies neither used global hectares nor included bioproductive marine areas.

    In reality three things make up a majority of all the environmental impacts of consumption: personal transport, food and housing. If you really want to lower your impact you will have to look at you diet, the way and where you choose to travel, and how you heat and cool your home.

    I work for the European Commission in the Sustainable Consumption and Production department and would be happy to answer (or at least point you in the right direction) on any queestion you have about sustainable lifestyles.


    • Thanks very much Ben. I think this is exactly what I’m looking for. I’ll definitely be in touch.

  2. Hi Myles, congratulations on the commission! Looking forward to seeing your film. At National Geographic’s 360º Energy Diet we have been following people around the world as they try to cut their carbon footprints. There are lots of tips on this page:

    • Thanks Christina. Once I’ve recovered from jet lag (I just returned from Delhi), I’ll put a plan together.

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