The Ecological Footprint (EF) is a resource accounting tool that measures how much biologically productive land and sea is used by a given population or activity, and compares this to how much land and sea is available. As defined by the EF standards, the Ecological Footprint calculates how much biologically productive area is required to produce the resources required by the human population for consumption and absorption of waste.
In short, EF is a measure of the demands that people place on nature. More specifically, the EF measures how much biologically productive land and water area is required to produce all the resources a given population consumes and to absorb the waste it generates.
Why Do We Need Ecological Footprinting?
We depend on nature for a steady supply of the basic requirements for life, i.e. food, energy, mobility, housing etc. To ensure good living conditions, it is important to make sure that nature’s productivity is not used up more quickly than it is renewed. Similarly, waste is not discharged more quickly than the nature’s capacity to absorb it. Assessment of ecological performance helps us to know exactly where we are and where we need to be. It also gives an indication as to what activities need to be reduced and to what extent so as to minimize or at best avoid human suffering caused by an ecological down turn.
Just as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is used as a standard benchmark to gauge economic performance similarly, for estimating the status of ecological assets of a certain region or of a certain community reliance Ecological Footprint (EF) is calculated.
Co-originated in the early 1990’s by Professor William Rees and Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, EF is a resource accounting tool that measures how much land and water area an entity (individual, group of people, human activity) requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its wastes under prevailing technology.
Primarily a scientific tool, the ecological footprint has been widely used in sustainability analyses for over a decade in academic, government, non-profit, education, and business circles. Its strength lies not only in the fact that it embodies a vast amount of information in a single quantitative measure, but also in its ability to facilitate decision makers in determining where to invest in order to reduce the consumption of natural materials and waste emissions, and thus increase sustainability.