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In 2000, I was introduced to the concept of the ecological footprint, and for the first time I realised how fundamentally unsustainable my lifestyle was. An environmental group had a small questionnaire in their magazine that could be used to estimate ones personal ecological footprint. It included questions on commuting habits, frequency of short-haul and long-haul flights, dietary habits, and others.

There are some similar calculators around on the internet. For example, I filled in the WWF footprint calculator which estimates I need 1.7 planets, but as it didn't even ask about the climate I live in, I very much doubt their methodology.

Are all such online calculators like that, or are there some efforts that are more serious at estimating ones personal ecological footprint?

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This is a really difficult question to answer but I might give this a try. As you already noticed, the WWF formula is quite strange and the results are intransparent. You always have to be careful with calculators like this. Mostly the footprints are too complex to simply calculate them on some website.

Anyways, I guess 1.7 planets refers to the ecological footprint of the whole mankind if every single human would live like you do.

If you want to calculate your own ecological footprint I would recommend a little excercise for school teachers and students "How big is my ecological footprint?" by Tim Turner. It can be found here (PDF) and takes about 1 hour. You have to answer 50 questions on the following topics.

  • Water usage
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Shelter
  • Energy usage
  • Clothing
  • ... and some fun facts to keep the students motivated.

The result is your ecological footprint measured in hectars/acres. But this is by far not scientific. It only helps you to understand the complexity of calculating footprints and might point out some of the most important influences on your ecological footprint.

You might also be interested in the complexity of calculating carbon footprints of various transportation options as discussed in this thread: Impact of various travelling options

  • D'oh, I just noticed Impact of various travelling options is your question, too :p – Afr Jan 30 '13 at 19:33
  • Just for fun, my "ecological footprint" is 8.51 hectares :) – Afr Jan 30 '13 at 19:44
  • I appreciated the answer from donSchoe with PDF "How big is my ecological footprint?" My suggestion is to practice the three R's. Reduce_Reuse_Recycle. The most important of these is the first R...Reduce. By reducing ones need (not suggested a reduced life)for something or reuse it. You are also avoiding the cost of recycling and the carbon footprint recycling has. – JimBo Jun 5 '15 at 5:45

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