What can be the greatest impact on a person's ecological footprint? Why?What can be the greatest impact on a person's ecological footprint? Why?

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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a great question. There will be differences of opinions on this one, but in the end it is a very important question.

First it is good to define what an ecological footprint is. The ecological footprint is a the amount of the earth resources a person or nation uses. This includes the use of food, water, transportation, housing, waste management, and other things a person may need to sustain life.

In all my reading, it seems that the world's need for energy is creating the greatest ecological impact. If you think about it we use more energy now than every before. We need more and more energy and there is less of the earth's resources to meet these needs. Moreover, as the rest of the world wants to live like Americans, there will be more energy needs in the future.

The implications are far reaching. Think about what companies need to do to gain oil. Deep sea drilling is one of them. This is not only dangerous, but harmful to life. The BP oil spill is a case in point. To meet the demands of Japan's energy needs, they build nuclear reactors. Look at what happened this summer with the meltdown. In short, our need for energy is great and it is adversely affecting our environment. In light of this, the greatest impact on a person's ecological footprint is the need for energy.

pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with #3 that cultural views are very important; I would add that large houses are a very significant impact in this regard. In the US, family sizes are getting smaller and smaller, but homes are getting larger and larger, a trend that is clearly unnecessary.

I think that figuring our out your personal impact must take into account where you live. People who live in an apartment in the city and who use mass transportation have a different ecological footprint than those who live in rural areas; it's not necessarily smaller, but the way the impact is distributed is different. For that city apartment dweller, food and the transportation of food may be a large factor in footprint, whereas for a rural person driving may be more significant. Similarly, consider your climate; heating and cooling of homes may be an important part of your impact, but it varies a lot from place to place.

You can check out your own carbon footprint using a number of online calculators. Here's one good one to try: http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

trophyhunter1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
What can be the greatest impact on a person's ecological footprint? Why?

What can be the greatest impact on a person's ecological footprint? Why?

Refers to the average amount of water and land needed to supply someone with waste disposal, food, housing, transportation, water and energy. The more highly developed a society is, the greater the ecological footprint is of the individuals who live in that society. Residents of highly developed nations produce more waste in the form of garbage, use more energy for things like air conditioning and heat as well as the many automobiles people own. The creature comforts people desire in developed nations require more acres of land to supply the need for food, shelter, energy, etc. Therefore, I guess you could say the greatest affect on an individual 's ecological footprint is the type of lifestyle they are accustomed to.

boblawrence eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great question!  One's ecological footprint depends mostly on the amount of energy used by the individual or in support of that individual.  So a Bantu native, subsisting on crops and hunted animals and living outdoors would occupy the low end of the spectrum.

As an example of a person occupying the high end, I would cite the President of the United States.  Imagine the energy consumption of the White House, his motorcade and Air Force One!

In terms of us average citizens, I would say that the determination of our footprint would depend on our life style, simple and Spartan, versus thoroughly wired to technology, living in a huge house, and each family member driving a large SUV.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The way in which we transport ourselves around is an obvious one, but I think what we consume, and then throw away, in our households leaves the larger footprint.  We live in a disposable society based on convenience and cost efficiency.  The food we eat is heavily packaged and processed, then shipped, on average, hundreds of miles to our plates.  Plastic bags, plastic bottles, food containers, boxes, etc. are thrown away on a daily basis.  It's even worse if we go out to a fast food restaurant, as the amount of garbage each person generates each time they have one such meal is staggering.  And, as other have pointed out, it's all voluntary.  We can choose to do differently.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The greatest impact is cultural.  Most of the things discussed in the previous post assume that huge amounts of energy are necessary for each person.  However, this is not necessarily the case.  It is our culture that says we need to have as many cars as we do and that we need to warm them up for 15 minutes before getting in them in the winter so we don't have to do something like wearing a coat.  It's our culture that says that we need to have more and more electronics and they must be bigger and bigger (at least in terms of TVs).  Therefore, it is our culture that is the ultimate cause of our ecological footprint.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think as well part of the culture that determines our ecological footprint is the sense of entitlement or expectation. There are so many people who live in the Western world who believe that they deserve or have a right to a big house and a big vehicle, that in turn greatly enlarges the size of their ecological footprint. Until we can challenge this sense of entitlement and the various rights that people believe they should have, it will be very difficult to encourage people to size down their ecological footprint.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

On a personal level, becoming more informed of the impact each individual has will allow each individual to make changes in how they use the resources available. Just learning, in actual gallons, how much water I was using to take my 10 minute shower each morning made me first swap out my shower head for a low-flow type and then I made a conscience effort to shower in less time. It might not make a big difference, but as more and more people learn more and more about these types of issues, changes can be made.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would completely agree that it has to do with culture. Communities/societies with smaller footprints are as they are based upon the way that the people choose to live (for the most part). As stated in both #3 and #4, American culture simply kills the chance to lower one's footprint. Bigger homes 9with smaller families makes no sense. Televisions in every room--make no sense.

Simply, one's culture has the greatest impact on reducing, or enlarging, an individual's footprint.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After the Great Depression of the 1930s, people redefined what necessities were.  Clearly, the impact nowadays upon the ecology is cultural as many Americans, for example, believe there is no shortage of natural resources.  And, it is also the sheer numbers of people.

nathanshields eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It should be mentioned that animal agriculture is a larger contributor to carbon emissions than the whole of transportation, and that a vegetarian diet greatly reduces one's carbon footprint.

atejava | Student

In reply:

the evidence is in: eating considerably less meat, particularly, red meat over your lifetime is the most effective way to reduce your carbon foot print... if the world became vegetarian tomorrow.. the carbon issue would be resolved....

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