Ecological Footprint

Published: 2021-09-14 11:30:08
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Category: Science

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Ecological Footprint[pic 1]Every human activity involves resources from the earth. An “ecological footprint” is the term often used to describe the impact of an activity on the environment. An ecological footprint is a quantitative measurement that estimates the amount of resources consumed and waste produced by an individual, a community, a population, or even a manufactured product. This complicated calculation combines the effects of various environment-related activities, which are measured in different units, into a single indicator of environmental sustainability. It shows the impact in terms of the land area of the earth that is required to sustain the activity. For example consider a typical bowl of breakfast cereal. Here is a list of some of the resources involved in getting that bowl of cereal to your table: The ingredients in the cereal came from plants, and to get these plants to grow a farmer needed a tract of land, water, soil, and usually, fertilizer. Processing and transporting the ingredients required energy (likely fossil fuels) and materials, such as trucks, each of which has its own footprint. Your bowl and spoon were made from raw materials that were mined somewhere on earth, and manufactured somewhere. The milk in the bowl of cereal came from a cow, which needed space to live, grass or feed to eat, and likely, electrical energy to run the machines that milked the cow. Transporting, pasteurizing, and packing the milk involved more land for roads, factories, and grocery stores. More natural resources were used to make the container (trees or fossil fuels). The milk had to be kept cool in a refrigerator, and refrigerators require electrical energy. Electricity is often produced by burning fossil fuels, which must be extracted from the earth, transported, and refined, and which release carbon dioxide when burned. Eventually you will throw away or recycle the cereal box and milk container, which will take up space in a landfill or be subject to more resource consumption at a recycling plant. The many components in the life cycle of the bowl of cereal include the raw materials, the energy used, and land needed. All the components require space on and resources from the earth. The ecological footprint of the bowl of cereal shows the land area it takes to sustain the entire life cycle of the bowl. In comparison, the ecological footprint of the bowl of cereal is likely to be larger than a bowl of fresh fruit from the same location that was not as heavily processed. This is because the fresh food requires fewer raw materials, less processing, and less energy. Challenge: Can the earth’s ecosystems sustain our current use of resources?? ProcedureCollect the necessary information listed on Student Sheet 4.1 “Ecological Footprint Survey Questions,” with your family, and bring the information to class. Go to and click on “How BIG is Your Ecological Footprint”. Answer the questions as accurately as you can. After completing the survey, record your “footprint in global acres” and the “number of planets”.Footprint in global acres_________Number of planets __________Share your results with your group. Compare your ecological footprint to those of others in the group, to average Americans, and to average individuals in other countries as shown in the table below. Ecological Footprint by CountryCountryAverage Area Needed to Sustain Activity (Acres/Person)Area Needed if the World Population Lived Like This (Number of Planets)Nigeria8.80.2India16.40.4Brazil31.60.8Japan 123.33.2United States246.46.3Predict what would happen if you changed one quality – the answer to one questions – in the survey. Write your prediction. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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