“What is an ecological footprint?!”
Well, it’s easier to understand than you think, and easier to do something about than many of us realise!
The Isle of Wight currently uses 2½ times it’s ‘earthshare’ – that means that if we were to be self sustaining, we would need an area 2½ times bigger than it is at present. Although this may seem bad, the rest of the UK is averaging at 6.3 ( www.citylimitslondon.com , 2003). Europe as a whole has a footprint of 3, but compared to the United States, Islanders are doing really well – the American footprint is a huge size 9 (and growing).
“So what’s the point of measuring it all anyway?”
- It is possible to get a better understanding of who is using the most resources and what can be done about reducing the levels.
- It is an important yardstick that we can measure successes (and failures) against.
- It makes is easier for us to set objectives for change.
“If everyone’s footprint is higher than one and we’re all surviving, isn’t it a waste of time?”
Absolutely not! Thankfully there are many countries who are using less than one, which means that we can off set our’s against their’s. Strangely, it is the developing countries who are better at it than us. China, the country with the biggest population has a footprint of less than one; Turkey is currently under one; likewise are many of the African countries. So it can be done!
For the record, cities are the worst of all. London has a massive ecological footprint of 293! No, that’s not a typing error, it really says two hundred and ninety three! ( www.citylimitslondon.com , 2003) Of course the reason for this isn’t because Londoner’s are incredibly wasteful, but because of the huge number of businesses that are located in the UK’s capital city.
“So what can I do?”
You can help by reducing the amount of energy you use by …
- Use low energy light bulbs – these will save between £10 and £20 per year. Ignore the rubbish you heard about them taking half an hour to warm up and then only giving a dim light, forget the nonsense that they are all the size of footballs and listen to the facts! You can buy them from as little as £2 to £15, depending on the size, shape and of course, the shop. The electricity companies often put flyers in bills giving special offers – there is no catch, the Government are telling companies such as Southern Electric that they must reduce energy outputs, this is the easiest and cheapest way for them! The Footprint Trust also give them out free to households at events (such as the Garlic Festival, the Chale Show and Apple Days Festival) so next time you see us, don’t ignore us, we can genuinely save you cash!
- Put a hog in your bog – if like many people up and down the country, your toilet looks like Niagara Falls each time you flush, put a ‘Bog Hog’ in the cistern (they have lots of names, including ‘Hippo’, ‘Save a Sack’ and many more). These work by displacing a volume of water, approximately one litre, so in the course of a year the average toilet will save £5. A brick also works, as do stones and bottles. If you have a new loo (one of the slim variety) you are already doing your bit as the cisterns are smaller and so take less water.
- REFUSE packaging wherever possible, think about taking the extra carrier bag – can you do without it? Think more carefully about buying products with excess packaging (for example, the chocolate in an Easter Egg works out to be five times more expensive than that in a bar!)
- REUSE items such as carrier bags (if you can’t refuse them in the first place of course!) Many people use them as bin liners, only to fill them up with yet more carrier bags! Shops such as Somerfield are now using ‘biodegradable’ bags which are better than the alternative, but not as good as the good old fashioned shopping bags that your Gran used to use!
- RECYCLE surprisingly, although this is free and really easy, there are still too few of us doing it. Recycling can take little effort – and a lot of stuff really can be recycled, even if it says it can’t. See the Isle of Wight Council’s useful pages all about how to recycle on the Island. Then recycle what you can. Simple as that.
Other tips for saving money and reducing the size of the footprint are:
- Turn your heating down by 1°c – this can knock 10% off of your heating bill
- Shower rather than bath – it uses as little as 25% of the water
- Switch off lights when leaving a room – you’re not in them anyway!
- Avoid leaving your TV on stand-by – it uses nearly as much energy as if it is on!
- Only boil enough water for your needs
- Fill up empty space in your fridge or freezer with carrier bags filled with polystyrene
- Don’t de-frost frozen food in a microwave, use the fridge
- Turn off your computer (and any other electrical appliance) when it is not being used
- Turn off your computer monitor – forget fancy screen savers, if you aren’t there to work, you are not there to see the pretty patterns either! Use the energy saving feature instead.
- Cycle to work – you save money and you get fit!
- Car share, plan your travel route to take in recycling, shopping or leisure activities (include several things in one journey)
- Hang thick curtains over doors and windows to keep in the heat.