"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 2 1/2 times it's 'earthshare' - that means that if we were to be self sustaining, we would need an area 2 1/2 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 US, Islander's are doing really well - their footprint is a huge size 9 (and growing).

"So what's the point of measuring it all anyway?"

bulletIt is possible to get a better understanding of who is using the most resources and what can be done about reducing the levels.
bulletIt is an important yardstick that we can measure successes (and failures) against.
bulletIt makes is easier for us to set objectives for change.

"If everyone's footprint is higher than 1 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 1; Turkey is currently under 1; 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 ...

bulletUse 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!
bulletPut 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.
bulletREFUSE  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!)
bulletREUSE 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!
bulletRECYCLE surprisingly, although this is free and really easy, there are still too few of us doing it.  Recycling can take little effort - you can get a free 'black box' to recycle your glass, paper and textiles, and a 'green box' for your organic waste such as vegetable peelings and left overs.  If you would like a free box from Island Waste, please visit there website for more details (click here for ISLAND WASTE's website).  With the 'box' you simply put your newspapers, bottles or organic waste into it and leave it where you currently leave your rubbish.  The Biffa lorries take it when they collect your other rubbish.  Simple as that.

Other tips for saving money and reducing the size of the footprint are:

bulletTurn your heating down by 1c - this can knock 10% off of your heating bill
bulletShower rather than bath - it uses as little as 25% of the water
bulletSwitch off lights when leaving a room - you're not in them anyway!
bulletAvoid leaving your TV on stand-by - it uses nearly as much energy as if it is on!
bulletOnly boil enough water for your needs
bulletFill up empty space in your fridge or freezer with carrier bags filled with polystyrene
bulletDon't de-frost frozen food in a microwave, use the fridge
bulletTurn off your computer (and any other electrical appliance) when it is not being used
bulletTurn 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.
bulletCycle to work - you save money and you get fit!
bulletCar share, plan your travel route to take in recycling, shopping or leisure activities (include several things in one journey)
bulletHang thick curtains over doors and windows to keep in the heat.
WWF: Lessen your impact on your only planet...

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