Making an impression, leaving a mark; these are all phrases we use when describing impacts that are being made. The term “footprint” is more appropriate in describing this act of leaving a trace. Footprints are the impressions or images left behind by a person walking or running. (en.m.wikepedia).

 It is a common misconception to think footprints are only made when we walk or run on land. Pressures/impacts made through other human activities can also be referred to as footprints. With the current state of the climate, it is more than obvious that we are making footprints not just on land, but on the environment and Earth as a whole. These marks made on the environment are called Environmental footprints.

Due to it's broadness, definitions of environmental footprints vary. In simple terms, it is the impression made on the Earth system. It could be defined as an attempt at measuring the effects that an individual has on the environment. The concept also includes the effect of businesses, companies, countries, processes and products on the environment. 

An Environmental footprint, also known as ecological footprint, is a means of estimating the use and/or emissions of resources. In terms of resources use and emissions, the examples of environmental footprints are carbon footprints, water footprints, land footprints etc.

Ecological footprint is often seen as the measurement of the single effect of an activity, however, this method seeks to evaluate the ripple effect an activity can produce on the environment. For instance, the environmental footprint of a product is not the impact of its disposal but the impact of its production, use and disposal on the environment. This means, the complete life-cycle of a product is considered to correctly determine its Environmental footprint.

Whenever the topic of environmental footprints comes up, it is convenient to adopt the "I-am-just-one-person" mentality, deceiving ourselves into thinking our individual actions are not enough to make environmental impacts on the Earth system. This would only make sense, of course, if you were the only human on earth, but seeing as there are over 7 billion humans currently living globally, we definitely have a problem. Prevalent environmental problems such as global warming caused by carbon footprints, air/land pollution, can be reduced if everyone paid attention to their actions. Actions that are seemingly harmless, e.g eating, as well as obvious harmful ones like burning, contribute to our individual environmental footprint.

Have you ever thought of the multiple impacts one human activity like burning a note book would make on the environment? Now imagine the environmental impact if half the world's population was doing that at different corners of the earth at similar time intervals. 3.5 billion notebooks being burnt at the same time, now that sounds like an action that will make a huge environmental footprint.

Let us take a little break and think on this question;

What would the Earth look like if everyone acted the way you do? 

Are you able to determine the answer?

Let's rephrase the question.

If Environmental footprint is a quantity, and the number of planet earths required is its unit of measurement, how many planets would it take to sustain the world if everyone does like you do? 

Does it sound like an abstract question with no specific answer?

Well, this is exactly what the Ecological footprint calculator aims to measure. The Ecological footprint calculator is a means devised, to not just measure the environmental impacts of certain human activities, rather, to determine the number of Earths that would possibly sustain such environmental impact.

For example, did you know the comparison of the Environmental footprints of Nigeria and the globe indicated that it required 0.81 planets to live the way Nigerians were living globally? Thus, the environmental Footprint of Nigeria is about half of the world's? (Global footprint network report, 2006)

This month, we aim to show the relationship between individual environmental footprints and the global environmental consequences. You many be just one person but we are over 7 billion people, your littlest actions count on this journey towards environmental footprint sustainability.

Ifeoluwa Joy Adeyemi

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