Initially, I had not expected my ecological footprint to be as big as it turned out. I calculated 8.35 hectares. My footprint seemed to be average, however, as compared to Kevin’s ecological footprint of 7.05 hectares, Kimi’s ecological footprint of 12.45 hectares, and Yoonha’s ecological footprint of 7.35 hectares, my footprint fell in near the middle of the range. From calculating my footprint, I was also able to see which actions increased my footprint the most. The top ten actions are as follows.
- Buying brand new clothes
- Using a shoe box’s worth of garbage everyday
- Eating imported, non-local food
- Eating non-organic food
- Eating a lot of meat every week
- Taking the car everyday
- Using warm/hot water
- Eating factory-raised chicken
- Not composting all my fruit and veggies
- Watering the garden every week
Some of these actions can be changed for a bit of inconvenience, and the ones I plan to change are as follows.
- Using less garbage. Currently my daily garbage fits into a shoe box, but I could easily fit my garbage into something much smaller, such as a cup, or have no garbage at all. I can use less garbage by buying less packaged foods, and by trying to buy food that isn’t packed in plastic. I can also use paper bags instead of plastic bags when shopping. Paper bags are compostable and using them will allow me to use less plastic.
- Eating local food. Since I seem to buy a lot of non-local produce, I could try to buy more local BC produce, such as apples, pears, and peaches. While they might be a bit more expensive, buying local will allow me to lower my ecological footprint substantially. I could also grow some of my food, such as lettuce, corn, and peppers, as there happens to be a plot of land in my backyard.
- Walking. Although I walk home most days, it has almost become a morning routine for me to take the car in the morning. With my house only being a 20-25 minute walk away from school, I can definitely try to get up a bit earlier and walk to school. School isn’t the only place to walk to. I can also walk to libraries and grocery stores. While I may lose a few minutes of sleep, walking will allow me to burn less fossil fuels and might even prove to be physically beneficial.
- Not using warm/hot water. I will only use cold water for showering, brushing my teeth, washing my hands, washing my face, and washing my clothes. Using less water and using colder water is not very difficult to do, as I can just turn the tap the other direction and the water magically turns cold, so this will be easy to do as long as I stick to the plan.
- Eating more organic food. Factory raised food and certain methods of agriculture aren’t very sustainable, and organic farming is relatively sustainable. This would be a pretty easy thing for me to change, as most major grocery stores carry organic produce and I could easily substitute my non-organic veggies for organic veggies. Also, with organic produce becoming more and more affordable, buying organic won’t make a really significant difference in my family.
After a week of following the plan to the best of my ability, I can say that the experience has had it’s share of ups and downs. First off, the good news. Using cold water proved to be a success. When washing my hands, I’m usually too lazy to turn both taps, so using cold water to wash my hands was very easy. Showering on the other hand was not as easy. The first few days were relatively brutish, as my body was not used to the ice cold water, which was a sharp contrast with the warm, soothing water that relaxed and embraced me every night. The temptation to slightly turn the hot water tap was great and bracing myself to voluntarily be rained on by bullets of cold water proved to be mentally difficult. Eventually, I managed to endure it, and with the weather getting warmer, I found that a cold shower was pretty refreshing. Also, having a cold shower also drastically lowered my shower time to about two minutes, which was a pleasant surprise. I also found using less garbage to be easy, as I was able to buy less goods packaged in plastic. I managed to purchase pasta, rice, and cereal packed in cardboard boxes or paper bags, instead of those packaged in plastic bags, which really decreased my garbage, as I could simply compost the paper bags and the cardboard boxes could be recycled. Some of my changes, however, were only partially successful and were a bit challenging. Waking up early and walking to school was a bit harder than I had initially expected. With extracurricular activities running late into the night and AprilMayJune sinking in, I found that waking up with less than seven hours of sleep was quite difficult. I only managed to walk in the morning to school a few times, but I did walk to grocery stores and libraries instead of taking the car. Eating local and eating organic was a bit difficult, as being an ardent consumer of fruit, I found out that while I was buying more local apples and pears, I was still buying imported tropical fruits that didn’t grow in B.C. Organic milk, tofu and veggies were easy, but the rest, such as meat and tropical fruits were still not organic. The main obstacle to this was availability. Certain meats and tropical fruits, such as starfruit or dragon fruit, were not available organically, and organic food turned out to be a lot pricier than I had initially expected. Since the food was meant for the entire family, buying everything organically for the entire family was financially not possible. To conclude, I managed to accomplish all my goals, either partially or completely, but faced obstacles, such as mentally waking up with little sleep and financial obstacles.
In the future, I plan to improve on these five changes. Walking, eating smarter, and eating local are all things that can gradually be adapted into my lifestyle, and I hope that by doing so, I will be able to decrease my ecological footprint. After improving on these five changes, I plan to start changing the other five actions that increased my ecological footprint.