Shifting public policy to achieve a sustainable economy, a healthy environment and a just society.


Reducing Your Footprint

Footprints are the result of many individual choices as well as the activities and policies of government, corporations, and civic institutions. There are numerous ways you can reduce your footprint, improve your quality of life, and influence policy so that future generations have the same opportunities to enjoy rich and rewarding lives.
Learn more about what you can do:


When you take action and commit to reduce your own footprint, you can inspire and engage others to do the same.

Take action

The most effective actions individuals can take involve changing energy use associated with transportation and powering your home, as well as purchasing socially and environmentally responsible products. We have teamed with New American Dream to identify 10 personal actions you can take to protect the planet. Learn more at Turn the Tide: 10 Actions for the Planet.

Ecological Footprint

Inspire others

While lifestyle changes can reduce the size of an individual's Ecological Footprint, the Footprint also can inspire others and help society build sustainable ways of life for all. To achieve sustainability, we have to ask difficult questions about how we want to live and use the resources of this planet. Answering these questions as a society means sharing our concerns with friends and neighbors, and with leaders of government and business.

Engage friends

Start a conversation by asking others about their social and ecological concerns. Encourage people to take the Ecological Footprint Quiz, and then compare your results. Get involved with global and local movements for social change, or start your own movement.

Involve community leaders

Invite business and political leaders to track resource use in communities, organizations, and nations. Encourage your schools to teach students about the Ecological Footprint. Use the Ecological Footprint to ask for accountability so we can encourage what works for the planet and discourage damaging activities.

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Communities and City Officials

Cities and regions can reduce their Ecological Footprints and enhance sustainability by working together toward positive change.

Measure the community's Footprint

Ask a local elected official or member of the environmental or planning commission to have Redefining Progress calculate the city's footprint. We'll identify the biggest components of the city's footprint and help develop policies that will reduce the footprint's size.

Analyze environmental and economic impacts

Team up with a local organization that has the resources and influence to get the job done. Community members and city officials can request an analysis of the environmental and economic impacts of alternative land use scenarios using the footprint and economic indicators. Redefining Progress conducts these analyses for cities, counties, and regions.

Plan mixed-use neighborhoods

Support mixed use development—high-density housing with nearby public transportation, stores, schools, offices, and entertainment—to minimize sprawl and the need to drive. The key is to support government policies that provide jobs that match local residents' needs, so they don't have to commute out of town for work.

Construct green buildings

Environmentally friendly construction materials and energy-efficient designs can have an enormous effect on society's use of natural resources. Zoning regulations can mandate or provide incentives for low-footprint buildings and building materials. Cities can mandate that certain proportions of their power must come from renewable energy sources.

Buy locally grown foods

Food items travel an average of 1,300 miles. Establish a farmer's market or frequent an existing market to improve access to local, organic produce and reduce the transportation footprint of food. Find a farmers market near you.

Advocate for public transportation

Better public transit and bike lanes can reduce our need for car transportation. The Surface Transportation Policy Project is a nationwide coalition working to ensure smarter transportation choices that improve public health, promote social equity, and protect the environment. Local communities can learn about transportation alternatives and join the project to advocate for more sustainable transportation.

Protect green spaces

Support urban gardens, plant trees, and protect open space. Healthy soil filters rainwater, maintains a healthy water cycle, and replenishes groundwater supplies. Protect existing ecologically productive areas such as surrounding wildlands and local farms.

Implement natural waste treatment systems

Encourage developers to integrate natural waste treatment systems, such as wetlands, into sewage treatment methods. This both maintains the water and nutrient flow of the ecosystem and minimizes the Ecological Footprint (and cost) of traditional sewage treatment facilities.

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As institutions with enormous influence on the use of the planet's resources, businesses are key to making sustainability work. Assume a leadership role by using Ecological Footprints to:

Communicate clearly

The Ecological Footprint is a tool for communicating clearly about the complex topic of sustainability, both within organizations and with the general public. For example, the Footprint offers a much-needed complement to conventional indicators on the state of nations, such as the Gross Domestic Product.

Evaluate risks

Decision-makers can use the Ecological Footprint to estimate more comprehensively the ecological implications—and potential economic and social strains—of various courses of action. For example, the Footprint provides a framework for measuring the wide range of material and energy inputs required to maintain a given industrial process or build a particular structure.

Set specific, observable goals

Leaders can develop specific, observable goals for an organization or community using the Ecological Footprint as a framework. The Footprint helps ensure internal and external accountability, guiding business and government to design products and policies that prepare for a sustainable world.

Test policy options

The Ecological Footprint allows businesses to explore the implications of policy options. It provides policymakers with a common analytical platform to compare the consequences of various material and energy use scenarios, and to test sustainability strategies.

Redefining Progress can calculate Ecological Footprints for businesses. For more information, see our Indicators Analysis and Economic Analysis services for clients.

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Schools and Campuses

Calculate your school or college campus' Ecological Footprint as part of a course project. Identify the components that have been the largest footprint contributors over time and show student groups, facilities, and staff how they can reduce their footprint. See more resources for Footprint Education in our section For Educators.

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Register to vote and vote for candidates who support:

  • Renewable energy policies
  • Highly fuel-efficient modes of transportation
  • Protecting existing ecologically productive lands
  • Restoring degraded natural areas
  • Promoting organic and local food sources
  • Setting standards for recycled product procurement policies and fair trade

Keep score

The League of Conservation Voters publishes an annual scorecard on the environmental voting records of members of Congress. The scorecard may help you find candidates who support policies like those mentioned above.

Support green purchasing programs

Check out New American Dream's Institutional Purchasing Program to learn how improved procurement practices by government agencies across the country have reduced their ecological impact and saved money. Tell your elected representative about the program and ensure they support it.

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