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