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DATE: April 10, 2002
Richard Hoppe (Earth Day Network: 202-518-0044)
Craig Cheslog (Redefining Progress: 510-444-3041)


Washington D.C. -- Cars, cows, sprawl, and oil are just a few of the factors that account for the gigantic size of the "footprint" Americans make on the global environment, according to a new online yardstick unveiled today by Earth Day Network and Redefining Progress.

The Ecological Footprint Quiz, created by Redefining Progress, is a scientifically based tool that allows individuals to calculate the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to produce the resources they use and absorb the wastes they produce. The Ecological Footprint measurement is also used to assess the impact communities, nations, and the world as a whole.

The quick and easy 15-question Footprint Quiz can be found at

Currently, the Footprint Quiz is available for 58 countries, ranging from the U.S. to Nigeria, and can be accessed in English, French, Spanish and German. It will soon be available in additional languages.

The average American uses 24 global acres to support his or her current lifestyle. This corresponds to the size of 24 football fields (without their end zones) put together. In comparison, the average Canadian lives on a Footprint 30 percent less, and the average Italian on a Footprint 60 percent less than the average American.

"If everyone lived like the average American, we would need 5.3 planets to support us," noted Michel Gelobter, executive director of Redefining Progress.

According to Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network, "this is rock solid evidence of what I call the 'six and 60' problem we must tackle. The United States has just six percent of the world's population yet consumes 60 percent of its resources. This is a formula for disaster. The answer is actually startling simple: when millions of people take a small action to improve the Earth, we get a very large solution.

Earth Day Network and Redefining Progress are launching a worldwide campaign to have individuals take the Ecological Footprint Quiz. The submitted results will be compiled and the findings will be presented to world leaders at the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. Earth Day Network is coordinating with its 5,000 affiliates in 184 countries to incorporate the Footprint Quiz into Earth Day activities and events.

"For the first time, world leaders will have a crystal clear picture of the immense imbalance between what we take from the earth and what's available to support us," said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. The Johannesburg Summit "will be the place and time for past promises to become tomorrows actions and the Footprints of millions can lead the way for world leaders," she added.

Footprint results are calculated in "global acres." Each of those acres corresponds to one acre of biologically productive space with world average productivity. Today, there are 4.5 global acres of biologically productive space available per person on the Earth. In contrast, the global average Footprint size is 5.6 global acres per person, a figure over 25 percent higher than the Earth's ecological capacity.

"We are eroding the planet's natural capital on which we depend" Gelobter said. "In business, drawing down assets to finance ongoing operations is recognized as a strategy that ultimately weakens an enterprise. The same is true for the planet."

Redefining Progress is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Oakland, California. Redefining Progress develops policies and tools to internalize the economy's hidden social and environmental costs (the Accurate Prices Program), to transform the human use and distribution of the Earth's natural resources (the Sustainability Program), and to restore the value of shared social and natural assets (the Common Assets Program). These three goals come together in Redefining Progress's advocacy of fair and low-cost policies to reverse climate change (the Climate Change Project).

Earth Day Network was founded to carry on the spirit and actions of the very first Earth Day in 1970. Today, Earth Day Network includes more than 5,000 organizations in 184 nations and more than 90,000 K-12 educators in the United States. Our mission is to promote a healthy environment and a peaceful, just, sustainable world by spreading environmental awareness through educational materials and publications, and by organizing events, activities, and annual campaigns. Our goal is to build broad-based citizen support for sound, workable, and effective environmental policies.