What impact is your lifestyle having on planet Earth’s resources?
While success is often measured by money and things; Greener Neighbourhood participants are challenged to consider a different approach to health, wealth and happiness.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, an eco-footprint measures the effect of a person’s lifestyle on the planet’s resource, to produce a figure expressed as ‘Earths’ – the number of planets we’d need if the whole world’s population had the same lifestyle as the quiz-taker. The footprint assesses the pressure on the planet, helping manage ecological assets more wisely to live within the Earth’s bounds.
Greener Neighbourhoods are asked to measure their ecological footprint using an eco-footprint calculator, then try to reduce it over the ten month programme. Past groups have often found that while going about reducing their footprint, they are also building community, forming relationships, sharing experiences, having fun and saving money.
While there are many online eco-footprint calculators, the one used by Greener Neighbourhoods has a uniquely New Zealand context. Developed from the research of Dr Ella Lawton, it measures household footprint data based on nine categories: food and beverages, travel, consumer goods, holidays, household energy, housing, infrastructure, government and services.
Dr Lawton’s research shows that food is a predominant driver of a household’s footprint. Being more mindful of where food comes from, prioritising buying locally and/or organically grown and of course homegrown food makes a significant reduction in a household's footprint. Holidays and pets are also large contributors to an individual’s footprint. When reflecting on their footprints, Greener Neighbourhood groups usually determined that visiting loved ones and enjoying the companionship of much loved pets were not things they are prepared to give up, but becoming aware of the ecological cost of pets and holidays provided a new perspective on making decisions to introduce new family pets or saving up for round the world tours.
One adaption has been made to the original calculator, the question about fish consumption has been removed. It was discovered in a previous round of the Greener Neighbourhood competition that the impact of fish was so high that if a neighbourhood group gave up fish it would put them in good footing to win the competition. Fish makes up 62% of New Zealand’s total food ecological footprint and 35% of the NZ total, because it’s the hectares of ocean floor that is measured.
Interestingly Dr Lawton informs us that one hectare of fishing produces 30kg of food, while a hectare of grazing land produces 1872kgs of animal products or 2680kg of plant-based products. So there is good reason to consider reducing fish consumption, or to be more mindful of the fishing methods or types of fish consumed. Unfortunately it proved too complex to add these details into the question about fish, so that more sustainable approaches to fishing could be quantified.
This year Kāpiti Coast District Council developed the paper eco footprint calculator into an online tool. Users can see an an instant calculation of their eco footprint in New Zealand hectares, with graphics showing comparisons to the New Zealand average across the nine categories. The calculator is free to be used by anyone - have a go!
2016 Greener Neighbourhood group members took the survey and their average footprints were calculated :
an individual summary of results on the eco-footprint caluclator