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What is the ecological footprint?

&r=1" class="c1"> The ecological footprint is a concept and a tool used to measure the impact of human activities on the environment. It estimates the surface area required to produce everything that an individual or population consumes and to absorb the resulting waste, being expressed in hectares.

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The Ecological Footprint (EF) is a concept developed by Wackernagel and Rees in the early 90’s. The EF is a strong sustainability indicator, since it assumes that the substitution of natural capital by human-made capital is limited. It measures how much of the services provided by nature an individual, population or activity requires to produce the renewable resources (crops, forest products and animal products) it consumes, and to absorb the waste it generates. The EF only looks for the so called “critical natural capital”, in other words, those parts of the environment that perform important and irreplaceable functions.

The EF uses a biophysical unit: land area. It shows how much land is required to sustain the economic use of resources for a certain period of time with available technologies and given resource management conditions, and to provide infrastructures and absorb waste and pollutants. So, it is clear that EF takes into account both the supply of nature’s services and demand of them by humanity. The supply is called biocapacity and is a measure of the amount of biologically productive land and water available for human use.

Normally, EF units are normalized into global hectares, which make EF results globally comparable.