Twelve acres

Take this quiz to see how sustainable your lifestyle is in terms of acreage needed to support it. The average US citizen uses the equivalent of 24 acres. The quiz says I use 12 but I think it’d be less than that; a confirmed minimalist, my wardrobe is 90% recycled (for example). If I went from strict vegetarian to a vegan diet, it’d lower by one acre. If I rode my bike to work (totally doable, no excuse except that I don’t have a bike but I can borrow one), my mobility score would be zero. Our house is 1,700 sq ft…I think we need an earthship. Nearly 5 acres for housing is atrocious.

My results:
CATEGORY ACRES
FOOD 3
MOBILITY 0.5
SHELTER 4.9
GOODS/SERVICES 3.7
TOTAL FOOTPRINT 12

What’s your environmental load? How can you reduce it?
Ideally, no one should score more than 4 acres.

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17 comments

  1. Danielle says:

    Here’s mine. I eat too much packaged food, for sure. I’m using up 2.5 planets.
    CATEGORY GLOBAL HECTARES
    FOOD 2.4
    MOBILITY 0
    SHELTER 1
    GOODS/SERVICES 1
    TOTAL FOOTPRINT 4.4

    For contrast, I did it from my Dad’s perspective too. My parents have to drive to get about because they live in the country, I’m surprised the mobility number is so low. It’s hard to imagine my parents living more frugally than they do and yet their score is still 1.6 planets. How depressing.
    CATEGORY GLOBAL HECTARES
    FOOD 1.1
    MOBILITY 0.1
    SHELTER 0.9
    GOODS/SERVICES 0.8
    TOTAL FOOTPRINT 2.9

  2. Kathleen says:

    Just for grins, I re-did mine, only changing residency. If I lived in Canada, this would be my score:
    CATEGORY GLOBAL HECTARES
    FOOD 1.1
    MOBILITY 0.2
    SHELTER 1.5
    GOODS/SERVICES 1.3
    TOTAL FOOTPRINT 4.1

  3. SilkKnots aka Heather says:

    Here is mine:

    FOOD 0.5
    MOBILITY 0.2
    SHELTER 1.1
    GOODS & SVCS 2.1

    Total Footprints 3.9

    The shocker for me is that ‘if everyone lived like me we would need 2.2 planets’ There is no way for me to reduce this, excepting of course to die!

  4. Tom Willmon says:

    I noticed that the survey had no interest in my living in a solar-heated house, getting all my water by roof-harvesting of rainwater, and 95% of my electric power from solar and wind (the remaining 5% is from a petroleum-fuelled generator, mostly out of kindness to my battery bank on our occasional cloudy days – I have no connection to the power grid).

    Tom

  5. Alison Cummins says:

    My beloved gave our horrible score above. The question was, how do we reduce it?

    FOOD
    Stop eating fish and taking the fish-oil supplements that we use to help support our fragile mental states. Go from pescatarian to vegan. Stop eating chips and candy and bottled tomato sauce. Make our own tofu. Subscribe to ASEED/Equiterre(http://www.equiterre.org/en/agriculture/paniersBios/index.php). Store enough local cabbages and potatoes and apples in the basement to carry us through the winter without developing scurvy. Learn to make and like spruce tea for the same reason. (Changes we are likely to make: eating more home-cooked food, subscribing to ASEED/Equiterre.)

    MOBILITY:
    Walk or bike the 6.6 km to work instead of taking the Métro. Stop visiting or accepting visits from my parents in Ottawa, grandparents, aunts and uncles in upstate NY, inlaws in Holland. Cancel my beloved’s yearly visits to his ill mother. Give up hiking, camping and cross-country skiing. (Changes we are likely to make: I actually do walk to work a few times a week about six months of the year, though rarely in winter; my beloved will probably cut down his flights to Europe once his mother dies, but then we are likely to try to go hiking in Newfoundland.)

    SHELTER:
    Move into a small apartment. (This would mean: Renting a storage unit for my fabric or giving it away. Renting an office and workshop for my beloved. Giving up on the idea of storing cabbages/apples/potatoes in the basement. Giving up the chest freezer and bottling our summer vegetables instead of freezing them. Stacking the bottled vegetables along the walls to save space and add additional insulation.) Heat using a geothermal pump (http://www.greenheat.org/technologies.html#earth). Breed to increase the per/capita usage of the living space. (Changes we are likely to make: the geothermal pump. We’re actually trying to buy the 5-unit triplex we’re living in, and a geothermal pump is one of our dreams for the place.)

    GOODS/SERVICES:
    Not sure what’s involved here. Is it a general score for where you live +/- the amount of garbage you produce relative to your neighbours? We can cut down on our own garbage by shopping in bulk, doing more home-cooking, using ASEED/Equiterre and putting food by, all changes mentioned above. But if we reduce our housing footprint by moving to a little apartment, our ability to make some of these changes is severely curtailed. We will also cut down on our garbage when our (semi) paper-trained chihuahua dies.

    CONCLUSION:
    Part of individual horrible scores is due to individual horrible practices. (Eating manufactured food instead of preparing home-cooked meals from locally-produced organic food.)

    Another part is due to participation in modern life. As long as we can communicate over long distances, people will have incentives to travel. My beloved and I travel around 400 km round-trip every couple of months to visit my family, another 1200 km round-trip a couple of times a year to visit my father’s family, and the however many thousands of km round-trip to visit my beloved’s family about once a year. That is purely hedonistic, so we could limit contact with our families, sure. But my sister did two of her three medical internships overseas – one in Micronesia and one in Bangladesh. Her husband did one of his in an STD clinic in Tanzania. I think this is the kind of thing we actually want to encourage.

    Living densely together in cities protects land from encroachment by humans. A good thing. But humans can’t live sanely without access to green, so we end up travelling outside our cities to get our hit. A bad thing for our mobility footprints.

    And another part of our horrible scores is simply the scale of them. If all cities were small, then travelling outside them would have a smaller impact. We could all reduce our scores a little, but to reduce them to sustainable levels we would have to drastically change the expectations of modern life.

    Reducing the human population would have a much bigger impact. We currently have, what, 7 billion people on the planet? Eight? Most of whom are struggling very hard and fighting one another for their few resources, and a few of whom are consuming vast quantities? Yes of course with those numbers we all need to have teeny-tiny scores in order to be sustainable.

    Let’s say we had a more managable 10 million humans on the planet. Or let’s go all-out and say 100 million. We could all have giant luxurious scores and be perfectly sustainable. The scale of life would be smaller and reduce our individual footprints anyway. So why, why, why does this quiz *reduce* the score for breeders? The more people who live in your home, the lower your footprint for shelter.

    My point of view on sustainability: let’s hear it for avian flu! Bring on the pandemics! No, I don’t think pandemics are only for other people. I think it would be just fine if I were knocked off along with almost everyone else. Really, just fine.

  6. Thomas Cunningham says:

    Kathleen,

    Well that place does look cool — and I’ve never seen so many hipster hippies before — it ain’t the same in upstate New York!

    t

  7. HBarryBoo says:

    I came out close to the average (and I usually hate being anywhere near average), but I also answered for my household of 5 people. Not possible for me to answer as a solo consumer, bc so much of what I do is in service to the family.

    FOOD 4.9

    MOBILITY 2.2

    SHELTER 6.7

    GOODS/SERVICES 8.2

    TOTAL FOOTPRINT 22

    IN COMPARISON, THE AVERAGE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT IN YOUR COUNTRY IS 24 ACRES PER PERSON.

  8. another wish says:

    oh alright, Barry did it i can do it:

    CATEGORY ACRES
    FOOD 4.2
    MOBILITY 3.7
    SHELTER 5.7
    GOODS/SERVICES 8.4
    TOTAL FOOTPRINT 22

    sorry, donna. i am in la la land….

  9. Julie Knox says:

    wow.. I was sure I would do worse than this.

    CATEGORY GLOBAL HECTARES
    FOOD 2.6
    MOBILITY 0.4
    SHELTER 1.1
    GOODS/SERVICES 1.5
    TOTAL FOOTPRINT 5.6

    IN COMPARISON, THE AVERAGE ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT IN YOUR COUNTRY IS 8.8 GLOBAL HECTARES PER PERSON.

    IF EVERYONE LIVED LIKE YOU, WE WOULD NEED 3.1 PLANETS.

  10. Julie Knox says:

    And hey, between me, my husband, and my ex, we have only 1 kid, so if everyone (on average) bred like me…

    The population would be 1/3 what it is now by the time my generation dies off and we would be sustainable!

    (Provided my ex doesn’t have more..)

  11. Alison Cummins says:

    Julie,

    I’m totally with you! This goes with my “changes we could make” vs “changes we are likely to make” take on my current lifestyle above. Having kids around makes life more interesting and makes us better people, and besides, statistically heterosexuals are likely to conceive whether they really intend to or not. So it isn’t realistic to suggest that human reproduction should just stop. But a little restraint, China/Julie-style, could do a lot for the planet.

    So I think it’s strange when the quiz gives you a smaller footprint if you live with your six kids than if you only have one kid.

    More thoughts: this isn’t just about consumerism. A single tiger needs a range of 10 to 1000 square kilometres (1,000 to 100,000 hectares or 2,500 to 250,000 acres) in order to find enough prey to survive. Tigers eat local, organically produced food, have 0 mobility costs, produce no garbage, consume no electricity, and have almost no housing requirements. There isn’t much more that they can do to reduce their footprint: it just takes a lot of land to feed them.

    We aren’t tigers – we aren’t obligate carnivores, we are smaller – so our food requirements are smaller. But we have other requirements for clothing and shelter that tigers don’t have. I’m just not sure that living sustainably at the current population is something that humans will do by choice. I think our need to breathe, to get some pleasure out of life beyond basic survival, will drive us to use more than the sheer minimum. And even if humans were to receive an infusion of divine peace and all chose an austere, monk-like existence tomorrow, does that mean that there would still be room for tigers? In the places tigers live today, people live with very small footprints and the tigers are being squeezed out anyway.

    What I think is not made clear enough by the quiz is that we can make all kinds of good choices, there are still just too many people. So while it’s important to reduce our individual footprints – every little bit helps – that alone isn’t enough to fix the basic problem.

  12. jinjer says:

    wow, my footprint is huge. I feel that’s it’s totally unfair to compare me to someone that works in a separate building, though. I get a score of 8.9 for my residence, but I work there, too. What about people who work outside of home? there were no questions about your workspace.

    Also, I feel it’s utterly riduculous to say if everyone lived like me; we’d need several planets.

    1) that totally ignores how beautifully adabtable outr palnet is. Yes, we’re expereince an extinction boom, but I contend that it’s not because we’re killing off old species but because we’re not acknowledging our status as a keystone species, and allowing the new species that would develop in response to us in due course. Up with weeds!

    2) it also totally ignores that while first-world inhabitants generally have a MUCH lower birth rate than third world. Our ecological footprint is bigger than theirs, but if everyone were first world, there wouldn’t be as many of us. (Ignoring Saudi arabia, of course.)

    3) It’s pessimistic about our ability to adapt a “modern” lifestyle to conservative thinking. We need to be more creative about that, and less reactionary.

    CATEGORY ACRES

    FOOD 3.7
    (oh well, I like meat)
    MOBILITY 0.7
    (yay, no car!)
    SHELTER 8.9
    (unfair–see above)
    GOODS/SERVICES 6.7
    (I wonder where this comes from? )
    TOTAL FOOTPRINT 20

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