The Ecological Footprint concept

What is the ecological footprint?

The ecological footprint concept was developed by William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel in the early 90’s as an accounting tool. It evolved from the simple concept of carrying capacity, which is essentially the ability of earth to support life. However, in contrast to carrying capacity the ecological footprint concept asks ‘how much land do people require to support themselves?’, thus highlighting the material dependence of humans on nature, as opposed to simply asking ‘how many people can planet Earth support?’

The Ecological Footprint concept enables people to estimate the impact of a given population or economy in terms of the corresponding area of productive land required to support both resource consumption and assimilate associated wastes. Today, ecological footprints are widely used by a variety of organisations and local and national governments in a number of countries across the globe. It has become a useful and accepted tool for benchmarking performance, raising awareness, communicating sustainable development, and influencing future decisions over environmental policy.