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Tread lightly and carry some small shoes
April 12, 2010 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Earth Day is soon approaching. Ecofoot has put together a "quiz" to determine your ecological footprint.
posted by deacon_blues (65 comments total)

 
So, I live in Toronto and my location choices are Calgary or the entire United States? Something doesn't make sense here.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:58 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


And the avatar generator doesn't have my hairstyle. FAIL.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:59 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nifty tool. Not sure about some of the conclusions, but food (ha!) for thought nonetheless. Bicycle use wasn't listed anywhere, and 2nding that the notion that North America spreads a little bit wider than Calgary and Everywhere Else.
posted by jquinby at 10:09 AM on April 12, 2010


I live in Poland. That means I select... Switzerland?

Yodelay-ski-hoo!
posted by pracowity at 10:10 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you shut your computer off for the time it takes to complete the quiz, you save two planets.
posted by desjardins at 10:13 AM on April 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I walk four blocks to work each day and ride in cars (briefly) maybe one or twice, but apparently I have the same footprint as someone who drives 50 miles a week.

(You get some pretty funny results when you randomize your little person.)
posted by brundlefly at 10:14 AM on April 12, 2010


I ended up with about 4 1/5 planets. In the "Explore Scenarios" thingie, I checked out how much I could reduce that, and it got down to about 3 1/2 planets. So, absent any significant potential for reducing my footprint, I figure there's no reason to change at all.
posted by darksasami at 10:17 AM on April 12, 2010


5.4 planets. But the government takes out 3.4 planets in taxes. Bastards.
posted by Splunge at 10:20 AM on April 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Last year my footprint one one of these highly scientific tests was ~3 earths, this year it's 5.1 and I haven't moved or changed any habits significantly. If anything I've started eating more locally and driving less.

Therefore I conclude that online ecological footprint tests increase global warming by 170% a year.
posted by Skorgu at 10:22 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, yeah. I take up 4 earths.
posted by brundlefly at 10:23 AM on April 12, 2010


I was....skeptical about my "3.8" planets, and my eco-pride was injured, so I went back to retake the quiz.

The second time, I entered what I judged to be the "optimal" environmental answers; i.e. no electricity or gas, green-design home, completely locavore vegetarian, etc.

2.8 earths.

So....I am forced to conclude one or more of the following:

1. This quiz is based more on a desire to shock people into cleaning up their act than on actual science.
2. There are way too many people on this planet.
3. We are doomed.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:25 AM on April 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Skorgu, it's inflation. The Earth is shrinking.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:26 AM on April 12, 2010


Bicycle use is there -- if you select that you don't ride in a car, your lawn gets a little bicycle. (I think it also made a cha-ching! bicycle bell noise).
posted by harperpitt at 10:27 AM on April 12, 2010


I also got 4.25 planets, despite the fact that I work from home and frequently take the bus if I'm heading downtown. OK, I'm not a vegetarian, which this survey seems to really want me to be, but I did indicate that I eat chicken far more often than beef, not that that seemed to make any difference at all.

The visual aid doesn't make it look any more accurate... no matter how you answer new stuff keeps getting added to your visual footprint but nothing ever gets taken away.
posted by squeakyfromme at 10:29 AM on April 12, 2010


5.3 Earths. One of my two biggest items was transportion which, I know, right. I'll ride the bus/train/hoverbike to work just as soon as they install it.
posted by DU at 10:30 AM on April 12, 2010


I think these quizzes often do more harm than good. As with Brundlefly, I lead a very low-impact lifestyle - never owned a car, wear sweaters rather than turning up the heat in winter, don't watch much TV etc. etc. but apparently just being alive here in the US means I'm using 4 planets. GMAFB.

I strongly suspect the calculations involve things like taking the electricity & gas bill and multiplying that by every person in the household or similar in order to maximize the apparent footprint. The idea being presented here is very important (which is why I've been energy-aware since I was a kid in the 1970s) but overstating the case this way just looks like a malthusian panic and alienates the very people who most need to hear about it.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:31 AM on April 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, wtf kind of message does that send? This quiz basically says "you suck, you're destroying the planet, but you would be no matter how you lived".

The logical conclusion is to say "oh well" and buy a Humzine that runs on slash-and-burn Amazonian ground beef.

Like I said, my eco-pride was injured.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:32 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The visual aid doesn't make it look any more accurate...

It seems to make the goal of the game to be some kind of Jain monk who has nothing but just walks around an empty field.

Anyway, I racked up 6.4 earths (!) but public transportation in my area doesn't go to my place of employment. If I tried to realign my whole lifestyle and habitat I might be more acceptable, but that process would be resource intensive in itself, at least for a time. Plus, I've donated a fair amount to effective clean water and environmental charities so that should count for some kind of offset.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:33 AM on April 12, 2010


Ok, so I figured out the big secret: you can get down to just over 1 earth if you move to Switzerland. This whole thing is a big ad for Swiss immigration. Or perhaps just a big fuck-you to America in general.
posted by darksasami at 10:34 AM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


And oh, fuck you for suggesting that I give the 3-4 vacation days a year that I get out of town just to make some incremental decrease in a footprint which is going to be completely unsustainable no matter what I do. "Take a local vacation instead..." I do, asshole, they're called my weekends.
posted by squeakyfromme at 10:35 AM on April 12, 2010


I figured out the big secret: you can get down to just over 1 earth if you move to Switzerland.

When I did the optimally green lifestyle, I noticed that the biggest chunk of my 2.8 planets was "services". Maybe that includes gov't services like fire/police/military?
posted by DU at 10:40 AM on April 12, 2010


I was 5.x earths. So clearly I need to move somewhere with public transport, become a vegetarian, and never eat packaged food again. And take local vacations.

I'm not sure that car trips in my state (Texas) are necessarily that much better for the environment on a fuel and pollution basis than putting my butt on a plane with a hundred other people to a place where there's mass transit, which is what we're doing for vacation this year.
posted by immlass at 10:45 AM on April 12, 2010


Another thing that skews the results incorrectly is the amount of people living in your house. If you add more people, presumably that means more food consumption but this doesn't seem to be factored in.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:49 AM on April 12, 2010


3.7 planets. But, I found some of the questions/choices a bit flawed. For one, there is no public transportation option where I live. There a very limited bus service IN town, but I don't live in town. And there's NO train. Out here, you really DO have to drive to wherever you're going.

There's also very little in the way of local produce here. There's some, but it's pretty limited. Certainly not something you could plan your week's meals around. The only real options are the mega-marts and big-boxes.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:50 AM on April 12, 2010


Well I mostly use public transportation, of course I don't need to go to work every day because I have a huge trust fund, I do occasionally have my chauffeur drive me in my state of the art hybrid car to the local farmer's market to pick up my week's supply of extremely recherche veggies, the latest in food fashion, then I return to my 500 square foot green penthouse for which I paid a cool 5 million and I play with my green diamonds, for which I paid another several million, but hey, you scumbags, my carbon footprint is so much smaller than yours...

Wouldn't it just be easier to consider how much a person spends a year, since regardless of how eco-properly they spend it, the money moves on and the purveyor of those green toys might just spend his/her profits on very non-eco-non-green crap?
posted by mareli at 10:57 AM on April 12, 2010


I got 1.5, but that's only because I live in a hollow tree and eat my young.
posted by pracowity at 10:57 AM on April 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Wow, you gluttonous Americans use up whole planets? I apparently use only 5.8 hectares. I guess living in my suburb (1000km outside) of Calgary gives me environmental superpowers. That, or I just did a completely different quiz than everyone else...
posted by bethnull at 11:00 AM on April 12, 2010


Nothing about how many children you have, or plan to have? Also, the distinction between "free standing house with running water" and "free standing house without running water" is...odd. Do many houses in Calgary not have running water?
posted by JoanArkham at 11:03 AM on April 12, 2010


But, I found some of the questions/choices a bit flawed. ... you really DO have to drive wherever you're going... The only real options are the mega-marts and big-boxes.

Not the earth's fault your city sucks! Blame the quiz all you want, but don't come crying to www.footprintnetwork.org when the earth's a charred husk and we're all eating dirt.

I kid, sorry.

I had the same reaction, because the guilt inherent with my answer of '3.2 earths' felt kind of improper somehow. I do just about all that I can, I'm vegetarian (I try to be vegan but, ha), I walk most places, I don't buy stuff I don't need, mind my power usage, etc. But I also live in a shitty, energy-inefficient apartment building and have to fly planes up to 2x a year to get my work done.

I think I'll second most other people's opinions above; the quiz kind of sucks, and it might not be all that helpful, but I guess it's something. And I might just be bitter about the presentation anyway... it didn't really offer anything helpful by being made into an image and animated.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:03 AM on April 12, 2010


I got -1, but that's because my avatar committed suicide.
posted by Omon Ra at 11:06 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


3.4 planets. None of their "explore scenarios" options got me lower than 3.3 planets. So yeah... I'm doing everything I can, apparently. A lot of other people are going to have to live in trees and eat their young I guess (thanks pracowity!).
posted by rusty at 11:15 AM on April 12, 2010


Don't worry, "there are product solutions that can help us with our environmental shortcomings," according to the Lazy Environmentalist, a fan of long showers. On that same site: 40 tips for the 40th Earth Day anniversary. US-centric in terms of specific solutions (rebates on recycling appliances and the sort), but has some interesting information and ideas.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:23 AM on April 12, 2010


This is stupid. The cartoons are so fancy, they waste electricity and my time. Blech.
posted by treeshar at 11:23 AM on April 12, 2010


a Humzine that runs on slash-and-burn Amazonian ground beef

This has "sockpuppet" written all over it.
posted by brundlefly at 11:24 AM on April 12, 2010


Ah, OK...I thought it was being smart in recognizing that I'm in Calgary by my IP address. Guess not.

I find it hard to believe that I'm just below average for Canada - I live in a townhouse, usually carpool or take transit, have 1 car between two of us, try to eat locally whenever possible, recycle everything.

I did escape on a technicality, however - I usually cook a full cow at a time, on a spit over a tire fire I keep running year-round.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:37 AM on April 12, 2010


3.7 Earths. As a student with no car and a healthy local produce ecosystem which I frequent, I figure most of that waste comes from the chemicals it takes to apparently upkeep my huge teal afro.
posted by a sourceless light at 11:38 AM on April 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow. Here I was feeling guilty about my 2.2 planets. And about a third of my pie chart was for housing... (our apartment building is heated by an ancient oil furnace). How so "low": I live in a 480sq.ft (45sq.m) apartment made of stone, built before 1980; I ride the bus to work (more than 3 hours a week), take the train anywhere further away (TGV woooo!!!), ride my bike - or a city-provided bike that only costs me 15 euros a year to use as much as I want - or walk everywhere else (no car or motorcycle), buy only organic, as much locally-produced food as possible (not too hard in France), hardly eat meat any more, and recycle everything that's recyclable, which is easy because I live only a few dozen yards from communal recycling bins.
posted by fraula at 11:41 AM on April 12, 2010


My extremely Erika-specific complaint is that there's no way to indicate that the eggs I eat daily come from my pet chickens. Surely that should earn me a sliver less planet, right?
posted by ErikaB at 11:45 AM on April 12, 2010


It's interesting how they limit the choice to 3 of the richest countries on the planet. That probably accounts for like 85% of the actual variability between people.
posted by signal at 11:54 AM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


My extremely Erika-specific complaint is that there's no way to indicate that the eggs I eat daily come from my pet chickens. Surely that should earn me a sliver less planet, right?

I'm with Erika. My eggs come from the pet chickens at my barn, so the assumption of the evils of battery hens onto me kind of sucks. As does the inability to point out that the red meat I eat is local, grass-fed beef and lamb, and the pork is local and pastured pigs that live outside, not crammed into Porcine Hellhouses.

If you're going to penalize people on a quiz like this for eating animal products, at least let people who do the right thing get *some* moral ego benefit!
posted by Concolora at 12:01 PM on April 12, 2010


3.2 in my dinky apartment, eating meat, using CFL bulbs and recycling most everything. Oh, and I drive 25 miles a week.

It doesn't seem to matter what I pick to optimize, 75% of my energy usage comes from "services". I guess living in the US means the upkeep for roads, infrastructure etc... amortized across the population = 2.1 Earths worth of arable land per person. If anything, this quiz makes me feel a bit hopeless about my personal decisions making a lick of difference.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:06 PM on April 12, 2010


I like* how a lot of the 'NEVER' answers are accompanied by blurbs which instead describe a 'pretty infrequently' scenario. How often do I purchase new appliances? NEVER. Not 'NEVER, I only buy blenders and shit sometimes!'. How many new clothes and shoes do I buy? NONE. Not 'NONE, I only buy new tee shirts and socks on a monthly basis.'

Overall, I think this is quiz is AWESOME in that it's an oversimplification that seems only vaguely related to reality .

*dislike
posted by Horizontally a Champion at 12:09 PM on April 12, 2010


If you choose detailed options, presumably the "most of the food I eat comes from local sources option" will reduce the footprint of your pet chickens. Although, it's probably assuming a certain amount of acreage or trucked in feed for your chickens, so if they are wandering across your entire town to get grub while you personally live on a postage stamp property, then no, the quiz won't adequately capture your freeloader chicken ranching ways.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:10 PM on April 12, 2010


I don't suppose 6.6 is going to make me many friends here.
posted by digsrus at 12:13 PM on April 12, 2010


I call bullshit due to a glaring omission. I have not created any children, and while I didn't do it to save the planet, it's still true that I could drive 10 Hummer limos and still not balance out what someone with kids, and grandkids, etc. will consume over time. I think of this when I see obviously ecologically aware parents at the farmers market with their 3 adorable tykes, and another on the way. I love kids, but not taking their ecological impact into consideration is bad science.

But this subject is frequently off the table, because it's just not nice.
posted by tula at 12:19 PM on April 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


The societal structures you enjoy depend on other people having children. For example eventually patting yourself on the back might lead to an injury when you're at an age when most medical professionals are a generation or two younger than you.
posted by Wood at 12:25 PM on April 12, 2010


I'm with you, tula. As a middle-class American, the fact that I'm not making any more middle-class Americans should count big-time.
posted by JoanArkham at 12:29 PM on April 12, 2010


Also, it's your ecological footprint. If you've got kids you either multiply or run them through the quiz separately to determine your family's footprint.

It maxes out at 29.5 Earths. I'm pretty sure I could beat that if I lived on a private plane that hauled an all you can eat meat buffet around with me.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:32 PM on April 12, 2010


Where are you all getting "earths" from? I got 5.9 global hectares.
posted by Casuistry at 12:42 PM on April 12, 2010


Oh, I only got 28 Earths if everybody lived like me, but I also told them that I was Pharaoh and that whenever the Nile flooded, I commanded all the citizens under my rule to get together to work on my giant pyramid.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:58 PM on April 12, 2010


"Number of Planet Earths" is the US quiz result.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:00 PM on April 12, 2010


Proving my point. Everyone gets upset when the subject of the ecological impact of having children comes up, and all kinds of creative accounting begins. The impact of your life and your choices can last indefinitely--however slightly. If you plant 10,000 trees the benefit lasts as long as the trees do, even if you get hit by a bus the next day. Regarding my childlessness, I'm not patting myself on the back. I didn't do it for eco-virtue; that's just the way the dice rolled. Maybe I'm trying to see the upside of a loss.
posted by tula at 1:19 PM on April 12, 2010


If you have no children then who will pull your eco-friendly rickshaw?
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 2:02 PM on April 12, 2010


Such nastiness.
posted by tula at 3:29 PM on April 12, 2010


At the end of the quiz, it showed me using land for grazing and fish farming, even though I had specified that I eat neither. And this would be a whole lot more helpful if I had any idea what "services" includes.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:01 PM on April 12, 2010


Also, wtf kind of message does that send? This quiz basically says "you suck, you're destroying the planet, but you would be no matter how you lived".

Seriously. I use ~4 planets, and I chose all their recommendations for how to change my life (significantly reduce meat/dairy intake, commit to buying things with less/no packaging, etc.) and it only reduced my impact by 0.8 to ~3 earths. Not a good motivational tool if that's what it's designed to be.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:04 PM on April 12, 2010


I'm pretty sure I could beat that if I lived on a private plane that hauled an all you can eat meat buffet around with me.

Wow, I was considering elemental planes and D&D pocket universe spells before I realized you meant the flying sort.
posted by griphus at 6:10 PM on April 12, 2010


I never fly, never drive, never take rides. I was in a car <10 times in the last 3 years. I bike everywhere. My footprint pie chart has what looks like 10% emissions due to travel. With the second suggestion "use public transit, carpool, ..."; FAIL.
posted by ecco at 7:50 PM on April 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, it's your ecological footprint. If you've got kids you either multiply or run them through the quiz separately to determine your family's footprint.

I think the main thing with reproducing is that the ecological footprint will carry on after you're gone, possibly for centuries. So far the ecological impact of each generation is only increasing.
posted by ODiV at 10:32 PM on April 12, 2010


Don't worry. A great plague or drought or famine or war or revolution or a combination of them all will come and we will die. Our planes and cars and bikes and trains will rust and fall to pieces where they stand, our tiny apartments and our crass McMansions will all become echo-friendly and crumble and become nesting sites for various beasts, and our roads and bike paths and rail lines will grow over and go nowhere forever. The true locavores will slide up from the ground we lie on and wriggle from our own defunct guts to eat us and shit us out as pretty good fertilizer. Or didn't you see that page of the quiz?
posted by pracowity at 11:23 PM on April 12, 2010


My apologies tula. I simply was making an off-colour joke. I didn't mean to sound nasty.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 11:23 PM on April 12, 2010


So far the ecological impact of each generation is only increasing.

And it always will. I'm not wasteful or profligate, but as long as resources are cheap, if I'm conserving someone else will be exploiting. It's an economy. The only way to reduce consumption broadly isn't conservation (although useful for alleviating scarcity), or population control (although that helps reduce the rate), but a worldwide social policy that implements extremely heavy & progressive taxes on consumption.

The sad and cynical side of me thinks it's going to have to be hashed out at gunpoint.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:00 AM on April 13, 2010


My footprint is much bigger than it should be!!!
posted by kicksetc at 7:25 AM on April 13, 2010


Serial Killer Slumber Party, hey thanks. Mighty decent of you. I was probably being overly flinchy.
posted by tula at 10:25 AM on April 13, 2010


Also, wtf kind of message does that send? This quiz basically says "you suck, you're destroying the planet, but you would be no matter how you lived".

No it says: "you suck, you're destroying the planet, and your little feel-good measures amount to squat" .
posted by signal at 7:55 PM on April 15, 2010


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