Happy Earth Day!
April 22, 2002 7:34 AM   Subscribe

Happy Earth Day! Calculate your ecological footprint. How many earths would we need if everyone lived like you?
posted by fieldswn (46 comments total)
2.9 earths
posted by starvingartist at 7:42 AM on April 22, 2002

6.5 earths. Woo-hoo! I even beat the national average of acres needed (24) with 29! I think the fact that I never use animal transportation killed me. Oh, well. Good thing everyone doesn't live like me. It's too bad it's earth day, because in about an hour I'm going to get in my 20 mpg car and drive 1/2 mile to go work out, after which I will probably purchase a sandwich filled with some tasty meat product that was transported hundreds of miles to end up in my stomach. I will return to work, then get in my car again (with no passengers in the other four seats), and drive 18 miles to my 2,200 square foot stand alone house. But I promise I'll throw my plastic milk jug in the recycling bin when I'm done with it.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:55 AM on April 22, 2002

3.5 earths, 16 acres.
posted by bittennails at 7:57 AM on April 22, 2002

Sweet, 3.6 planets baby, and I'm just getting started! (That's without a car in college)
Here's something for you, in case you think the world is coming to an end: The Skeptical Environmentalist.
posted by insomnyuk at 7:57 AM on April 22, 2002

I'm surprisingly green, which pisses me off, because I strongly dislike this planet, and want you all to suffocate on your own noxious emissions.

Well not you.
Hollywood, mostly.
posted by dong_resin at 8:07 AM on April 22, 2002

3.3 for me, but I think they miscalculated my living space--no "residential hall" option.

Can anyone explain some confusion I'm having with the meat thing? I know animals take a lot of food to grow and cows require lots of land for pasture, but where else are humans supposed to get their major sources of iron and protein? I realize milk has protein, and green vegetables have iron, but is it really enough? I don't eat beef, and I'm worried enough about becoming anemic, even though I eat my veggies.

And you know, even if you don't believe we're hurting the environment (take a look at Chicago's weather in the past two weeks if you're not convinced), there's absolutely no need to be wasteful. Oh, and The Skeptical Environmentalist is just plain wrong.
posted by gramcracker at 8:08 AM on April 22, 2002

I have the highest so far, 4.8 planets, which surprises me. I'm very green, I don't own a car, I recycle like mad. Where have I gone wrong?

I am ashamed.
posted by ashbury at 8:10 AM on April 22, 2002

4.8 earths. 22 acres. And I never woulda guessed that'd be lower than the national average.
It's probably my 27 mile commute that's killing my rating. Unfortunately, it's a clash of imperatives. The best job I could find is that far away and there's no public transportation in this neck of the woods and I sure ain't walking it.
posted by jonmc at 8:12 AM on April 22, 2002

Let's see here. 22 acres for me and I'll estimate 24 for the wife (all those cosmetics, you see) plus 24 for both kids, that equals 70 acres. Luckily, we own over 2000 acres of biologically productive land, so we're in the plus column.
posted by CRS at 8:15 AM on April 22, 2002

My question is, what are the implications of this for the concept of globalization? Should our goal be to bring everyone up to the American standard of living? It looks like the earth would not be able to handle it.
posted by fieldswn at 8:15 AM on April 22, 2002

1.4 Earths.
posted by riffola at 8:15 AM on April 22, 2002

Neat. I'm 8. We'd need 1.9 planets if everyone was like me, apparently.

Great questions, gramcracker. I'm sure everyone else has all kinds of answers for you, but here are mine.

"Where else are humans supposed to get their major sources of iron and protein?" If you can eat fish, go for that. That'll fix your protein levels. As for iron, a google search for iron for vegetarians returns all kinds of good results.

Personally, I love sushi. The combo of seaweed and low fat fish will do wonders for your RDA's.
posted by jragon at 8:20 AM on April 22, 2002

gramcracker, I am not expert on vegetarianism, but I am one since birth, and I get my vitamins and minerals from fruits, vegetables, pulses, grains, and milk products. Vegetarains do consume milk, no clue why people think eggs and seafood is vegetarian, but I am sure it's not.
posted by riffola at 8:20 AM on April 22, 2002

I only take up 2.8 Earths, but that's just because I'm po'.
Just wait until I can afford a mansion, SUV, and filet mignon every night. Actually, having a chauffeur would help save the planet since there will always be more than one person in the car. One day I have the hope of using 10 Earths.
It's pretty odd how saving the Earth is connected to your economic status. Well, I'd just like to thank the third world countries who celebrate Earth Day every day.
posted by Werd7 at 8:25 AM on April 22, 2002

What drives me nuts with these things (even as a vegetarian who considers themselves fairly lefty and conscious of environmental issues) is the lack of context. Let's say I'm a doctor in a rural area that puts tremendous miles on a SUV to improve healthcare in the area....Am I worse for the planet than someone who takes the subway to their corporate hack job at Exxon/Mobil?

At my crunchy (said with affection) university, the old "We are 5% of the world's population but consume 25% of the resources" saying was a common refrain. Well fine, but how 'bout some more numbers? Sure we pump out a lot of CO2 and burn quite a bit of oil, but what percent of the world's food do we grow? What percent of the world's medicine do we manufacture? etc. etc.

"Personally, I love sushi. The combo of seaweed and low fat fish will do wonders for your RDA's."

And, jragon, your mercury levels, unfortunately.
posted by jalexei at 8:27 AM on April 22, 2002

I think the environmental problem is not with eating meat per se, but eating it SO FREQUENTLY. The fact that we eat meat (practically) 3 times a day is a cultural and historical anomaly.
posted by fieldswn at 8:27 AM on April 22, 2002

2.6 (12 acres) for me.

Boo-yah on the 65 MPG scooter. I've been keeping track of my total mileage and total cost: 1500 miles for $25 in gas + $4 in oil.
posted by zpousman at 8:47 AM on April 22, 2002

3.8 planets here. I took into account the way I ate and not the macrobiotic way I have started eating... Also for those interested, there is a National Peace With Earth Petition and Earth Day Activities website where you can find local events and sign the Peace with Earth Petition.
posted by gloege at 8:48 AM on April 22, 2002

Hmmm. 13 acres, 2.9 planets.

This, and I work at home, infrequently drive a reasonably efficient car, and don't eat much meat... I do all my work on a laptop computer, don't have an air conditioner, live in a 600 sqft studio, nearly all my food is locally grown on organic farms... and so on. This is a remarkably tough test to pass.

I can't understand those of you who are celebrating the fact that you use up more than your share of the earth's resources. What gives you that right?

puts tremendous miles on a SUV to improve healthcare in the area....Am I worse for the planet than someone who takes the subway to their corporate hack job at Exxon/Mobil?

Probably, since by improving health care you increase human lifespan, which leads to increased population and thereby increased resource pressure.

I'm being flip, of course, but halting population growth is just as important as scaling back resource consumption. Otherwise, all we're doing is making room to pack in more people, and this planet has quite enough humans on it already. It might be nice if this test had a credit question for those of us who opt not to reproduce...

posted by Mars Saxman at 8:59 AM on April 22, 2002

3.4 planets, 15 acres.

Vegetarian in an almost-vegetarian household, but I drive too far too often. (It's a happy lil' fuel-effiecient car tho.)
posted by Melinika at 9:04 AM on April 22, 2002

Didn't we already discuss that it was corn feeding the cows and other domesticated soon-to-be Subways, with the commensurate fuel costs for growing said corn, combined with transporting meat in the easy storage hoofed packaging, then processing the recently deceased into individual petroleum based packaging, then shipping said meat-servings hither and yon that made meat fall into the "evil-doers" category?

I mean, if you have a pasture, a shotgun, and one of those butchers charts, I think the primary damage from one large edible mammal would be the cost of running the freezer, environmental impact-wise, correct?

Oh, 3.2 planets here (able to check the efficient house, low miles on the truck, and double up in the vehicle half the time).
posted by dglynn at 9:12 AM on April 22, 2002

1.9 Earths. . .and I really don't even look at myself as an environmentalist. . .in fact I tire of the self-righteousness of people in this movement.

But then I'm able to walk to work and I don't make enough money to have a big house or buy a lot of stuff. . .
posted by Danf at 9:18 AM on April 22, 2002

4.5 earths for this carnivore, although I think the test may be a little biased. When I try to fudge the test by giving all the "right" answers, it still comes up that, for where I live, I'd still be using too much - 1.1 earths. And thats with me and the seven other folks in my under-500 square foot, unelectric green residence, getting 80 MPG on my tandem motor scooter and never doing nothing bad to nobody.
posted by yhbc at 9:30 AM on April 22, 2002

What a load of crap. I pretended I was a 10 year old vegan girl, living in a green design house, who never uses any form of transportation except my two feet, and gets all her food off of a community garden, and I'm still an evil-doer. Unless, that is, I live in Nigeria. Then I'm cool. I guess that just living in NA makes you bad for the environment.
posted by gnz2001 at 9:30 AM on April 22, 2002

14 acres and 3.2 earths and I ride the T to work everyday from my shoebox apt.

The conclusion this points to is population control. Unfortuneately those pesky human reproductive rights keep getting in the way.
posted by plaino at 9:31 AM on April 22, 2002

I can't believe they don't ask how many children you have and how many children you're intending to have. What has a greater impact on the planet than breeding?

Hmm. This doesn't necessarily work with NYC, either. There's always someone else in the car with me, but like... he's driving it for a living. ;)

In other news, what can I do with this "animal power" they speak of? Can I change forms back and forth or something?
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:37 AM on April 22, 2002

6.6 planets.

I guess the facts that I walk to the subway almost every day and that I generally shop at the overpriced organic/earth-friendly supermarket are completely irrelevant next to the fact that my red meat habit and the cute little bungalow I share with by sweetie make me a BAD, BAD PERSON.

It didn't ask me if I planted a vegetable garden over the weekend, and that too is a disappointment. Is the default assumption that, if I have an actual yard, I must be using it to park my SUV or to store my styrofoam-and-sixpack-rings compost heap? Does the Perfect Earth involve all of us living in high-rise dormitories? Is the human animal exempt from the general assumption that living things live better in leafy green places?

I think that bringing down the global population growth rate would do so much more for the planet than chastising people for having backyards. But "are you completely disgusted by the existence of the McCaughey septuplets and by Irish-Catholic families of twelve children apiece" doesn't make for nearly so sympathetic a takeaway message. Sure, we can all do little things to help the planet, but the impact of those little things will itself get littler and littler as the Earth's population gets bigger and bigger.

I sound defensive. I suppose I'm an Ugly American. I don't mean to be. I'd elaborate, but it's lunchtime and I'd really like a cheeseburger.

(on previe, plaino & RJ both beat me to my point---although the phrase "population control" makes me think of China, and shiver.)
posted by Sapphireblue at 9:40 AM on April 22, 2002

5.3 planets, and that's lower than average for my area.

Wonder if they lost a decimal place or something. :P
posted by Foosnark at 9:43 AM on April 22, 2002

9 planets and 40 acres. Beat that!
posted by mikegre at 9:45 AM on April 22, 2002

Page doesn't appear for me. Oh, well. I'm most likely better off not knowing.
posted by revbrian at 9:50 AM on April 22, 2002

How many liters per 100 kilometers does your car consume?
How come I'm asked if I have electricity, yet assumed to have a car?
God I miss my car. *Sob*.
posted by Catch at 3:27 PM on April 23, 2002

1.4 Acres, which is 1.5 earths I think.

Probably lower. I never use cars, and I eat beef maybe once every 3 months.

Still, we only have one earth. Hmm.
posted by Settle at 3:57 PM on April 23, 2002

Happy Earth Day, you say? Is it? Is it really?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:14 PM on April 23, 2002

2.5 planets (just less than the average in my country of residence). No car. I travel by public transport, and then less than an hour a day r/t. 3 people in my 100 quadrat meter (1100 sq ft) multi story apartment. >25 hours of plane travel per year. I eat meat daily, but that includes fish and/or a sandwich with just a slice of meat.

"How much of the food that you eat is processed, packaged and imported?" Well, maybe 1% of the food I eat is processed, packaged AND imported. I have electricity, but it's rarely in use (no air conditioning). Nice little dumbed down exercise. It's impossible to do an analysis of any but the most dubious validity in such a small space.

What are my options? Move to a smaller apartment / invite more people to share mine? Shut off electricity and lose my connection to earthday.net? Cut back on meat consumption (that's about the only realistic option - one I am considering).

But, hey, I smoke a pack of cigarettes per day, and I have no children. With no kids and an abbreviated (probably) lifespan, perhaps I'm not doing so poorly, after all... Unfortunately, earthday.net didn't bother to ask these most important questions...
posted by syzygy at 4:25 PM on April 23, 2002

I travel by public transport

Compared to walking or riding a bike or animal, public transport systems use massive amounts of embodied energy to build, run and maintain and generate massive amounts of pollution.

I eat meat daily, but that includes fish and/or a sandwich with just a slice of meat.

It took a lot of energy to raise, slaughter, process, pack, transport, store and sell you that slice of bologna/fishstick.

Nice little dumbed down exercise.

If you read the FAQ, they seem to have a pretty good methodology and some pretty hard data for calculating your footprint. An approximation, sure, but they do underestimate it.

Suffice it to say that air-conditioner or not, if everybody in the world lived like you (and I - my circumstances seem to be pretty much the same as the ones you described at the moment), we'd be screwed. The global impact of my lifestyle is effectively subsidised by somebody else who has nothing and consumes next to nothing.

What am I doing about it? I've just bought some land about an hour out of town. In two years we'll have a small solar passive strawbale loft house, 1.1kw solar system, solar heat pump water heating, rainwater tanks, composting toilet, greywater reticulation, permaculture gardening. It's dirt cheap compared to a 3-bedroom house in town, and in five years we'll own it outright - no more high-rise office job adding to my footprint. No ongoing electricity, water or sewerage costs, minimal food costs, organic fruit and veg (with meat and eggs from chickens and yabbies).

It's still not anywhere near the best solution. I'll still be buying consumer goods like books, DVDs, CDs, software, spare parts, clothes, shoes, spectacles, cookware, cutlery, soaps/detergents etc. They've got to be made somewhere by someone with something, and all of that takes a lot from the planet and gives nada in return. Only by completely abolishing 'consumerism' and becoming almost entirely self-sufficient (that is, living in largely 'third-world' conditions) can we hope to live at a truly sustainable level. All I'll really be doing is lowering the average ever-so-slightly.

Now I'm depressed as all hell. :)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:59 PM on April 23, 2002


3. Compared to people in your neighborhood, how much waste do you generate?
Much less
About the same
Much more

I'm supposed to know this?
posted by ParisParamus at 5:26 PM on April 23, 2002

I don't think they cross correlate the numbers enough. I got eight acres, 1.9 planets, but that goes down quite a bit if I switch from "about the same" waste to "much less." Now, the amount of waste my household generates IS about the same as that of our neighbors, at least judging by the weekly trash cans at the curb, but most of our neighbors are two and three person households while mine has been running at nine this past week and is stable at seven right now. So am I a "much less" or an "about the same?"
posted by Nothing at 6:44 PM on April 23, 2002

Everyone knows that Americans are destroying everything--I didn't need a test to know that.

Pass the Charmin, please.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:55 PM on April 23, 2002

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement and the Gaia Liberation Front.

*shrug* Extreme, but interesting. But again, I stress, extreme.

Tread lightly indeed. =P
posted by Melinika at 8:07 PM on April 23, 2002

obiwanwasabi, you may be depressed, but I'm impressed. You are describing a dream of mine. I could go for all that stuff. Have you checked out yurts? These things are very cool and sound much like what you're describing.
posted by ashbury at 8:26 PM on April 23, 2002

The test is fairly biased. I used the same answers, but tried it from 4 different locations: North America, Lebanon, Peru and London. North America and London came in fairly high...around 5.1 earth's...Lebanon came in at 2.3 earths and Peru at 1.9.

Mind you, same answers, just different countries.

I live in a small town, I buy most of my eggs, veggies and fruits from the farmer's market, I buy as much of my beef and lamb from local ranchers as I can, I drive less than 10 miles a week, but according to this test, I might as well not be doing any of that. By virtue of being an American, and having a living standard above a wattled hut, I'm therefore responsible for the downfall of the world. Well, isn't that always the way? Sheesh.
posted by dejah420 at 9:14 PM on April 23, 2002

ashbury - we'd considered a yurt (probably from these guys), but we fell in love with strawbale. Quick to put up and easy to build with, it's a waste product with next to no embodied energy, and it looks fantastic in a white clay render :)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:29 PM on April 23, 2002

Mind you, same answers, just different countries.

Again, RTFF:

"Each country has its own average Ecological Footprint specific to its economy, consumption patterns, and technological efficiencies. We use national Footprint data, and information about regional variations in climate, heating, home construction styles, transportation, etc., to develop a Footprint quiz tailored to each country."

I'm therefore responsible for the downfall of the world

Not you specifically. But add 280 million people who live like you together, and yes, you're quite a problem.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:00 AM on April 24, 2002

I managed a score of 1 earth (in the US) by living in a town with a temperate climate (New York), being a vegan who eats locally grown food, not traveling at all, having four people in a 1000-1500 sf green design home without electricity (and apparently no light at night because I can't make candles from tallow -- but what of oils and beeswax!?)

The real me currently rings up 2.5 planets in France.
posted by Dick Paris at 12:42 AM on April 24, 2002


I've never driven a car, walk or ride a bike, ride in someone else's car every other week or so; walk to anywhere within three miles, usually; eat too much, I think; have one cat and no children. Seafood is not really an option, not when I read about how seafood is caught--we're strip mining the oceans, major fisheries are collapsing right right and left. And I read in the Tablet today that a free range chicken has about 1.5 square feet of free range on the average.
posted by y2karl at 1:09 AM on April 24, 2002

Compared to walking or riding a bike or animal, public transport systems use massive amounts of embodied energy to build, run and maintain and generate massive amounts of pollution.

Indeed. I should have said that the only vehicular transport I use is the public variety. I walk an amazing amount (in Vienna, the pedestrian is king). I'm currently searching for a vintage Vespa 50 Special to reduce my reliance on public transport. Perhaps that will reduce my footprint, as well.

It took a lot of energy to raise, slaughter, process, pack, transport, store and sell you that slice of bologna/fishstick.

A steak, yes. A slice of salami not industrially produced and transported from afar, rather produced locally by small meathouses, and packaged only in a wrap of paper right after it's sliced, I don't think so.

It would be interesting, however, to find out just how much energy goes into the production of one of my salami sandwiches.

As to the yurt, I'll be camping in one in a Mongolian Ger camp some time in June. Hopefully my energy savings in the yurt will partially offset the energy expended to fly me round trip from Vienna to Beijing.
posted by syzygy at 2:32 AM on April 24, 2002

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