Today the term “environmental footprint” is used both by the scientific and the corporate community alike. It is a multi-criteria measure to calculate the environmental performance of a product, service or organization based on a life cycle approach.*
An environmental footprint (also known as ecological footprint) takes into account the entirety of supply and demand of goods and services for the planet. In doing so, it is assumed that the entire population follows a certain lifestyle characterized by a known person or a group of people.
The estimation of the environmental footprint starts with the calculation of the land, water or sea required to supply the food, housing, mobility, and goods and services of a person in a certain region. The estimation is dependent on the area that the person resides. The reason is that ecosystems differ in their capacity to produce biological materials and to absorb CO2. This is known as “biocapacity”.
The results of the environmental footprint are given in the number of “planet Earths” it would take to support humanity if everyone follows the estimated lifestyle. The carbon footprint is the fastest growing part of humanity’s overall environmental footprint – it accounts for 54% of the overall environmental footprint.
* For more details and the relevant large-scale initiative of the European Commission, click here.