An ecological footprint, or eco-footprint, is the spatial representation of how much land and water an individual, town, business or other group requires to produce the resources it consumes and absorb the waste it generates. It isn't a measure of conservation practices or environmental initiatives like creating parks or cleaning up a creek — it's the volume of energy and material we consume to support our lifestyles.
Oakville's eco-footprint was measured in 2009 by Anielski Management Inc. as approximately nine global hectares (gha) per capita — 25 per cent larger than the Canadian average of 7.1 gha per capita, and significantly higher than the threshold for global sustainability of 1.8 gha per capita.
Oakville requires 1.5 million hectares of land to support its population — over 100 times the town's total land area, or twice the size of the entire GTA. We need to work together to start bringing this number down to become a more sustainable community.
In addition to a town-wide footprint, the town has initiated work on an innovative program that allows the footprint to be calculated down to a neighbourhood level. While we are still in the early stages, this tool will be valuable in developing things such as targeted conservation programs in areas of higher energy use and tracking the performance of new development hubs.
The town has also developed a corporate footprint program to measure the corporation's consumption. The town has been working to shrink our eco-footprint by reducing our energy and fuel consumption, cutting down on waste, and developing green building guidelines. You can read about our initiatives in the town's Environmental Strategic Plan.
For more information about eco-footprints, visit the Global Footprint Network website.
To learn how to reduce your personal footprint, visit the David Suzuki Foundation website for ideas and more information.
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