Ecological Footprints: Individual Inventories

Kyung-Min Nam
Feb 10, 2020
CCGL9026: Think Global, Act Local: You, Hong Kong and the World
Common Core Course
Spring 2020
Take Home Assignment
Ecological Footprints: Individual Inventories
Due: 5 PM, April 14 (Tue)
– Max 6 double-spaced pages in length (excluding Appendix) – Follow standard editing styles and page layouts (e.g., Times
New Roman, font size 12, and 1-inch margins on all sides)
Electronic file (DOC or PDF) should be submitted through Moodle.
Hard copy submission is not required.
Late submissions (judged by your online submission time) will
result in a grade increment down per day (e.g., A → A-)
The objective is to get real data on your individual consumption/movement patterns and
translate this into footprints/indices. This is to be done by recording your food consumption
data and travel data over a three-day period and supplementing this with monthly data (on
energy and water consumption, as found in monthly energy and water bills).
In other words, you should first calculate the following individual footprints (on an annual
basis): (i) water usage, (ii) food consumption, (iii) travel behavior, and (iv) energy use.
Then these numbers should be translated into ecological footprints in terms of: (i) land
(measured in ha/person/year), (ii) water (measured in t/person/year), and (iii) energy
(measured in kgC/person/year).
Maintain a detailed ledger of food consumption patterns and travel over a three-day period.
For example, you will have to be fairly detailed as to what types of food. Later on, you may
convert similar food items into a common measure (e.g., lumping all carbohydrate
consumption of various kinds (bread, rice, couscous, etc.) into one carbohydrate unit and
using one representative land footprint conversion rate for that one representative type of
carbohydrate), but when gathering data, keep the data as richly detailed as possible. You will
tabulate all of this data and include it in an Appendix. One efficient way to do this is to create
data ledgers or tables for you to fill in, and systematically record data each day over a week –
but you create your own method, as long as the data is recorded and summarized in the
Appendix of the report.
Then, using this detailed data, you will calculate footprints for the above resources. In the
report, show representative calculations. It is important to base your food and travel estimates
on actual data (i.e., on data gathered over the three-day period), as well as energy and water
estimates (i.e., on monthly data). Show how you basically calculated each footprint.
For the purpose of simplification, you do NOT need to calculate: (i) the energy footprint
associated with your food consumption (i.e., you just need to calculate the water and land
footprints); (ii) the water and land footprints associated with travel behavior and home
energy use; and (iii) the energy and land footprints associated with your home water use.
Kyung-Min Nam
Feb 10, 2020
Although the calculation of your ecological footprints itself is an essential part of the
assignment, that is not all. Instead, your ecological footprints calculation should be followed
by the analysis, reflection, and further discussion of the results, and this analysis and
reflection component will also have a crucial weight in your final grade for this assignment.
Recommended Structure
I. Introduction
II. Data & Table of Conversion Factors
III. Estimated Land, Water & Energy Footprints
IV. Analysis, Reflection & Discussion
V. Conclusions




Ecological Footprint

Ecological footprint

Human beings depend on existing natural resources for survival. Although consumption varies, human civilization has a high dependence on all the existing resources. These natural resources are broken down into various components to meet the required purpose, such as food, land, and energy. Humanity pressure on the environment should strike equilibrium with the available resources to facilitate environmental sustainability and an average ecological footprint. The environmental footprint is the tabulation of the average human pressure compared to the natural resources at a given period.  The purpose of this paper is to collect and analyze and tabulate the ecological footprint of all the natural resources consumed by an average human being in a period not exceeding three days.

Every individual contributes to the overall ecological system in the biosphere. The individual footprint is calculated based on water consumption, energy, and land, which are relevant to the mode of housing, electricity, farming activities, and travel behavior. Individual footprint depends on the percentage of renewable sources, waste production, use of fuel-driven vehicles, and pattern of movement. On average, my land footprint is 2.9ha/person/year, while my water footprint ranges between 163t/person/year while the energy footprint adds up to 13kgC/person/year.

Days 2/03/2020 3/03/2020 4/03/2020
Proteins Consumption level(kg) Consumption level(kg) Consumption level(kg)

















Transport behavior



Water use

Energy use



















Monthly Consumption level

1200 (tons)








































An in-depth analysis of the journal over the three days shows increased water consumption compared to energy consumption. Electricity and personal transport make up more than 60 % of the land and water footprint.  The use of fuel-driven vehicles for two consecutive days exceeds the level of the biosphere to absorb the waste and regenerate the conducive environment. The ecological footprint is expected to increase with the dramatic increase in air travel (Robinn, 2006)the although the land footprint is relatively low, the household requires a 60% reduction of ecological footprint to achieve the global sustainable agenda. With this in mind, the individual should consider the use of renewable energy sources and eco-friendly sources of energy and reach a global sustainability target footprint per person.

To get the energy footprint, I divided the estimated energy bill by the monthly water bill to get 13kgC/person/year. On the other hand, the land footprint ranges between the results of the energy, and land footprint shows the need for a 70% water footprint. The household has a   0.4 deficit to sustain the lifestyle of the house members.   On average, the domestic consumption of water considering personal hygiene, washing clothes, food preparation, cooking, buying goods and services has an exponential impact on the lands and energy potential to regenerate the same amount of water within the limited time of use. Considering the possible implications of the unsustainable ecological system, households should adopt water conservation practices such as reuse, efficiency, and recycling.

Table 1

Domestic consumption of water disrupts the bio capacity of the land and energy components to regenerate or produce more water resources in the environment. Approximately 13% of the electricity consumed globally is required to fuel water-related household activities. The amount of energy needed to run household equipment produces 290 million metric tons of carbon in the atmosphere (The Carbon Footprint of Domestic Water Use in Huron River Watershed Council, 2008).

On the other hand, the domestic use of water presented a relatively land footprint. Domestic consumption of water generated 2.9ha/person/year.  I used the global household-level footprint calculator to determine the land footprint associated with domestic water consumption (Global Footprint Network, 2003). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, this individual land footprint is in deficit for the longest time possible. There isn’t enough land to meet the needs of the people. Human consumption is high compared to arable land for production.


Table 2

The ecological footprint functions as a yardstick to assess, analyze, and situate the extent of social pressure across various phenomena into the ecosystem.  It provides a comprehensive analysis of the complex interrelation between land, water, and energy on an international and domestic level. Although the ecological footprint does not give a specific assessment, especially for energy footprint in food consumption, it is still an optimized tool to account for waste and production. A closer look in the individual inventories shows that use varies from one individual to another. However, everyone contributes a relevant percent of the energy, land, and water footprint, which disrupts the environmental sustainability. For instance, the inventories show that I contribute 2.9ha/person/year on average, which means that we require three planets to support my lifestyle.   The earth does not have the ecological capacity to regenerate the food, energy I consume in a month or three days within the same period due to the high human-environmental capacity and bio capacity (David, 2011). From the inventories above, it is evident that ecological deficits are due to poor decisions and overreliance on fewer coefficient products.

On the other hand, excessive consumption of energy causes a gradual rise in the environmental footprint, further deteriorating the overall ecosystem.  Table 2 is a graphical representation of the energy footprint associated with domestic water use taking into account the technological improvement of water- energy-related equipment. The use of empirical data to calculate the energy footprint gives accurate metrics on the outplay of demand and supply versus the regenerative capacity in the biosphere.

Ecological footprint also gives clear picture of the absorptive waste capacity in the biosphere.  Although they represent a trivial method of estimating the ecological footprint in terms of land, water, and energy, the estimates give a general outlook of foundational environmental prints in the cities, nations, and the world overall.

This study aimed to populate inventory ledgers, calculate, and assess the individual footprints based on personal consumption and movement patterns and translate the indices into comprehensive data sets. Although the methodology follows different models, the results are concise and accurate that shows the intricate relationship between the three earth’s surfaces: land, water, and energy despite the varying methodology and calculations. Results show the proximity between the average energy footprint, land footprint, and water footprints. These results depict the picture of the increasingly resource-constrained world with a very high demand for human needs. Technological improvement, change in management practices is causes a paradigm shift in the consumption and production in less affluent countries resulting in original order on land, water, and energy. The advent of globalization and integrated supply chains has caused a systematic shift in consumer behavior and decision. Developing countries consume a lot of resources per unit capita while they have very low regenerative and absorptive power. However, the quantification of these figures is necessary for the characterization of land, water, and energy use form an individual. It is the collective responsibility for all individuals to track the assets facilitating provision and consumption of the natural resources.  Insights and knowledge of the various regenerative and absorptive capacity estimates enable informed decision making and take accountability for their activities.

With the growing quest for environmental sustainability, there is a need to broaden the scope of the ecological footprint to solve the pressing global issues such as food security, global warming, and climate change. The use and application of environmental footprints is a practical step in solving existing ecological problems. Besides, there is an incremental growth and improvement in the methodology and calculations to advance the assessment of the footprint to make it provide advanced insights into the biosphere, such as the energy footprint of food production at an individual level.

List of articles

Vasileska, A., & Rechkoska, G. (2012). Global and regional food consumption patterns and trends. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 44, 363-369.



Summary of the food consumption patterns and travel ledger over three days.

All the foods recorded in the ledger were consumed during the three days. These include Beef, Eggs, Chicken, Peanuts, milk, lentils, apples, onions, bananas, tomatoes, leeks, bread, rice, couscous, millet. These foods are categorized into proteins, vegetables/fruits, and carbohydrates as they consume varying levels of energy, water, and land use during the distribution, processing, and production.

One kg of beef, in particular, requires 16,000 liters of water to be processed before it is fit for consumption, a relatively high figure compared to the regenerative power and resources needed to rear a cow for the production of another kilogram of meat. In comparison, a tray of eggs complemented by a contributes approximately 1 kg/person/year (Vasileska, & Rechkoska, 2012). On the other hand, vegetables account for 13% of the total footprint that is according to the energy emissions from food consumed, spillage, and losses. In terms of diet, fruits take up the highest footprint followed by vegetables, while beef or lamb has minimal global indices. On average, cereals are outpacing the animal products in the beef category. From the inventories presented, it is evident that food consumption is a significant contributor to energy, land, and water footprint.


David, M. (2011, June 30). Ecological Footprint Analysis. Retrieved from A Global Footprint Network Report:

Global Footprint Network. (2003, January). Footprint Calculator. Retrieved from Global Footprint Network:

Robinn, C. S. (2006). Household Ecological Footprints_Demograohics and Sustainability. Enviroment Assessment Policy and Management.

The Carbon Footprint of Domestic Water Use in Huron River Watershed Council. (2008, February). Retrieved from Huroin River Watershed Council:








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