Personal Impact Analysis – due Module 6

Student working on computer.There are various ways to measure your personal environmental impact. One that you may be familiar with is the ecological footprint calculation. The concept of the ecological footprint was developed by Rees and Wackernagel in the early 1990s and there are now numerous versions currently available online. You enter information in various categories, such as food, transport, and heating and cooling, and the calculator produces a number that represents the number of planet Earths that would be required to maintain your lifestyle if everyone lived in the same way you do. Here’s a link to one of the online ecological footprint calculators, the Earth Day Network Footprint Calculator.Unfortunately, with most of these calculators you can’t “see” the calculations being used to generate the result, so it’s difficult to know what factors are being included.

To get a more detailed picture of your ecological impact, you are going to do a personal impact analysis in which you will be examining with more accuracy some of the categories included in the ecological footprint (food, transport, heating and cooling, plus water use). You will calculate your usage of various resources, then compare your values with the average consumption in other parts of the world, and with your classmates.

You should print out the questions and work on them as we cover the topics in the course modules. As a class, we’ll then discuss all the results in Module 6.

  1. Make a list of all the food that you eat for one day. Research one of the meals you ate to find out where the ingredients were grown and include this information in your assignment. Some of this information is available on food manufacturers’ websites. Produce managers at the grocery store may also be able to answer questions on the source of fresh produce.
  2. Using the same list of food you have recorded, calculate what proportion of your food for the day was derived from animals (express this as a percentage of your total food for the day).
  3. How does your water use compare to the average for the United States? Or the average for a person from a lesser developed country? You can go to Data360databases to find out information on water withdrawals in the United States and in other countries. (You will need to look at total water withdrawals and then percentage of total withdrawal for domestic consumption to calculate the domestic water consumption.) You can also find water use data for the U.S. from the USGS and US EPA websites and the Water Information Program. This USGS site also has some nice water use calculators
  4. Calculate how much gas (or diesel) you use, per year, for your transportation.
  5. How does your transportation energy use compare to the average for the United States? Or the average for a person from a lesser developed country? You can go to Data360 to find information on transportation fuel use. You can also use the EIA website and OakRidge Laboratory and USDOT to find overall energy use by country and to find out information on transportation: motor gasoline (or diesel oil) consumption per capita in the United States, and in other countries. You may also search for other sites online.
  6. Examine your utility bills and calculate how much gas and electric you (as an individual) use on an annual basis. (If you do not pay for your gas and electric utilities, I suggest you use an energy calculator to estimate your energy use, or find an average online. Use this energy calculator or find another online.)
  7. How does your residential energy use compare to the average for the United States? Or the average for a person from a lesser developed country? You can go to Data360, EIA website and OakRidge Laboratory to find out information on residential energy consumption in the United States, and in other countries. You may need to calculate individual useage by dividing total country use by the total population. You may also search for other sites online.
  8. Examine your water bills and calculate how much water (in meters cubed) you (as an individual) use on an annual basis. (If you do not get a water bill or use a well, then use the USGS, US EPA or Water Information Program sites, or other sources online, to get an estimate of average individual use, or, calculate your own use.)

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