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Welcome to the "Ecological Footprint of Islands"!
Here you can calculate the Ecological Footprint for your island.

The earth has a limited biocapacity which is already being exceeded by human exploitation. Currently more resources are extracted than can be renewed by the natural system (measured within one year) and humanity’s imprint on the earth’s ecosystem becomes more and more visible. We need strategies to reverse this process and live more sustainably on our planet!

The Ecological Footprint calculator for islands is part of the research project "The Ecological Footprint – A standardised tool for small island sustainability promotion on the basis of the Ecological Footprint methodology" by Prof. Dr. Ratter and Jan Petzold at the Institute of Geography, Hamburg University. We intend to develop an applicable version of the Ecological Footprint concept for a cross-island survey about sustainability.

The next section explains the theoretical background of the Ecological Footprint concept. Further down you can get to the calculation form, where you can calculate your island's Ecological Footprint. The results of the calculation will be displayed immediately, saved and used within the thesis project. If you wish you can be informed about the final result of the project.

Please read the explanations on this page as well as on the calculation page carefully before calculating your island's footprint.

 What is the Ecological Footprint?
Ecological Footprint

The Ecological Footprint is a concept developed by William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel in 1994 to illustrate the ecological overshoot of particular groups of people, from the individual to the nation-state and the world. The Ecological Footprint measures flows of energy and matter to, from and within a society in order to account how much productive land and sea area is necessary to supply all goods and degrade waste for that specific society. The result is a footprint of the society on the earth, measured in so called global hectares.

The concept is used to foster and promote the understanding of our earth‘s limited resources and need to change towards a sustainable life style. An Ecological Footprint Assessment can work as a support tool for policy-makers in order to encourage and develop strategies towards a more environmentally responsible life-style. Originally an educational tool, the Ecological Footprint concept has reached broad application in governmental assessments and regional planning. Additionally, it is useful commercially and on company level. The weakness of the concept, however, is that it is assessing solely the state of a society to date, lacking future suggestions of improvement. Thus, the actual Ecological Footprint result alone is not very powerful and besides very complicated to calculate.

Islands, particularly small islands, face certain circumstances that distinguish them from continental regions and make them interesting for the Ecological Footprint: natural boundaries of islands intensify the pressure of limited space available for production. Thus, imported and exported goods have to be transported via sea or air, while infrastructural connections to the mainland traffic networks or power grids are hardly possible. These circumstances have consequences for the Ecological Footprint. For instance, less car traffic could lead to a lower carbon footprint; higher air and seaway traffic for transportation could contrariwise increase the impact. Also, other island specific characteristics such as a major role of the fishing industry and consumption need closer consideration.

 Calculate your Island's Ecological Footprint

We invite you to participate in our project by collecting data and using our footprint calculator. First of all, to complete theNauru calculation form for your island's Ecological Footprint, you will probably need data that is not immediately available. Try different sources, official statistics, published surveys or try to estimate the required data. The following will briefly explain the questionnaire and the thoughts behind the respective questions.

AntiguaThe calculation of the Ecological Footprint is based on the idea of measuring human consumption of resources and the according land area needed for production. The general consumption categories are nourishment, shelter, transport and waste. For these categories, land use of cropland, grazing land, forest and built-up land are calculated.

MaltaWe use the standard units and calculation methodology suggested by the Global Footprint Network for this project. Furthermore, a selection of the most important footprint categories with respect to data availability were chosen in order to allow a rather general/universal survey including various parties. Depending on the depth of an Ecological Footprint Assessment, the consumption categories can be subdivided as far as you want. This, however, goes along with further complexity of the calculation process and especially problems in data availability.

 Case study Helgoland

HelgolandIn 2008 we already tried to apply the Ecological Footprint concept on the German island Helgoland. On this basis we were able to connect the concept to the particular situation of a small island (for German speakers:
The problem of data availabilty also came up during our project on Helgoland. For this reason data had to be collected from various sources. Data on food products for example from the harbour authority, which let us access the official statistics for import and export. Data on power consumption was available from the local power plant, which produces all the energy consumed on the island. Since there is no car travel on Helgoland, the only relevant transportation mode was by boat/ship. For this we got data from the harbour service station.

In general, however, passenger transportation is rather difficult to measure. There are various approaches to account for the emissions set free by the different modes of travelling. This survey uses the approach of passenger kilometres. By trying to estimate how many kilometres people travel on the island per year, it is possible to calculate the emissions generated approximately. Certainly, this cannot be more than an estimate, but for the purpose of this study it is the most applicable solution for the transportation category.
The last section includes a selection of materials: paper, textiles, aluminium, other metals, plastic and wood. Data for this category is often found at disposal and landfill sites, if there are available statistics. Otherwise, again harbour statistics are always a good option for islands.

 Your island's footprint calculation

Please do not hesitate to insert estimates in the form, if official data is not available. Let us know what kind of data you entered by the drop-down menu.
The generalisation applied in this methodology due to the objective of broad applicability, however, decreases the precision and explanatory power of the single result. Thus, the result should not to be considered as precise analysis of local sustainability but rather as step to achieve a comparable overview on global island sustainability.

As this is just a first step within a project there may be further work to be done subsequently on the basis of the networking and results generated by this project. The more islands participate in this project the more powerful will be the results and benefit for the island community! Please participate!

Click here to open the calculator