ecological footprint

GC: n

CT: Can sustainability plans make sustainable cities? The ecological footprint implications of renewable energy within Philadelphia’s Greenworks Plan.
Municipal sustainability plans typically include laudable environmental goals, but they rarely explain the connection between these goals and a larger conception of sustainability. In this article, we examine one local sustainability plan, Philadelphia’s Greenworks, through a city-based, rather than per capita-based, ecological footprint (EF) analysis. Our objective is to theoretically establish the extent to which at least one of the items in Greenworks—to have 20% of the city’s electricity come from alternative energy sources—might reduce Philadelphia’s overall energy footprint if implemented within the municipal boundaries. By moving away from the idea that per capita energy footprints add up to a citywide energy footprint, we posit that a city can reduce its overall energy footprint by utilizing internal resources, even if the total land used for that respective energy were to increase. For many cities this will result in the use of renewables, such as solar, biogas, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and other creative solutions. By extending at least one component of Philadelphia’s sustainability plan through EF analysis, we provide a hypothetical example of how municipal sustainability goals might contribute to a larger goal of urban sustainability, at least in the limited sense that they become less reliant on outlying resources.

S: (last access: 6 February 2016)

N: 1. ecological (adj): From ecology.
footprint (n): 1550s, from foot (n.) + print (n.). Related: Footprints. Old English had fotspor, fotswæð.
Carbon footprint was in use by 2001.
2. Human activities consume resources and produce waste. As our populations grow and global consumption increases, it is essential that we measure nature’s capacity to meet these demands on our planet. The Ecological Footprint has emerged as one of the world’s leading measures of human demand on nature. It allows us to calculate human pressure on the planet and come up with facts such as: If everyone lived the lifestyle of the average American, we would need 5 planets. Ecological Footprint Accounting thus addresses whether the planet is large enough to keep up with the demands of humanity.
3. How the Ecological Footprint Works?

  • The Ecological Footprint measures the supply of and demand on nature. On the supply side biocapacity represents the planet’s biologically productive land areas including our forests, pastures, cropland and fisheries. These areas, especially if left unharvested, can also absorb much of the waste we generate, especially our carbon emissions.
  • Biocapacity can then be compared with humanity’s demand on nature: our Ecological Footprint. The Ecological Footprint represents the productive area required to provide the renewable resources humanity is using and to absorb its waste. The productive area currently occupied by human infrastructure is also included in this calculation, since built-up land is not available for resource regeneration.

4. Quite simply, it considers how much land and sea are needed to provide us with the water, energy and food we need to support our lifestyles.

S: 1. OED –; (last access: 6 February 2016). 2 & 3. (last access: 6 February 2016). 4. TERMIUM PLUS (last access: 6 February 2016).


CR: carbon footprint, environment, hybrid car, renewable energy, sustainable development, sustainability, water footprint.