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Earth Day – How Big is Your Footprint?

Try Earth Day Network's Footprint Calculator
Try Earth Day Network’s Footprint Calculator

Tomorrow, April 22, 2014, marks the 44th Annual Earth Day, which started in 1970. Today, over a billion people participate in Earth Day activities around the world.

This first Earth Day, back on April 22, 1970, could probably be credited with the modern environmental movement and the passage of such environmental legislation as the Clean Air Act or the Endangered Species Act. We’ve seen some great things come out of the Clean Air Act, such as recent changes in automotive and power production emissions regulations put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Legislation, of course, is one thing, but what about personal responsibility.

While the first Earth Day began as a movement, today’s Earth Day Network is active in over 192 countries with over 22,000 corporate, governmental, and private partners around the world. Moving people to vote for legislation is just a small part of what Earth Day Network works for, but perhaps the bigger impact is educational. Each of us generates a certain carbon footprint, which can’t really be legislated. The EPA can legislate the manufacture of vehicles with better fuel economy, such as the 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-In, which gets about 55 mpg. On the other hand, the EPA can’t legislate us to avoid buying a muscle car.

On Earth Day Network’s site, they have a footprint calculator, which gives you a rough idea of how many of the world’s resources you are using. For example, in my current residence, in the highlands of Perú, I eat mostly local food, spend a little bit on electricity, and use a motorcycle to get around. The calculator says that, if everyone lived my lifestyle, we’d only use 60% of earth’s resource. On the other hand, if I fill in the information regarding my resource utilization when I used to live in New Jersey, the situation is drastically different. If everyone lived that way, we’d use 530% of earth’s resources! Of course, the real use of this information is to then ask ourselves, is there anything we can do to shrink that footprint?

Image © Earth Day Network

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