Our habits, decisions and behaviours not only influence the way we act and think but also have a direct impact on the environment. The ecological footprint is a sustainability indicator that measures the effect our lifestyle has on nature.

Commuting to work by car or by bike, eating local or imported produce... our lifestyle also determines how we care for the environment. The things we do every day directly affect the planet, which is amid a climate crisis that will have irreversibly devastating effects if it is not overcome in time.

According to the United in Science 2020 report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) under the direction of the United Nations Secretary-General, the period between 2016 and 2020 is expected to be the warmest in history, with an average global temperature rise of 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial era. The causes that have made climate more extreme include the rise in Co2 and other greenhouse gases. 

The ecological footprint: how we affect the planet

This sustainability indicator measures how much land a given activity requires and the planet's biocapacity to contain the waste it produces. Today, the data is clear: our consumption of resources and production of waste are far more than what the planet can sustain. 

The ecological footprint includes many categories, namely these four: 

  • The carbon footprint measures CO2 emissions from everyone’s daily activity, including the production and consumption of goods and services.

    Small acts, like traveling by bike round town, can help not only our well-being but the planet’s as well. Here, companies play a fundamental role. As a founder member of the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), Santander is committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

  • The water footprint measures the fresh water needed to produce goods and services. Our planet’s primary resource is no doubt one of the most ravaged by human activity. Habits like turning off the tap or thawing food early will reduce water consumption
  • The land footprint measures the natural space needed to produce a particular raw material. Some raw materials can only be extracted in certain countries under special climate conditions, which can often lead to deforestation.
  • The material footprint measures the amount of raw materials (including vegetation) a good or service requires. Using more sustainable alternatives, like when we decorate our home, helps prevent the overuse of finite resources. 

According to the WWF’s Living Planet Report, if we haven't changed our habits by 2050, we would need 2.5 planet Earths to sustain our activity. Things like deforestation, unsustainable agriculture and illegal exploitation of resources have widened the biodiversity gap. For instance, the number of vertebrate species in nature has declined by 68% since 1970. 

The ecological footprint also carries a social footprint, as it widens the gap with society’s most vulnerable. To narrow it, promoting sustainability means using resources responsibly and fostering fair trade and peoples’ financial well-being. 

Therefore, companies and individuals must do their part and commit to fighting climate change, supporting sustainable growth and advancing towards a green economy

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