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FAQ

What is new about this quiz?

This quiz replaces the old footprint quiz that has been posted at this site since 2002. Our new quiz incorporates the latest footprint science, which has changed considerably since that time. These scientific advances have caused footprint, biological capacity, and number of Earths figures to change - significantly in most cases. For more details of these changes please consult Venetoulis, Jason and John Talberth 2005, "Refining the Ecological Footprint." The manuscript can be accessed here: http://www.rprogress.org/publications/2006/RefiningEF_2006.pdf.

What is the intent of the footprint quiz?

The quiz is based on national consumption averages and is meant to give you an idea of your ecological footprint relative to other people in the country you live in. Although the quiz is not flexible enough to account for all possible lifestyles and circumstances, the 21 questions provide a reasonable estimate for most people. The quiz also gives you an idea of your ecological footprint relative to a sustainable footprint, which is simply the Earth’s biological carrying capacity expressed in global hectares or global acres divided by its population. The latest global footprint calculations show this sustainable footprint level to be 15.71 global hectares or 43 global acres.

What is the general methodology for calculating my footprint?

The quiz begins with the per capita average carbon, food, housing, and goods and services footprint values for your country and then makes a series of additions or deductions to these values based on your choices. These footprint values are derived from per capita average forest, cropland, pastureland, marine fisheries, built space, and carbon footprint values generated by the global footprint calculator housed at Redefining Progress (RP) using data published by international agencies like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Bank. The general methodology for the per capita figures is described in Venetoulis, Jason and John Talberth 2005, "Refining the Ecological Footprint." The allocation of the RP footprint values to the quiz footprint categories (carbon, food, housing and goods and services) is guided by an extensive set of scientific research published by governments, non-governmental agencies, and academic institutions.

How accurate is the footprint quiz?

Footprint methods are still evolving. For example, footprint practitioners are still working to fill in gaps in their ability to account for pollution and unsustainable resource management and until they do, it is likely that footprint accounts underestimate our demands on nature. The most accurate and comprehensive footprint calculations are the national footprint accounts since consumption and trade flows are best documented at the national level and since national footprint accounting methods have been through the academic peer review process. The quiz computes your personal footprint based on data from these national accounts, so it is about as accurate as it can be given the current state of footprint methodologies.

I live a fairly green lifestyle but the quiz shows that it is unsustainable. Why is this so?

If you already live a sustainable lifestyle, do not be discouraged by your results. There are some portions of your footprint that are not the direct result of your consumption habits. For example, each resident of a city is "responsible" for a portion of the city's infrastructure, such as roads, schools, and government offices, regardless of whether the resident uses those services. In addition, some options that could make your footprint smaller are not available to you as a result of choices on the part of local decision makers, such as reliable and efficient public transportation as an alternative to driving. Therefore, an important path to reducing your footprint is to advocate for more sustainable decisions at all levels of government. This will make it easier for you and many others to reduce ecological footprints.

Carbon footprint


What does my carbon footprint include?


The carbon footprint is the amount of land and ocean area required to absorb the carbon emissions associated with a visitor’s home energy use and transportation.

How is my carbon footprint calculated?

The average carbon sequestration rate of all aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems worldwide is roughly .06 tons of carbon per hectare per year. Thus, for every metric ton of carbon emitted, the footprint quiz estimates the land and ocean area required to absorb those emissions to be 16.67 hectares. Starting with national per capita carbon emissions data taken from the World Bank’s World Development Indicators, the quiz first segregates out the portion of carbon emissions attributable to home energy use and transportation. Then the quiz makes a series of additions or deductions to this footprint based on visitor choices.

How can I reduce my carbon footprint?

In the context of the quiz, a visitor’s carbon footprint varies with respect to climate zone, home size, home energy use profile, personal transportation choices, home energy saving features and habits, home location, and participation in carbon offset programs. As such, those who live in milder climates relative to the national average, rely on a cleaner mix of home energy sources, drive less, have energy efficient homes, live in higher density urban areas, and purchase offsets have lower carbon footprints.

Food footprint


What does my food footprint include?


The food footprint is the amount of cropland, pastureland, and marine fisheries supporting annual food consumption plus the land and ocean area required to absorb the carbon emissions associated with food production, processing, and transportation.

How is my food footprint calculated?

For each country, per capita cropland, pastureland, and marine fisheries footprints are taken from the national accounts. To this, the quiz adds the portion of the average per capita carbon footprint in a given country associated with food production, processing, and transportation. The quiz then makes a series of additions or deductions to this footprint based on visitor choices.

How can I reduce my food footprint?

The quiz varies a visitor’s food footprint with respect to diet and food shopping choices. The quiz also takes into account whether a visitor has a garden because gardens enhance biological capacity. Those who eat low on the food chain, shop often at farmers markets or natural food stores, select certified organic foods when they can, eat fewer big meals, and maintain a garden for their vegetables and herbs have lower footprint values.

Housing footprint


What does my housing footprint include?


The housing footprint includes the spatial area of land taken up by a particular housing unit, the forestland area needed to produce wood products used in construction and furnishing, the cropland area displaced by household water consumption, and the land and ocean area required to absorb the carbon emissions associated with housing construction and maintenance.

How is my housing footprint calculated?

The initial per capita housing footprint for a given country is based on the share of its forestland footprint associated with housing construction and furnishings, the share of its built space footprint associated with residential structures, per capita water consumption, and the portion of the average per capita carbon footprint associated with construction and maintenance of housing. Forestland and built space footprints are taken from the national accounts. Per capita water use is taken from FAO statistics. The quiz then makes a series of additions or deductions to this footprint based on visitor choices.

How can I reduce my housing footprint?

The quiz varies a visitor’s housing footprint with respect to dwelling type, the amount and kind of land it occupies, home furnishing choices, incorporation of green design elements, use of water saving features, and choice of cleaning products. Housing footprints are lowest for smaller urban dwellings built in accordance with green building techniques with little land and stocked with furnishings that are certified as sustainably produced. Housing footprints are also reduced for dwellings with a wide range of water saving features and if occupants rely on biodegradable cleaning products.

Goods and services footprint


What does my goods and services footprint include?


The goods and services footprint includes the amount of land and ocean area required to absorb the carbon emissions associated with manufacturing, transport, and disposal of goods, the land area used for commercial activities, and the forest area required to produce pulp and paper products.

How is my goods and services footprint calculated?

The initial per capita goods and services footprint for a given country is based on the goods and services share of the forestland, built space, and carbon footprint. The forestland footprint share represents the share of a country’s per capita forestland footprint associated with consumption of paper products. The built space share represents the share of a country’s per capita built space footprint associated with commercial activities. The carbon footprint share represents the share of a country’s per capita carbon footprint associated with the manufacturing and transportation of goods and the disposal of wastes.

How can I reduce my goods and services footprint?

The quiz varies a visitor’s goods and services footprint with respect to a visitor’s income relative to the country average, spending habits, waste disposal and recycling behavior, and clothing and paper product choices. If a visitor’s income is less than the country average, the implication is that his or her throughput of goods and services is less so his or her footprint is less. In addition, those who tend to save some of their income rather than spend all, are conservative with replacing goods, who generate less trash, recycle more, and make more ecologically conscientious clothing and paper product choices have a smaller footprint relative to others.

What is the significance of my "number of planets" score?

At the end of the quiz, visitors are told how many planets we would need if their consumption habits were extended to everyone on the planet. The number of planets is simply a visitor’s footprint divided by the sustainable footprint of 15.71 global hectares (43 global acres) estimated by RP’s latest global footprint calculator. If the number of planets is less than one, it implies that the visitor is living a sustainable lifestyle because it is within the biological capacity of the one Earth we live on. If the number of planets is more than one, it implies that the visitor is living an unsustainable lifestyle that would require the biological capacity of more than our one Earth to be sustainable over time.


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