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Welcome to the SJSU Ecological Footprint Challenge

October 4, 2009, 5:09 pm

As defined by the United Nation's Brundtland Commission in 1987, sustainability means "meet[ing] the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." It requires protecting and enhancing the Earth's natural resources in balance with social equity and economic development concerns.

The Ecological Footprint Challenge will help you better relate your everyday behaviors to the sustainability of their environmental impacts, which is often difficult to do. For example, when you hear that driving a car using one gallon of gasoline generates 19.6 pounds of CO2, it is hard to visualize those pounds and their short- or long-term impacts. However, everyone understands what land is, and how much land makes up an acre (approximately the area of the Spartan Stadium football field).

When I first took the quiz, I was dismayed to find out that if everyone lived like me, we would need over five Earths. Since then, I have taken steps to reduce my family’s meat consumption, reduced the number of miles I travel by car by 10%, and began to prioritize local and organic options in my weekly shopping. Just as importantly, I began having conversations with my husband and children about making lifestyle changes for our family’s and the planet’s health. It hasn’t been that difficult—in fact, we have found it to be empowering.

Globally, there are only 39 acres of productive land available per person to support the planet on a renewable basis. The ecological footprint of the average American is over six times this amount. This means we are using the natural resources of less developed countries and the natural resources of future generations to support our current consumption levels.

One of the key barriers to getting people to take action on complex and far reaching issues--such as climate change or ecosystem restoration--is that individuals feel their actions don't make a difference. By participating in the SJSU Footprint Challenge, you are helping us better understand our collective impact and the summary benefits of working together to address the most pressing issues of our time.

I look forward to working with all of you this year on reducing our footprints and creating a strong culture of sustainability at SJSU.

Think Spartan,

Katherine Cushing, Ph.D.
Director of Sustainability

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The Ecological Footprint Quiz estimates the area of land and ocean required to support your consumption of food, goods, services...