Ecological Footprint

Various tools have been developed to quantify sustainability of cities and countries. Berger (2014) listed six aspects of sustainability as aesthetic, environmental, financial, functional, political and social. Environmental Sustainability of urban or rural area can be measured with ecological footprint. Calcott and Bull (2007) defined ecological footprint as “the amount of bio productive land and sea required supporting a person’s lifestyle”.

 Ecological footprint of a city can be calculated using individual’s requirement of productive land and sea using their current expenses in housing, transport, food, consumer items, private services, public services, capital investment and miscellaneous sectors (Calcott and Bull, 2007). Ecological footprint can be expressed in global hectares. Human consumption of resources equivalent to average productivity of global hectares is expressed in ecological footprint (IIED, 2006).

In 2007, global ecological footprint was about 1.5 times the earth’s bio-capacity (Lee and Peng, 2014). Significant difference can be observed between the ecological footprints of the continents. North America has an ecological footprint of 8.7 global hectares (gha) per person. In contrast, Africa has a footprint of 1.4 gha per person (Lee and Peng, 2014).

Urbanization has been identified as a triggering factor for larger ecological footprint as it increases resource consumption (WWF, 2014).  Calcott and Bull (2007) studied the ecological footprint of British cities and ranked them based on the number of plants required to meet current consumption trend. Newport and Plymouth have been ranked as number 1 requiring less resources (2.78 planets), London was ranked as 44 (3.05 planets) and Winchester was ranked as 60 (3.62 planets).


Berger, M. (2014) The Unsustainable City. Sustainability, Vol 6, pp. 365-374.

Calcott, A. and Bull, J. (2007) Ecological Footprint of British City Residents [Online] Available at [Accessed on 14 April 2014].

International Institute for Environment and Development (2006) Environment and Urbanization [Online] Available at [Accessed on 14 April 2004].

Lee, Y and Peng, L (2014) Taiwan’s Ecological Footprint. Sustainability, Vol 6, pp 6170-6187.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) (2014) Ecological Footprint and Sustainable Consumption in China. [Online] Available at [Accessed on 24 October 2014].


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