January: Eliminating Footprints


It’s Leah, the Live Green! Social Media Engagement Intern. I am excited to share with you everything that is happening this month! 

January’s social media campaign will be Eliminating Footprints to kick start the new year. Ecological footprints measure how fast we consume resources and generate waste compared to how fast nature can absorb our waste and develop new resources. This month will offer insight into what actions we can change in our daily lives that will decrease our ecological footprint. This may be anything from composting to just simply walking to class.


An ecological footprint measures a population’s demand for the ecosystem’s resources. Typically made up of energy, settlement, timber, food and fiber, and seafood. When the population’s demand is higher than the Earth can regenerate, it would then be called an ecological deficit. There’s also another form of measurement known as the carbon footprint. The difference between a carbon footprint to an ecological footprint is that a carbon footprint measures the impact on the environment through the number of greenhouse gases produced, while an ecological footprint measures the human demand on the ecological capacity of the earth. However, this month’s campaign is only going to focus on ecological footprints. 

When the entire planet is at an ecological deficit, it’s also known as an overshoot. Earth Overshoot Day is a date in the calendar year when the demand for ecological resources surpasses what Earth can generate in that given year. In 1971, Earth Overshoot Day was seen on December 25th. 

Fast forward to 2022, Earth Overshoot Day took place on July 28th. In just 51 years, the earth’s resources are being used up 151 days earlier. In 2023, it’s predicted that Earth Overshoot Day is going to be on July 27th. To learn more about ecological footprints and Earth Overshoot Day, refer to overshootday.org.


As we dive deeper into the impact of ecological footprints, it’s important to know the difference between a footprint and a footstep. A footprint is an impact on the world that is left behind by our daily decisions, while a footstep is a collection of sustainable decisions to make a step toward a more sustainable future. 

Even though it seems as if our Earth’s resources are getting depleted more and more every year, the good news is that we have the ability to do something about it. There are many ways we can help reduce our ecological footprint individually and collectively as a planet. However, today we’re going to focus on three main categories: waste, energy, and transportation. Read on to learn more about each category’s footprint and footstep. 

As 2023 kicks off, reducing single-use plastic is a great place to start if you’re looking to reduce an ecological footprint. Take a footstep forward and make the switch to alternatives such as reusable water bottles, grocery bags, and coffee cups. Iowa State encourages reusable cups by offering a 35-cent discount if you bring a reusable coffee mug to ISU Dining Cafes and C-Stores. To learn more about reducing single-use plastics, check out “Single-Use Plastics 101” on nrdc.org. 


Reducing garbage waste is another great way to help decrease ecological footprints. It’s calculated that there are about 230 million tons of municipal garbage produced each year. Garbage in landfills can lead to many other issues such as water pollution and air pollution. One way you can take a footstep forward at Iowa State is to donate gently used clothing for the 2023 Sustainapalooza Clothing Swap. In return, you can swap for a “new to you item” at the event. Stay tuned for more information regarding Sustainapalooza! To learn more about reducing waste, check out “Reducing and Reusing Basics” on epa.gov. 


Energy is another big contributor to ecological footprints. The appliances we all use at home use up more energy than our earth can sustain. Take a footstep forward and try out energy-efficient appliances. Another easy footstep we can all make is to unplug electronics when we’re not using them. The US Department of Energy stated that on average 75 percent of electricity used to power home electronics and appliances is consumed just while the products are turned off. To learn more about energy use regarding ecological footprints, check out “Ecological Footprint: Best Ways to Reduce it” on ecobnb.com. 

Considering other forms of transportation to class or work could also contribute to the reduction of ecological footprints. Walking is one of the easiest ways to take a step forward in helping our environment. A recent study showed that walking a mile and a half would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75%, than those that a car would produce driving the same distance. Walking not only helps reduce ecological footprints, but it can also increase health benefits as well. To learn more about alternative transportation and the benefits of walking, check out “Walking Drastically Cuts Your Carbon Footprint” on blueandgreentomorrow.com. 


As 2023 moves forward, consider how your ecological footprint may impact yourself and your environment, economy, and society. There are so many easy footsteps you can take that will reduce the impact. It can be as easy as dropping off some old clothes for Sustainapalooza Clothing Swap, bringing a reusable mug to an ISU Dining Cafe, or just simply walking to class. 

Happy New Year!! Stay tuned for a month of tips, resources, connections and “did you know” stories and posts on our social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, as we round out this month’s campaign. And stay tuned for February’s Sustainability Made Easy campaign. 


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