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Ecological Footprinting shows us that if everyone in the world lived like a UK resident we would need three planets to support us.

So what is Ecological Footprinting?

We use Ecological Footprinting for our calculator to measure elements of a person's impact. Ecological Footprinting measures how much biologically productive land and water an individual, population or activity requires to produce all the resources it consumes and to absorb the waste it generates.

Definition: Biologically productive land and water is the area that produces materials useful to humans (forests, farmland, fishing areas and built up areas) but doesn't include marginal land such as deserts.

If we take the total area of biologically productive land in the world (11.2 billion hectares) and divide it by the 6.3 billion people living on the planet we can calculate the area available per person on the planet. If everyone in the world used the same amount of resources we would each have 1.8 global hectares (gha).

However, research shows us that the average person in the UK currently has an Ecological Footprint of around 5.4gha, or three times the global per capita target. This means that if everyone on the planet consumed as much as the average UK resident we'd need three planets to support us.

See how the average Ecological Footprint of a UK resident breaks down:

This data analysis has been created by the Stockholm Environment Institute.


  • Homes and energy (27%) includes gas and electricity consumption, and the building and maintenance of our homes.
  • Transport (17%) and includes fuel consumption, car ownership, public transport and flying.
  • Food (23%) and includes food and drink consumed at home and out at restaurants.
  • Goods (14%) and includes any products we purchase, such as large household objects like furniture and appliances, plus smaller products such as newspapers, clothing, and electronics.
  • Services (9%) includes any services that we use such as recreation, financial, telephone, insurance, private schools and private medical care.
  • Government (7%) includes central and local government activities, the NHS, schools, universities and social services.
  • Capital assets (4%) includes the investment in capital assets such as factories, machinery and other buildings and structures that isn't covered in the sectors above.

Carbon dioxide emissions

Global climate change is recognised as one of the greatest environmental threats facing the world today; the main cause of which is greenhouse gases, with Carbon dioxide (C02) being the main culprit. CO2 is a by-product of our every day activities such as using fossil energy to power our homes and cars. The UK's carbon emissions need to be reduced significantly. In fact the UK government's UK Climate Change Bill has set a target for the UK to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60% below 1990 levels by 2050. For One Planet Living it is thought that we will need to reduce our emissions to 90% of 1990 levels.

Our One Planet Calculator gives users their personal carbon dioxide emissions in tonnes per person. The average emissions for a UK resident are 11.9 tonnes per year. This figure may be higher than you've seen elsewhere. This is because we have included emissions from our consumption of products (wherever they may have come from in the world). Government published data also leaves out emissions from aviation and shipping which are included in our calculator.

Carbon dioxide emissions are also included in the calculation of the Ecological Footprint. The Ecological Footprint converts tonnes of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere into the total area (in global hectares) required to absorb these carbon emissions.


Bioregional is an entrepreneurial charity, which invents and delivers practical solutions for sustainability. We:

  • Develop sustainable products, services and production systems - and set up new enterprises and companies to deliver them
  • Initiate and guide the development of sustainable communities
  • Seek to replicate our approach through consultancy, communications and training.

Our aim is to lead the way to sustainable living - through practical demonstration.

The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)

SEI is an independent, international research institute specializing in sustainable development and environment issues. It works at local, national, regional and global policy levels. SEI-York has provided the Ecological Footprint and carbon emissions modelling that forms the basis of this calculator. SEI-York is one of the constituent centres of SEI. They are established as a leading expert on the subject of Sustainable Consumption within the UK.

One Planet Living is a global initiative based on 10 principles of sustainability developed by Bioregional and WWF.

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