What is an eco footprint?
An Ecological footprint is the amount of land used to support consumption and waste production. The footprint can vary with the amount of waste the city produces, the energy it uses, the amount of food transported to the city and the amount of water used.
Different cities and areas of the world will have different eco footprints because:
Developed countries - buy consumer goods which consume energy in production, transport and use, buy imported foods which increase food miles, own and run more cars contributing to global warming, spend money on holidays which increases the footprint due to travel, more waste is generated from consumer goods and consumption.
Developing countries - have lower incomes so consume less, consume fewer goods, many of them grow their own food, few people own and run cars, only the small, wealthy variety can afford holidays, electricity consumption levels are low.
Those who commute long distances to work are increasing their carbon footprint. London is reducing its energy consumption through congestion charges, encouraging the use of public transport, bus lanes speed up journeys and are more energy efficient, improving and extending the underground, introduction of the oyster card, cycle lanes and the introduction of the Greater London Low Emission Zones which encourage lorry companies to invest in low emission vehicles.
BedZed is a prototype town in South London and is the largest carbon-neutral eco-community in the UK. It is built on a Brownfield site and so didn't damage any eco-systems whilst being built. It has 82 homes and also has a children's nursery and commercial buildings. It is socially sustainable - out of the 82 houses in BedZed - 34 are for sale, 23 have shared ownership, 10 are for key workers to reduce the commute to work and 15 are affordable to rent for those on a lower income.
BedZed is reducing energy consumption by:
All of the buildings in BedZed have solar panels, better insulation and triple glazing. The buildings material store heat when the weather is warm and release the heat when the weather is colder - this means less energy is needed to cool and heat buildings. The houses are built facing the south so that they will receive more hours of sunlight on the solar panels and windows, buildings have vents that make then cooler in the summer, building materials are natural, recycles or reclaimed materials, all light bulbs are low energy and energy tracking devices are installed in the kitchens.
BedZed also has car sharing policies to reduce the number of cars on the road, a Green Transport Plan which encourages the use of cycling through cycle lanes and the use of Electric cars is encouraged.
All London councils have adopted recycling policies in order to cut landfill - the Government charges penalties if a council puts too much waste in landfill sites (£48 per tonne). London only recycles about 10% of its waste when it could recycle about 80%. In Hounslow, waste is recycled using kerbside collection for plastics, glass, paper etc. It recycles 19% of its waste which is more than the average for London. Recycling saves energy as it takes 95% less energy to recycle some aluminium that it does to make more.
- Only buying products that have been made in the UK and that have recycled packaging or by only buying organic and Fair Trade items; this encourages an ethical approach to shopping meaning people have to think about more than just the price.
- Eating foods in season so farmers don't use a lot of energy growing food in optimum conditions.
- Farmers markets allow people to buy good-quality products that have low food miles. Chiswick has a farmers market every other week.
- Car Sharing Policies, there is a car sharing firm in London called Zip Car.
- Using a metal reusable water bottle means you don't by a plastic one everyday. Plastic takes a lot of energy to make so by not buying them, you reduce the energy that you are wasting.
- Use greener transport such as walking, cycling or public transport. Reducing the number of cards reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the air as well as less particulates.
- Recycling waste products.
Local attempts to reduce a city's eco footprint include - Food practising policies, use of farmers' markets, allotments, recycling waste, using public transport, car sharing, cutting back on electricity consumption, holidaying at home to avoid air flights which use a lot of energy.
National attempts to reduce a city's eco footprint include - Promoting the use of public transport such as the use of the Oyster card in London, traffic management programmes such as congestion charges and low emission zones in London, promoting the use of bicycles through bicycle lanes, urban gardens, sustainable energy management such as BedZed or Reykjavik in Iceland which is powered solely by geothermal energy, urban design and waste management.