As we have slowly focused our attention on global warming - after all it did take us only about 20 years to become concerned - the term "carbon footprint" has become sort of familiar.  Every individual, household, industry, company, and product has one; it is a way of measuring and conceptualizing the impact of each of these on the environment because of the amount of greenhouse gases it produces by burning fuel. 

We prefer the less familiar term, "ecological footprint."  This measures all human demands on the biosphere including the carbon footprint subset as well as food and fiber footprints.

For a product or an industry the ecological footprint would count the raw materials used in production, the fuel and water needed to process the raw materials, the fuel and materials to package and transport the completed output, and the energy used in heating and lighting the manufacturing, administrative, and warehouse facilities.

Individual and household footprints are a measure of the fuel used to heat and light the home and provide transportation and recreation for the occupants; the packaging and transportation of the food and other products the occupants purchase and use; their disposal, and all other natural resources consumed such as water or wood products.

A household which grows much of its own food and purchases the remainder from organic sources within 200 miles of home, relies on public transportation, recycles and composts, and does what it can to reduce the use of electricity, gas, and water to run its modestly sized home has a dainty footprint.  Those who commute to work for hours in an SUV from their 6,000 square foot homes, drink only designer bottled water, and keep the thermostat at 80 in the winter and 60 in the summer leave a Sasquatch-sized trail.

How big is your foot?  You can calculate your impact in a number of ways with the help of several websites which we will talk about later this week.