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Simple Switches To Lower Your Ecological Footprint

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USF chapter.

The Basics: 

In short, The Ecological Footprint measures the supply that the environment can offer us versus the demand that we place on it. This includes the gas you burn in your car, the electricity you use, the food you buy, and more. It also gives you a comprehensive number that totals the amount of carbon dioxide you produce and your land usage in hectares. The more CO2 you produce, the higher your negative impact on the environment. All of these factors are then compiled to determine the Ecological Footprint, a tool used to show individuals how many Earths we would need if everyone lived like them. Test yours here! 

There are many simple and cheap switches to combat your Ecological Footprint. Here are just a few ideas on how to do so:


The average consumer in the United States throws 81 lbs of clothes away per year! That’s the equivalent of throwing 243 shirts away. All of this waste then sits in landfills rotting, which releases CO2, further damaging the ozone. To keep up with fashion trends, brands like SHEIN, H&M, Fashion Nova, and other popular fast fashion brands create low quality clothing that will likely end up in the landfill due to its short shelf life. To combat this, consumers should aim to buy with intention. Instead of buying things for the trend, buy things that you can see yourself wearing for years to come. 

The main appeal of fast fashion is the price. The average price of clothing has gone up 2.3% in the last 12 months. Thrifting and donating old clothes is the easiest alternative to the fast fashion industry. Not only is it less expensive, but the selection is greater. At the thrift store you can find pieces from all years, sizes, colors, styles, and more. There really is something for everyone, and if you dig deep enough you can even find designer brands for a fraction of the price. 

Stores such as Avalon Exchange, Uptown Cheapskate, and Plato’s Closet will even buy your old clothes off you as long as it’s in good condition and is in style. More information can be found on their websites. Other places like Goodwill and Salvation Army will allow you to donate your used items, in any condition, and you can even get a tax credit receipt. Both of these are good options to off-set your ecological footprint as you create less waste by giving the clothes new life through a new owner. 

Plant-Based Diets:

It’s no secret that the farming industry does a world of damage to the environment. Not only does this industry require inordinate amounts of water, but it also requires hundreds of acres of land, and produces tons of CO2. By reducing your meat and dairy intakes you can easily lower your ecological footprint.

How much water is needed to yield 1 lb of meat vs. crops

  • Beef: 1,847 gallons
  • Pork: 720 gallons 
  • Chicken: 520 gallons
  • Oats: 290 gallons 
  • Soy: 256 gallons 
  • Corn: 148 gallons

The average bathtub can hold anywhere from 40-70 gallons of water, meaning it takes roughly 37 bathtubs of freshwater to create one pound of beef. 

In addition to water use, raising livestock utilizes a large amount of land resources. It is estimated that each cow needs 1-2 acres of grazing land. 

On the other hand 1-2 acres of land yields

  • Corn: 9,127.138 lbs/1 acre 
  • Oats: 2,183 lbs/1 acre
  • Soybeans: 2,800 lbs/1 acre 

By removing one type of meat from your diet, or electing to switch to dairy alternatives, such as oat beverages and nondairy yogurt, you can drastically lower your water footprint. According to the Water Footprint Network, the water footprint is defined as “a measure of humanity’s appropriation of fresh water in volumes of water consumed and/or polluted.” Although the Water Footprint is not factored into your Ecological Footprint, reducing water usage will lower your impact on the environment. 

In the past ten years, livestock has been reported to be responsible for 11.1%-19.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to a recent study published in Science Vol. 370, “If current trends for food demand and production continue, emissions from the food system alone would likely push global warming beyond 1.5°C, even if all non-food system emissions were immediately eliminated.” Thus, it is more important now than ever to make simple switches to your diet to do your part in fighting the climate crisis. 

Carolina Gutfreund is a second year honors student double majoring in English with a Creative Writing concentration and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences with a dual concentration in Environmental Science and Policy and Social Relations and Policy. She is a climate advocate and the Treasurer of the Botanical Gardens Club at USF. She plans to work for the EPA when she is older. She has been published by the USF honors college, Thread magazine, and the Library of Congress.