Earth Day: Rethinking our ecological footprint

LWF Global Young Reformers Erika Rodning (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) and Fernanda Zuñiga (Lutheran Church in Chile) during a march through the streets of central Madrid as part of a public contribution to the United Nations climate meeting COP25, urging decision-makers to take action for climate justice. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert
LWF Global Young Reformers Erika Rodning (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) and Fernanda Zuñiga (Lutheran Church in Chile) during a march through the streets of central Madrid as part of a public contribution to the United Nations climate meeting COP25, urging decision-makers to take action for climate justice. Photo: LWF/Albin Hillert

Measuring carbon emissions and overuse of resources

(LWI) – Earth Day which is observed on 22 April was an occasion for two young climate activists to measure their ecological footprint. Observed since 1970 and promoted by the United Nations as the International Mother Earth Day, it aims at raising awareness about the environment, interdependence between people, other living species, and our planet.

"We are blessed to be able to live on this earth," says Fernanda Zùñiga from the Lutheran Church in Chile. "It is our responsibility to take care of it so that other generations can enjoy it as we do."

We are blessed to be able to live on this earth. It is our responsibility to take care of it so that other generations can enjoy it as we do.
Fernanda Zùñiga, Lutheran Church in Chile

Zùñiga is one of the Lutheran World Federation's (LWF) Global Young Reformers and was a delegate to COP25 in Madrid, Spain, last year.

This year, Earth Day takes place at a time of raised awareness of global interconnectedness due to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. "We have been able to see how things change, and it has given us a clearer overall perspective," she says.

The Ecological Footprint Calculator is a tool developed by the Global Footprint Network, to substantiates the interconnectedness between lifestyle, the use of natural resources, and the effect this has on the environment. It also offers suggestions for reducing consumption. According to data collected by the organization, on average humans worldwide use ecological resources that would require 1.75 Earths to sustain.

Zùñiga and her fellow COP25 delegate Erika Rodning (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) had a go at the Footprint Calculator, measuring individual consumption patterns, housing, and transportation.

Measuring the ecological footprint

With a footprint of 1.1 Earths Zùñigas was well below the average for her country. In 2016, Chileans used resources that could only be provided in a sustainable form by 2.64 Earths. Rodning's lifestyle resulted in an ecological footprint of 2.6 Earths, well below the Canadian average of 4.75 Earths.

Evaluating her result, Rodning saw strengths and weaknesses. "I strive to lower my ecological footprint by limiting consumption of meat, relying primarily on public transportation to get around, and limiting purchases of material goods," she says.

"Two areas where I think I use too are housing and international travel. While I live in housing that is considered typical by Western Canadian standards, I think my home is larger, and therefore more energy-intensive, than what I truly need. I also love to travel internationally – something I realize leaves an ecological impact."

Zùñiga said, "The fact that I don't live in a city has given me the blessing that together with my family, we can grow our food." Also, she tries to lead a lifestyle as "little consumerist as possible."

Increasing awareness about ecological impact is a process. "Since I was a child, I was taught to separate waste in my house," Zùñiga recalled. "First, organic and inorganic waste. Little by little, I began to venture into the separation of other types of waste, thus gradually expanding my knowledge. Composting is undoubtedly the area that has now attracted my attention the most."

Many small personal steps can make a significant contribution at the end. But societies also need to take stock of their natural resources. "I think the main thing is to regulate our form of consumption," said Zùñiga. Rodning agreed and added a few points to the list: "I think that Canadian society needs to move towards denser, more walkable cities with improved public transit systems and smaller, more efficient homes. We need to reduce consumerism and shift towards more plant-based diets. Finally, we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and turn to more sustainable forms of energy."