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Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.

Letter from the Editor - Summer 2007

ON EARTH DAY SOMEONE SENT ME an Ecological Footprint Quiz.

According to the Global Footprint Network, the ecological footprint is a resource management tool that measures how much land and water area a human population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its wastes under prevailing technology.

In other words, taking the quiz would help measure how sustainable a lifestyle I lead.

The quiz started fairly simply by asking my age range, gender, how big is the city where I live and what type of weather we have. Then it got a little trickier.

There were questions related to my food footprint and goods footprint. I figured that I eat meat more than once a week and egg and dairy products would likely count against me. Still, I thought it would be in my favor that I could answer that one half of the food I eat is not processed, packaged and is locally grown.

To determine my goods footprint I was asked to assess how much waste I generate compared to people in my neighborhood. Well, I use disposable diapers (surely not good) for my son, but I figured that the fact that our place is small and has no yard still allowed me to say I generate much less waste than my neighbors. (I know them; they’re not washing cloth diapers either and they’re running a lawnmower.)

That brings me to shelter. I considered that three of us live in a space between 500-1,000 square feet to be a good sign. Better that we live in a building with two to four housing units. I checked yes next to "Do you have electricity in your home?" but couldn’t honestly check "Yes, with energy conservation and efficiency." We do the best we can.

On the mobility footprint section, I reported that I travel 0 miles per week on public transportation, 0 on motorbike, maybe 10-100 as a passenger in a car each week (more like 10 at most) and walked most of the time to get around. I said the car I rode in when as a passenger got between 25-35 miles to the gallon. I spent 100 hours flying each year. I think I actually spend far less time in planes, but not as little as 25 hours, which was the next available box to check. I also took two international flights last year, which is rare for me.

The quiz results:

FOOD 3.7

"In comparison, the average ecological footprint in your country is 24 acres per person. Worldwide, there exist 4.5 biologically productive acres per person. If everyone lived like you, we would need 3.6 planets."


It was then that I saw the note in small print: "Caution: This quiz may surprise you, shock you or make you think. Please remain calm, but not too calm."

I stayed calm and reset the quiz, managing to reduce my footprint to 11, which would require just 2.1 planets. I did so easily — by committing to fly less next year and to buy more locally produced food.

I wondered what my footprint would be if we moved to that bigger place we dreamed about and in so doing gave up our neighborhood where nearly everything (except my husband’s work) is within walking distance. That will definitely be something for us to think about before taking a step toward bigger and better things. (Take the ecological footprint quiz at www.myfootprint.org/)

— Christina Kosta Procopiou, Editor

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