A critique of Ecological Footprinting as a tool for measuring the impacts of food-related lifestyle on sustainability

Alun, Elanor (2017) A critique of Ecological Footprinting as a tool for measuring the impacts of food-related lifestyle on sustainability. The Student Researcher, 4 (1). pp. 31-44. ISSN 2047-3427

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Achieving sustainability (i.e. meeting the social, economic and environmental resource needs of a population) has become a major global issue, especially in the face of global population rise. Many tools have been developed to help measure sustainability, one of which is the Ecological Footprint (EF). Meanwhile, different demographics often achieve differing EFs, owing to their varying lifestyle practices and therefore resource demands. An example is the impact of food-related lifestyle; studies have shown that self-identified vegetarians have greater affinity for environmental causes and movements than nonvegetarians (Hoek et al., 2004; Ruby, 2012; Ruby et al., 2013). However, since the EF automatically assumes that vegetarianism is more sustainable, is the improved score from diet alone, or truly from food-related lifestyle? *is study examines the suitability of using the EF as a tool to assess this question. The Resources and Energy Analysis Programme (REAP Petite), developed by the Stockholm Environment Institute, was selected for the study owing to its pledge system – a tool that allows the user to calculate the projected EF after alterations are made to a person’s lifestyle. 60 residents of Swansea, South Wales, were given a questionnaire covering aspects of their lifestyles in the five categories of home, food, travel, consumables, and activities. 30 respondents were self-identified vegetarians, while 30 were omnivores. Based on existing literature, it was assumed that the vegetarians would have a lower combined EF; the omnivores could then be pledged to a meat-free diet, and the projected EF would reveal whether dietary change alone brought the two groups in line, or if the vegetarians were still lower owing to their food-related lifestyle. *e results in fact showed the vegetarians had higher scores in EF, Carbon Footprint and water use, and lower recycling rates, although no differences were statistically significant other than the category of food. Additionally, the pledge system could not be utilised owing to REAP Petite being unable to differentiate between low- and zero-meat diets. Recommendations were made for future research to better examine the research terms.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ecological Footprinting, sustainability, food, vegetarianism
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
Divisions: Institutes and Academies > Institute of Education and Humanities > Academic Discipline: Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Thomas Jansen
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2018 14:33
Last Modified: 01 Feb 2023 09:11
URI: https://repository.uwtsd.ac.uk/id/eprint/869

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