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 Post subject: The Ecological Footprint
PostPosted: Sat, 29 Sep 2012, 21:14 
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Joined: Fri, 07 Aug 2009, 22:22
Posts: 275
Comments resulting from EF seminar 27/9/12 @ FM, Horsham:

Apologies are due for the IT disaster leading to loss of several of the most interesting slides. If time permits a link to an edited and repaired version of the offending ppt will be put up on the website.

Interesting questions that arose:

1. The human cost, for example the rare metal elements of of electronic goods, is not included in the EF.

Comment: Very true; It may be possible to address this in the future by looking at people themselves as being specific ecological component, ("Human Life Land"?!) but it may be simpler to generate a separate Social Cost Multiplier which could be applied to monetary costs, the increased revenue being devoted to mitigating excessive human costs.

2. Natural farming and local food growing strategies, reduce food miles but would diets would be restricted to local foods in season - and possible negative health implications?

Comment - The reduction of EF and increase in Natural methodology would be most effective with bulk materials travelling long distances - eg substitute wheat from the US with Oats from Scotland. Trace element shortages in a region can be addressed by import, but by definition trace elements are small volume items with correspondingly low transport footprints.

3: The Ecological Footprint - to be acceptable the working needs to be open to scrutiny.

Comment: This is the case....user friendly interfaces need to be simple and so downplay the background science and philosophy. Some on-going method of dealing with expert disagreement about technical issues is required. There is an international forum and standards committee to do this.

4. Homegrown food has a smaller ecological footprint

Comment - This is certainly the case if yields are the same or higher than global yields, and there is a lower transport footprint and so on. Sometimes in the case say of tomatoes, imported produce is more resource efficient. Had time permitted, a spreadsheet could have been shown which illustrates how a smaller EF can deliver superior foor by home production: The Ecological Footprint of a Fast food Chain - Burger Meal is shown compared to a Home Grown and prepared meal - I'll post a summary as a comment to this post.

5. A simple formula for working out the EF of consumer items would be useful.

Comment - Working out an item EF will always initially be quite complex to produce the LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) and translate it into an EF - but that is no problem if there are standardised systems and, crucially, System Boundary Conventions. More work is needed on this, but one way forward would be to produce a chart of notional EFs to be applied to types of product using generic data, and invite individual manufacturers to undercut this, to show how environmentally benign they are.

Hopefully the meeting underlined the need for genuinely creative thinking in the about sustainability. Too much is assumed about how little can be changed, and too many assumptions made about what is desirable without a view of the whole system costs.

6. Change at a fundamental level s long as one is prepared to look at things at that level.We need to do our accounting using a more reliable measure than money - EF is more reliable, but not perfect.

Comment- LETS is an example of how the operation of the economy can work on a different paradigm. Attention was drawn to NOWLETS, (Operated for several years in the North Weald) which showed how easy in fact it is to set up, but how difficult it is to compete long term with an established system based on cheap energy and the fractional reserve.

7. Ecological Footprinting methodology is conservative - it could be tweaked to include things like biodiversity losses and pollution factors.

Comment - To overcome the imperfections we need to outsource the standards-setting to experts who are required by contract to work in public scrutiny.


 Post subject: Re: A Burger Meal (w/Fries & Coffee) vs Homegrown
PostPosted: Sat, 29 Sep 2012, 21:21 
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Joined: Fri, 07 Aug 2009, 22:22
Posts: 275
The following is a summary - of results of an Ecological Footprint of a Meat Burger meal with fries and coffee, compared to a Vegetarian meal from the same chain, and a home grown and prepared meal. It comes from a spreadsheet which is available for your own use on request.

Homegrown Meal 7.9 (M2-yrs)

Beanburger Meal 9.3 (M2-yrs)

Burger (MEAT) Meal 15.4 (M2-yrs)

The Unit M2-yrs derives from the EF concept of Global Hectares, the area of globally normalised land-years required to support the production of goods and services.

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