Ecological footprint per capita
The “ecological footprint” indicator is the best known parameter for measuring the global environmental impact of consumption. It measures the consumption of natural resources and expresses the area that would be necessary for the production of resources in global hectares (gha). The ecological footprint as defined by the Global Footprint Network (GFN) enables the general assessment (expressed in absolute values or number of Earths) of whether and to what extent the use of nature exceeds the biosphere’s regenerative capacity (biocapacity). If humanity’s footprint exceeds the world’s biocapacity, nature is being overused on a global scale.
Switzerland’s per capita "ecological footprint" is currently around 4.9 global hectares (gha). The globally available biocapacity per capita is 1.7 gha (GFN 2018). Hence, around three Earths would be needed if the entire global population consumed at the same rate as people in Switzerland. Accordingly, the state is assessed as negative.
The imbalance between Switzerland’s ecological footprint and global biocapacity has existed for decades and is increasing. Hence the trend is assessed as negative.
- Related indicators
- Total environmental impact of consumption
Switzerland is one of the countries in the world with the highest ecological footprint per capita (33th out of 150).
The “ecological footprint” includes all stages involved in the production of goods – from raw material extraction and the production and transportation of goods to their use and disposal. Not only the goods consumed and emissions generated in Switzerland are taken into account here, but also those consumed and generated abroad. As opposed to this, the environmental impact caused by exported goods and services is not taken into account as this is not attributable to domestic consumption.
The ecological footprint adds up all of the land required for our consumption. This includes, for example, the agricultural land needed for food production and the land used for industrial production, roads and settlements. It also includes the forest areas we need to produce wood and absorb the CO2 emissions generated by the use of fossil fuels. To facilitate comparison on a global scale, the different land types are converted into average productive areas (global hectares or gha).
The applied methodology is constantly subject to scientific refinement. For the calculation of the agricultural footprint, the Global Footprint Network (GFN) refers to the data of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and global average values for agricultural yields. These globally valid yields are considerably lower than the yields obtained in Switzerland in some cases.
The ecological footprint expresses, from the consumer perspective, direct land use, fishing in the wild, and the forest area (theoretically) required to compensate for fossil CO2 emissions in one number. The ecological footprint is not a comprehensive environmental indicator. The use of freshwater and other renewable and non-renewable natural resources and the loss of biodiversity or the environmental impact caused by air pollutants, heavy metals and persistent pollutants are not taken into account.