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It’s now or never to shift to a low-carbon economy. Businesses need to lead the way. Here’s how.


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Paris: International Energy Agency. Kenworthy, J. Le Vine, S. Hanson and G. Haberl et al. They suggest that the two approaches serve different functions. Human appropriation of NPP on the other hand maps the intensity of socio-economic use of ecosystems in a spatially explicit manner [ ]. Combining the two methods by integrating NPP into the EF framework, as done in [ 12 ] can thus provide an explicit link between human consumption and ecosystem services. This has been supported by the concept of embodied HANPP eHANPP which links net primary production in one region with a particular level of biomass consumption in another region by taking into account trade in biomass [ 28 ].

Conceptually similar to the virtual water approach, eHANPP can provide additional insights on the impacts of biomass production and consumption chains on ecosystem energetics [ 29 ]. Furthermore, some empirical and conceptual studies have investigated and established the link between NPP and biodiversity [ , , , , ]. The results support the species-energy hypothesis, thus confirming the notion that HANPP could be a useful pressure indicator for biodiversity loss.

The further exploration of these findings would have a high potential for the EF-NPP method as a removal or overuse of NPP would show an associated decline in biological diversity—a feature that would make the Ecological Footprint live up to its name. The emergy concept stems from general systems theory and systems ecology and is based on the second law of thermodynamics.

Emergy is defined as the availability of energy exergy of one kind that is used-up in transformations directly or indirectly to make a product or service [ , ]. Emergy translates the energy flow from solar radiation into renewable resources, including surface wind, physical energy of rain on land, chemical energy of rain on land, physical stream energy, waves absorbed on shores, earth sedimentary cycle, agricultural, forest, pasture and fishery products, as well as non-renewable resources, mainly fossil fuels and measures them on a common basis expressed in the unit emjoule.

In recent years, several researchers, mostly from China, introduced emergy analysis to modify the basis of EF calculations. Zhao [ ] present a method based on emergy, in which the human consumption corresponding to six types of basic bioproductive areas are translated into a common emergy unit and the emergy-based EF and carrying capacity are defined and calculated through a case study of the Gansu province of China in Chen and Chen [ 10 ] extend on this concept and compare the bioproductivity EF method to an emergy-based method in a time series — study of the Chinese society represented in [ ] as a method based on embodied exergy.

Liu et al. Authors of the emergy-based method point out that all areas of land are considered and that no indirect weighing system is used to translate different pressures into an amount of land as is the case in the bioproductivity-based EF method.

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The emergy concept is based on systems theory and system ecology and provides a link to geophysical and biological processes on Earth. It adopts a holistic earth system view. According to [ 10 ], p. As a major advantage of emergy analysis the possibility of measuring resource use of ecosystems is mentioned [ ], p.

The practical usefulness of the method, however, is questionable. The complexity of ecosystems will always make calculations of transformities difficult and uncertain. There is no single transformity for any class of product or process and each production pathway for any given product represents a unique transformation process that will result in a different transformity.

Zhao et al. Furthermore, emergy calculations do not take into account land productivity and are therefore not able to indicate an overuse of land-based production. Other authors also present emergy-based calculations and indicators and make comparisons to the bioproductivity-based EF, e. Siche and colleagues [ ] suggest that the combination of Ecological Footprint and emergy analysis, as proposed by the Chinese authors above, would result in an improved sustainability index see also [ ] , [ 11 ]. Furthermore, they propose to consider the value of Net Primary Production NPP in emergy units seJ m —2 year —1 as a basis for the calculation of EF equivalent factors [ ].

Ecological footprint: Do we fit on our planet?

Various modifications have been suggested to include emissions and resource uses other than the standard ones in the conventional EF method. Non-CO 2 emissions are converted into units of carbon dioxide equivalent using the respective global warming potentials. The authors concede that the resulting figures should be taken as a crude approximation due to the substantial uncertainty in predicting impacts of climate change on land.

Peters et al.

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Pollution is also included in a modified EF model presented by [ ] who undertake an extended ecological assessment of the Pearl River Delta urban agglomeration in China in Venetoulis and Talberth [ 12 ] suggest that the relationship between net primary productivity NPP and concentrations of toxins, such as radioactive or heavy metals, in a biome may help to derive methods for expanding the scope of EF analysis. Walsh et al. These include a the translation of CH 4 into carbon equivalents with and without accounting for the larger GWP of CH 4 and subsequently attributing a sequestration area as in the conventional EF approach, b estimating the area required for the oxidation of methane by microbial activity in soils and c accounting for the radiative forcing of methane and the quantity of additional land required to dilute its greenhouse effect.

As all approaches lead to significantly different results it will depend on the choice of methodology as to how much weight methane and generally non-CO 2 emissions should receive in the aggregated EF indicator.

In addition to CO 2 , Holden and Hoyer [ 5 ] include CH 4 , N 2 O and even NO x in EF calculations of fossil fuels by taking into account their global warming potential and treating the total greenhouse gas equivalents as if they were the CO 2 that is to be assimilated by notional forests. The authors use the Norwegian assimilation rate of 1. Furthermore, they include acidifying emissions SO 2 and NO x by accounting for the land area required for the safe deposit of sulphur and nitrogen, i.

Results are reported in local, actual hectares, not global hectares. The study of Nguyen and Namamoto [ 7 ] incorporates non-renewable or abiotic resources as an additional EF category. The resource scarcity of non-renewable resources is evaluated on the basis of a thermodynamic approach which uses exergy loss as an indication for the decrease in resource potential functions available for future generations exergy is defined as the useful energy available that can be fully converted into other forms of energy, especially to perform work.

The exergy loss due to the utilization of non-renewable resources is converted into a notional surface area that would be required to absorb an equivalent amount of solar energy to compensate for the loss of exergy. In conventional EF calculations the CO 2 emissions associated with fossil fuel energy use in the mining and manufacturing of metals would lead to a notional forest area required for sequestration. However, Nguyen and Namamoto [ 7 ] do not compare this directly with results from their exergy-based approach.

By definition it accounts for human demand on global bioproductivity but does not include actual impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity, linkages along causal chains or any temporal aspects. There is, however, substantial evidence that in the long term, diminished ecosystem functioning will deteriorate the services humans are able to derive from natural and artificial landscapes, for example agricultural bioproductivity.

144 Ways to Reduce Your Organization's Ecological Footprint

Ecosystem functioning, in turn, is influenced by a multitude of impact pathways, amongst which the perhaps more prominent involve land use and conversion and climate change [ , , , , ]. In already, [ 9 ], p. The approach links causal pathways from human consumption to bioproductivity and is anchored in ecology by incorporating biodiversity variables see Figure 6. It allows for a temporal analysis of country-level consumption, production, land use, greenhouse gas emissions, species diversity, and bioproductivity up to In this view, human consumption exerts the pressure, acting via land use and greenhouse gas emissions to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, with bioproductivity being the end-point of impacts, or state.

Ecological Paw Print of Companion Dogs and Cats | BioScience | Oxford Academic

To close the loop, available bioproductivity biocapacity will in turn limit what humans can consume. Figure 6. Impact pathways and variables linking human consumption, bioproductivity and the Ecological Footprint in a dynamic concept adapted from [ 13 ]. The methodology is described in full detail in [ 13 ].

What follows is a very brief description based on [ ]. As in the conventional, static EF method, most of the raw bioproductivity data comes from FAO statistics for all other data sources see [ 13 ].

List of countries by ecological footprint

The productivity of land is influenced by land degradation, technology e. CO 2 emissions from land clearing are modeled using emission factors which take into account burning of above ground biomass, post burning regrowth, decay of above ground biomass and below ground carbon storage. Some of these processes occur over 25 years. CO 2 absorbed from forest growth is calculated based on the change in natural forest and plantations. The effect of GHG emissions on climate change is calculated for the whole planet, taking into account the different global warming potentials and decay rates of CO 2 , NH 4 and N 2 O.