Friday, 16 May 2014

5 Ways you can see your impact on the world in a new light

You might sometimes wonder, as I do, what your impact on the world has been. This post hopes to give you (and myself) an insight into what your global footprint is, in a number of different measurements- not just on the environment. Now these surveys and sites are general approximations, because there is inherent uncertainty in the data and also the detail you would need to give for a 100% reading would be mind-boggling! So take these as good estimates of your footprint, rather than exact numbers. 

1- Slavery Footprint

I heard about this site at a lecture about slave identity at the University of Nottingham by Prof Zoe Trodd, I learnt a lot from that lecture- slavery is a much bigger problem than I imagine many people believe. With an estimate approaching 3 million worldwide (and an esitmated 2000 in the UK), there are almost as many slaves globally as there were at the height of the slave trade in the 16th Century! Now I'm not talking about sweatshops or child labour, but actual slavery; where the person is subject to some sort of ownership, with no pay or ability to leave. Many of us in the West probably think that most of this in the sex trade, and that does make up the biggest proportion in Europe (approx 50%). However, sex slavery only makes up 20% of global slaves, meaning 80% are still either domestic slaves or industrial slaves. The image above is of my results, now I consider myself fairly low on the scale of consumerism but I rarely go out of my way to ensure that I'm buying the most ethical product I can. I thought that I would get maybe one or two, but 22 is a big surprise and I will definitely be working to reduce that! So have a look and see for yourself, the survey takes less than 5 minutes and you may be in for a big surprise!

2- Carbon Footprint

This is another fairly quick survey that asks you to fill in information about your energy usage, transport usage and a number of other factors in order to give you an estimate of your yearly carbon footprint, how you compare to the rest of your country, the world and also gives you help and advice on what you can do to lower it. I tried it and got 4.2 tonnes of carbon emissions, which is less than the UK average of 5 tonnes and over the global average of 3.8, it's also much higher than the 2.5 tonnes that the UN set as the necessary global emissions target in order to prevent further global warming. This gives you a good insight into how you use the resources of the planet and will hopefully make you think about how your lifestyle is affecting the planet for all of us.

3- Water Footprint

While this site is US centred, you can still get a great perspective on your water usage if you're from outside the US like me. There also some very useful tips and facts about water usage and what we can do to reduce that usage. Unlike the other calculators that I looked at, this calculator also takes the "hidden" water usage in our food, transport and other goods that makes up approximately 95% of our actual water usage! You can also take a pledge to reduce your water usage which helps to save the Colorado River, which is in severe danger of drying out. All it takes is to give them your phone number or email address (you can opt out of any messages they may send you) and Change The Course will restore 1000 gallons of water into the Colorado River. 

4- Give what you can calculator

This excellent calculator gives you an idea of how much you would donate, and how many lives you would save and improve if you donated a certain percentage of your income (after tax) to the givingwhatwecan campaign. It then allows you to pledge a certain percentage of your income up until you reach a certain age of your choice. Alternatively, you can also see what an impact you would have if you donated all of your income (after tax) above a certain threshold value. You'd be surprised at how many hundreds of lives you could save, and how many thousands of lives you could improve by making this pledge. The pledge is to either donate an amount equal to 10% (or higher) of your income or all the income over a certain value for the rest of your life to charities that you feel are most capable of making a real difference in the world. If you don't want to make that kind of a commitment, you could always try out giving which is a pledge to give a certain percentage of your income for a set period, and then after that period you are free to extend that period, take the full pledge or stop all together. 

5- How many animals you could save

This very detailed article goes into great depth to work out just how many animals you will save by going vegetarian. While all the calculations are based on US figures, I imagine it will be quite similar for most Western countries. It goes through all the maths in an understandable way, and takes into account a number of variables, such as the impact they will have on the meat consumption of members of their family and close friends. This is the most comprehensive calculation I have seen, and cites by far the greatest number of sources that I have seen. So give it a read and see what you think! If you just look at the headlines you'll probably be suspicious, but if you give it a proper read you'll see that the numbers do add up. If you don't want to read the article, here is the main headline- you would save over 406 animals every year by going totally vegetarian!

I was surprised about all of the conclusions these 5 sites came to about my impact on the world. I hope that you take the time to look at them yourself, and maybe make some changes for the better.


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