European Youth Portal
Information and opportunities for young people across Europe.

The ecological footprint has global consequences

Two young people wandering in the mountains. Source:
You probably know that your lifestyle not only affects the environment in Sweden or Europe, but also has an effect far beyond our borders. Our ecological footprint shows how we affect the earth’s climate. How many planets do you cost?

In Sweden we have a lifestyle that leaves large ecological footprints – if everybody lived the way we do, three earths would be required to support our needs. The ecological footprint is calculated in the form of a standard measure ("global hectares", GHA) that takes four areas into consideration: carbon dioxide emissions, food, household plus goods and services. By looking at your choices in these categories, you can see whether you can affect your ecological footprint. 


Environmentally poor choices give you enormous ecological feet

Spend a little extra time thinking about …

 … that holiday in Thailand

Unfortunately the excess you can choose to pay when you buy your ticket doesn’t stretch very far – air travel is quite simply a form of transport that damages the environment.

… your wardrobe

That cotton top in this season’s colour required hundreds of litres of water, both to grow and to dye.

… lunch out and the coffee break at work

The palm oil used in cheap biscuits is responsible for the destruction of rain forests, scampi contributes to disturbing ecosystems and meat requires massive amounts of energy both before and after it is slaughtered.


How can I reduce my ecological footprint? 

As a private individual and a consumer, there are two things you can do: find the energy to change your lifestyle, and have the courage to make demands.


Be “troublesome” and make environmental demands on the food that you eat. Consume less and be more careful about what you buy. Ask for ecologically friendly collections, environmental labels and recyclable materials – and think one more time about whether you really need something new. Start to cycle and try to swap the plane for the train. Reduce the temperature at home by one or two degrees, turn of lights and pull out plugs. Talk to family and friends – how do you and they want to live, and what level of responsibility could you consider taking?


The issue of the climate is high on the EU agenda and politicians are working together with both the public and private sectors to achieve environmental targets. As an EU citizen you can easily contribute by changing your lifestyle.