This Scottsdale dummy is living 9 x LARGE. How about you?

April 28, 2017

By Les Conklin

Earth the Limit for Scottsdale and ASU Partnership

Today, Scottsdale residents are rightfully proud of preserving more than 30,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert for future generations. A tremendous community accomplishment.

Future use of preserved land for research and to educate others in environmental and sustainability sciences could generate even more pride for future Scottsdale residents and have a positive impact on many more acres of land world-wide.

That sounds good but right now “Environmental Sciences for Dummies” is the perfect book for me. Sure, since we first moved to Scottsdale in 1981, I’ve learned a great deal about the Sonoran Desert and been involved in related community service. However, my knowledge of environmental science and sustainability studies is spotty and out-of-date.  A book for “dummies” is a practical way for me to start adding to the knowledge that I have.

I no sooner started reading the book on my Kindle, when I ran into “The Ecological Footprint Quiz” on page 66. So, I checked out the website, risked one dollar, took the short quiz, and viewed the results. Ouch!  Not good.

What I Learned

I can see the McDowell Mountains from my house. However, I cannot see the acres around the globe that are required to support my lifestyle. The quiz was an eye opener.

Guess what? If everyone on the planet lived my lifestyle, the quiz results say that 9.08 Earths would be needed.  We don’t have 9.08 Earths. That’s right! I’m living more than 9 x LARGE.

“That’s surprising, a problem, not good,” I thought.

I felt better when I saw that if everyone  on the planet lived the U.S. lifestyle, we would need 6.35 Earths. On average, we Americans are living more than 6 x LARGE.

Actually, the current human problem is already humongous, even bigger than Scottsdale and the U.S.A. If everyone in the world lived the average lifestyle of the Earth’s population, we will need 1.50 Earths. Uh, oh, we Earthlings are living 1.50 x LARGE already, and the human babies keep coming. Some day those babies, our descendants,  will have a very LARGE problem.


Are you living LARGE? Quiz yourself.

Click on the link below to review the quiz website. It costs one dollar to take the quiz and obtain the related information. The dollar supports the nonprofit that runs the website.

My Ecological Footprint Quiz


More About the Quiz

It took me less time to take the quiz than to write the paragraphs above. The questions are short and sweet. There are only 27 questions with multiple choice answers. The answers don’t require any research on your part. Before taking the quiz, I feared I might have to dig up utility bills and the like. That was not the case.

I finished the quiz in two or three minutes.  It’s divided into four sections. The result in an estimate of my lifestyle’s impact in terms of the number of global acres that my housing, transportation, food, use of goods and services, and processing of related wastes requires.

Section 1. Carbon Footprint. This section is used to estimate the “Carbon Footprint of your lifestyle. It asks about the climate you live in, the size of your house, the miles you travel per year using auto, bus, rail, air. Based on your answers, the system calculates the acres needed to absorb carbon emissions generated by your home energy use and transportation.

Section 2. Food Footprint. The answers you provide here are used to estimate your “Food Footprint” on the Earth. With your answers, you indicate where you get most of your food, how often you use certified organic or sustainable products, and whether or not you have a garden or share one to grow vegetables and herbs. Your impact is the number of acres needed to grow crops, fish, and graze animals and absorb carbon emissions from food processing and transport to support your life style.

Section 3. Housing Footprint. The answers to the questions in this section are used to estimate, the acres occupied by your housing and the acres needed to supply resources used in construction and household maintenance. What type of housing do you live in? Were recycled materials used? What water saving features are present? The section includes questions like these.

Section 4. Goods and Services Footprint. This section results in an estimate of your Goods and Services Footprint, i.e. the acres needed to supply consumer items you purchase and the absorb carbon emissions from their manufacturing, transport, and disposal. Here are two of the questions asked in this section. “How many standard size garbage bins does your household fill each week?” “How often do you buy new things to replace old ones?”

My Quiz Results

Once you’re finished answering questions, the site calculates the “global acres” of land and ocean required to support your lifestyle. The results are shown it terms of impact on the Earth’s cropland, pastureland, forestland, and marine fisheries.

My Footprint Results

I can see Scottsdale’s preserved land and the McDowell Mountains from my house. I cannot see all the acres around the world that are being impacted by my lifestyle. Here are my  quiz results.

  • Carbon Footprint – 187 global acres. The U.S. average is 91 global acres.  Oops, I’m twice the average.
  • Food Footprint – 66 global qcres. The U.S. average is 66 acres.  I’m average.
  • Housing Footprint – 45 global acres. The U.S. average is 32 acres.  Oops, I’m high again.
  • Goods and Services Footprint – 55 acres. The U.S. average is 58 acres. One for the home team. I’m below average.

My total global footprint is 352 global acres. The U.S average is 246 global acres. Forty-three percent of my total impact is my carbon footprint. The biggest cause for the 9 X LARGE score is that we live in a larger than average house, built more than 30 years ago, on 1.25 acres, have two cars and usually fly to distant lands at least once a year on a vacation trip.

Below is my impact on various type of biomes (ecosystems) around the world.

  • Cropland footprint 41 acres. The U.S. average is 30 acres.
  • Pastureland footprint 96 aces. The U.S. average is 68 acres.
  • Marine Fisheries footprint 70 acres. The U.S. average is 49 acres.
  • Forestland footprint 145 acres. The U.S. average is 99 acres.

Clearly,  the biggest impact of my lifestyle is on forestland. It accounts for a whopping  41 percent of the total acres that my lifestyle is impacting.

More About the Quiz Website

In addition to providing the quiz and your results, the website includes a few pages on steps that you can take to reduce your ecological footprint. You also have the option of requesting other free information, such as newsletters and petitions,  related to this topic, which I declined for the time being. This is an “elegant” website. By that I mean it is extremely easy to use, but behind the scenes calculations based on extensive scientific research are taking place.  The results are provided in simple graphs and statements. Its message is clear and obvious.

What now?

I’m not about to sell my house, forget vacation trips, walk everywhere, and begin living off the land. But, I have learned and will try to do better. My hope is that education, research, and technological advances will save our Earth for future generations. I also hope that the proposed Desert Discovery Center, if approved, will help with that effort and make residents proud for generations to come.  In the meantime, it’s back to “Environmental Science for Dummies.”

Note. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not reflect the opinion of the Greater Pinnacle Peak Association.

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Author: Les Conklin

Les Conklin is the editor of A Peek at the Peak publications and the author of Images of America: Pinnacle Peak. He is the president of the Greater Pinnacle Peak Association and the Monte de Paz HOA. He founded Friends of the Scenic Drive and has served on the Scottsdale Pride Commission, McDowell Sonoran Preserve Commission, and on the boards of several local nonprofits. Les is a resident of north Scottsdale and a member of Scottsdale's History Maker Hall of Fame. Les is a volunteer school tour guide at the Musical Instrument Museum.

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