The term was coined by Canadian ecologists William E. Rees and Mathis Wackernagel in 1995. Ecological footprint measures how much fertile land is needed to support the level of consumption of an individual, an area or a country, and to absorb its waste. The ecological footprint shows the rate of humanity’s natural resource use, and also how many additional individuals our planet may adequately provide for. The units for ecological footprint are global hectares. Due to imprecise calculations, the model is being continuously revised, including more and more aspects in the process. The ecological footprint rate is rather approximate, symbolic so to say – its aim being an incentive to a more sustainable lifestyle and the change of consumption habits. According to the latest data, the average ecological footprint of Hungary is 3.7 hectares, while globally there are only 1.8 hectares of biologically productive land and sea area available per person. Currently the United States of America, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates have the highest ecological footprints of approx. 9 hectares, and the lowest number of 0.5 belongs to Mozambique, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The term means the consumption of goods and services produced in an ethical environment and distributed by ethical companies. Ethical business principles include providing the employees with fair working conditions and wages, the protection of the natural environment, being cruelty free, and respecting human rights. The purchasing choice of consumers has a direct impact on the market, thus besides principles, ethical consumerism has a considerable practical effect as well – ethical consumers may spur sustainable economic growth, and can directly support companies and businesses engaged in fair trade through their choices. Following this logic, consumers have the ability to boycott companies with behavior they deem unacceptable.
The goal of recycling is to process continuously produced waste, and to direct it back into commerce. Since only separately collected waste can be processed in recycling facilities, it is necessary to use waste bins properly in our local area. Widely recycled materials include paper, metal, glass and certain types of plastic. Since not all plastic items can be recycled, you may check the triangle sign on the product label for codes (required to be indicated on all plastic items). Numerous organisations with a focus on recycling share the list of numeral codes on their websites, thus helping us differentiate and sort waste products correctly. You may drop off clothing and textiles at clothing donation bins or charity shops. Medications that cannot go into domestic waste, together with chemicals, cooking oil, lamps and other items of electrical waste may be dropped off at junkyards.
Although the amount of unnecessary waste may be reduced through recycling, enormous energy is consumed during the process. When possible, we should act upon the principles of zero waste: by choosing reusable products, by using our own storage solutions when visiting package free shops or the market – being conscious consumers and saving money at the same time can save vast amounts of energy for the planet.
The slow fashion movement tries to reduce industrial production and its environmental damage through rethinking consumption habits. As true for all products, manufacturing fashion garments needs an enormous apparatus and cheap labour–force. The fast-paced fashion industry uses up the natural resources of the planet on a large scale, and dominantly manufactures in the developing countries of the Third World – often under substandard and demeaning working conditions. The other factor of burdening the environment is the afterlife of clothes. The fashion business invites us to be frequent shoppers, accumulating unused items that – when turned into waste – will generate additional problems.
On the contrary, slow fashion places emphasis on conscious consuming and natural materials, thus we may make deliberate decisions to protect our environment. For a sustainable wardrobe choose pieces that you really need, and may wear for many years to come. Offer clothes that are not loved anymore but are still in good condition for swapping or donation. Today more and more sewing workshops may help you transform old clothes into new favourites, or upcycle them as textile bags.