Ecological footprint analysis has been used worldwide in a variety of organisations (enterprise, public authorities, non-governmental organisations, (higher) educational institutions) and at different levels (personal level, (parts of) organisations, cities, regions, countries). Universities also calculated their ecological footprints, for various reasons: e.g. to answer the societal appeal to integrate sustainability into their core business, to perform a sustainability assessment of their operations, to use as an educational tool with students, to use for policy development. In general, performing an ecological footprint analysis is a way for higher education to ‘practice what they preach’, to monitor sustainability performance and raise awareness among the university’s community.
Although ecological footprint analysis is mainly used to calculate higher education institutions’ impact on the environment at a given moment, when keeping in mind specific critical reflections and characteristics of the instrument, it has more potential. First, ecological footprint analysis can contribute to manage campus operations, as it provides information about the use and cost of different resources. Second, ecological footprint analysis can contribute to policy development in higher education, by defining key components for further action. Third, it can serve as an awareness-raising tool for educational purposes, by involving students and staff in the process of ecological footprint analysis.
The calculation of the ecological footprint and the possibilities to use this tool for campus operations, policy development and educational purposes are described in the article “Using ecological footprint analysis in higher education: Campus operations, policy development and educational purposes“. The article is published in Ecological Indicators, and is available on ScienceDirect. It is based on the experiences with ecological footprint analysis in Leuven University College (KHLeuven), a Belgian higher education institution. General results of the EFA in KHLeuven can be found in the press release (English version).
Full reference of the article:
Lambrechts, W. and Van Liedekerke, L. (2014). Using ecological footprint analysis in higher education: Campus operations, policy development and educational purposes. Ecological Indicators, 45 (2014) pp. 402-406.