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Results Overview

In 2001, the South West residents' total ecological footprint was 27.4 million gha, 5.56 gha per person. The ecological footprint can be broken down into components for further analysis. The components analysed in this ecological footprint were:

  • Direct energy
  • Materials and waste
  • Food
  • Personal transport
  • Water
  • Built land

This breakdown enables a better understanding of which aspects of consumption have high or low impacts on the environment.

Table 1 and Figure 1 show a breakdown of the South West residents' ecological footprint, by component, in 2001. 'Materials and waste' was the most significant component, with a footprint per person of 2.11 gha (or 38% of the total ecological footprint). Food was the second largest, with a footprint per person of 1.63 gha (or 29% of the total ecological footprint).

Table 1
Ecological footprint of South West residents, by component, in 2001
 
Component Ecological footprint (gha) % of total ecological footprint Per person ecological footprint (gha) UK per person ecological footprint (gha)
Total ecological footprint 27,418,442 100% 5.56 5.45
of which…  
Direct energy* 4,956,057 18% 1.00 0.92
Materials & waste 10,424,357 38% 2.11 2.09
Food 8,055,179 29% 1.63 1.55
Personal transport 2,638,717 10% 0.53 0.57
Water 47,800 <1% 0.01 <0.01
Built land 1,296,333 5% 0.26 0.32
* Includes domestic and services energy.
Note: Totals may differ due to rounding.

Figure 1
Ecological footprint of South West residents, by component, in 2001

fig1

In comparison...

Figure 2 below illustrates a South West resident's ecological footprint compared to Northern Ireland, Scotland and UK averages. A South West resident has, on average, the highest direct energy ecological footprint. This is due to the large quantities of brown-grid electricity consumed in the region.

The environmental impacts associated with food consumption in the South West were also slightly higher than for other regions. This is because the average South West resident consumes 5% more food (698 kg per year, against the UK average of 668 kg), and this has a slightly higher animal content (40% against 38%).

The South West personal transport footprint is lower than the UK average; higher car use is counterbalanced by lower air travel.

Figure 2
A comparison of a South West resident's ecological footprint, with other UK regions, by component, in 2001

fig2

Unpicking the ecological footprint one step further: different area types

It is possible to break an ecological footprint into components in a variety of ways. One obvious way is by policy-relevant component - such as energy, food and transport. It is also possible to disaggregate the ecological footprint by area types. This can be useful for planning, and the provision of a more detailed understanding of resource demands.

While many of the area types may be interchangeable year on year, the total area is finite.

For a description of the area types used in this study, see the Technical Report.

Table 2 shows a breakdown of the South West residents' ecological footprint, by different area types, in 2001. Energy land (the land that would be required to absorb CO2 emissions) was the largest area type, 3.42 gha per person or 62% of the total ecological footprint of the region. This illustrates the key role that energy plays in meeting lifestyle demands, either through direct consumption (for example, electricity and gas) or indirect consumption (for example, energy embodied in materials, services and transportation).

Table 2
Ecological footprint of South West residents, by area type, in 2001
 
Area type Total ecological footprint (gha) % of total ecological footprint Per person ecological footprint (gha) UK per person ecological footprint (gha)
Total ecological footprint 27,418,442 100% 5.56 5.45
of which…  
Energy land 16,893,547 62% 3.42 3.33
Crop land 3,508,263 13% 0.71 0.68
Pasture 1,704,346 6% 0.35 0.33
Forest 1,572,785 6% 0.32 0.32
Built land 1,296,333 5% 0.26 0.32
Sea 2,443,167 9% 0.50 0.47
Note: Totals may differ due to rounding.

The following examples illustrate the relationship between area type and the ecological footprint:

Example 1: Materials and waste

The largest area type for the 'materials and waste' ecological footprint was energy land (accounting for 81%). This is primarily due to the accumulation of embodied energy during the process of converting raw materials into final products. This shows how important waste minimisation initiatives could be in reducing CO2 emissions.

Example 2: Food

Food products consumed by the South West residents made demands on energy land, cropland, pasture and sea. Table 3 illustrates part of the food ecological footprint, by area type, in 2001.

Table 3
Illustration of part of the food ecological footprint, by area type, in 2001
 
Food type Energy land (gha) Crop land (gha) Pasture (gha) Sea (gha) Per person ecological footprint (gha)
Total food ecological footprint 843,424 3,129,355 1,653,005 2,429,394 1.63
of which …  
Animal-based 496,903 1,621,924 1,653,005 2,429,394 1.26
of which…  
Milk 65,125 308,998 332,962   0.14
Meat 238,404 1,238,350 1,320,044   0.57
of which…  
Beef & veal 25,095 539,300 862,588   0.29
Mutton & lamb 10,601 175,855 443,529   0.13
Pork 15,792 309,346     0.07
Bacon & ham 25,960       0.01
Poultry 60,359 204,849     0.05
Other meat products 100,597 9,000 13,927   0.03
Note: Totals may differ due to rounding.