About Stepping Forward

Stepping Forward is the first study of the South West's energy and material consumption. The publication of this interesting and engaging series of reports, following 18 months of research, is particularly timely given the recent publication of the Government's new Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS, 2005) which puts sustainable consumption and production at the heart of future policy development. 

The aim of the project is to disseminate findings about the South West's environmental impact to a broad audience. It is hoped that this will stimulate well-informed debate, facilitate development of evidence-based policies, support current strategies and illuminate the actions required to achieve a more sustainable future.

Stepping Forward gathered and analysed data on resource flows both within and outside the South West, using more than one hundred data sources. Key areas of investigation included energy use, material and product consumption, waste management, food consumption, personal transport, water and land use. The Resource Flow Report illustrates the flow of primary resources through the region's boundaries and economy and is thus a vital tool for resource management and sustainable economic development.

Data collected in the resource flow analysis was used to calculate the Ecological Footprint of the region and assess the region's ecological sustainability. The Ecological Footprint Report highlights the environmental impacts associated with the consumption patterns of the residents of the region. The Ecological Footprint concept quantifies the relationship between resource 'supply' and 'demand' and through this, the ecological sustainability of current consumption patterns.

Future scenarios were also developed looking at a subset of policy-relevant areas; household and renewable energy, biofuels, transport and waste. The scenarios illustrate how changes in policy and practice can affect, to varying degrees, the nature and scale of the resident's ecological footprint.

Small vignettes or 'stories' are presented in the report, illustrating the role played by key sectors in the region such as agriculture, tourism, dairy farming, china clay mining and the aerospace industry. Personal lifestyles are also explored through an assessment of the footprints of some individuals living in the region.

The combination of these analyses make for compelling reading designed to appeal to a wide range of different audiences. This should lead to a better understanding of the environmental impacts associated with activities, both personal and commercial, in the South West.

The resource flow and ecological footprint approach has been tried and tested in similar projects for the Isle of Wight, Greater London, South East England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This study builds on these previous works to draw together, more closely, the economic and ecological dimensions of sustainability. In this way it is hoped that Stepping Forward will contribute towards a more comprehensive 'roadmap' of future sustainable development.