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Ecological Footprint Initiative begins with a bang!

By David Lin, Chief Science Officer, Global Footprint Network

Earlier this month, Laurel Hanscom, Global Footprint Network CEO, and I led an intensive workshop on Ecological Footprint Accounting and production of the National Footprint Accounts to kickstart the Ecological Footprint Initiative together with York University in Toronto.

The goal of this Initiative is to make the National Footprint Accounts an independent venture, supported by several key countries. The annual production of the National Footprint Accounts will be executed at York University with the support of an international academic network which will stimulate and coordinate research on methodological improvement. Additionally, this network will encourage Ecological Footprint research and new applications to amplify what already exists across academic institutions and researchers globally.

The first workshop was set up to provide the context and foundation for producing the Footprint Accounts so that the accounting hub at York University can produce a consistent and high-quality data output. The workshop began with high level overviews of Ecological Footprint Accounting concepts, and transitioned into sessions furthermore explaining the data inputs and calculation methods. As we presented the stages and elements of the production process of the National Footprint Accounts, we were met with some initial trepidation in the room as we described magnitude and meticulousness of this annual six-month undertaking.

Each day of the workshop we delved deeper into various elements of National Footprint Account production. We started with conceptual discussions of production planning, database management, quality assurance, data sources, advancement and implementation of improvements. This was followed with demonstrations, tutorials, and guided hands-on exercises working with the various tools and techniques (MS Excel, MySQL, bitbucket, Asana, and others) applied at each stage of Footprint Account production. Throughout the workshop, there was no shortage of brainpower or critical thinking in the room as we were barraged (in a good way) with questions left and right. Via video, Alessandro Galli, Mediterranean-MENA Program Director at Global Footprint Network, also provided a guest presentation on recent examples of the Footprint used in policy.

Having overseen the production of the National Footprint Accounts for the past three editions, I want to emphasize a couple important points regarding the future of the Footprint Accounts. First, the Footprint Account production is no easy undertaking. Second, we are wholly committed to a successful build-out of the Footprint Accounts so the Ecological Footprint Initiative with York University can thrive. Finally, the excitement and engagement I felt from the talented team at York give me 100% confidence in the Ecological Footprint Initiative and the next stage of even more impactful, robust National Footprint Accounts.

By the end of the workshop, the uneasiness in the air on day one turned into euphoric excitement and energy.

The workshop helped me build links between the theoretical concepts of the Ecological Footprint, the quantitative data management of the Footprint Accounts, and practical applications of the Ecological Footprint. I am now even more excited to incorporate the Ecological Footprint into my own research.” —Andrew Johnson

I’m thrilled to be part of this project. The research is challenging but that’s what makes it exciting! It’s only going to get bigger and better from here.” —Anuja Kapoor

workshop group photo
Attendees included master and doctoral students as well as faculty from Environmental Science.