Environmental issues now top Canadians' list of concerns, according to a January 2007 study by Decima research. Between predictions of peak oil and forecasts of global climate change, we've become aware that it really is a small world, and we're using up resources at an unsustainable rate.
It's like feeding a family of four on a meal made for two -- at some point, you're going to run out. In fact, if the average person on this planet used as many resources as the average Canadian, according to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, we'd need four more planets to keep us going.
However, even though the average Canadian uses many more resources than the planet can provide, each of us ranks differently on the scale. So where do you fit in? Take this quiz to find out just how big your footprint is.
Part 1: Multiple choice
1. How often do you drive?
a) Never -- I walk, bike and take public transportation to get where I'm going.
b) Sometimes -- I use my car when I need to, but also use other methods to get around, including to work.
c) Mostly -- I drive to work (although I sometimes carpool) and use the car for most errands.
d) My car's my second home, and I'm usually by myself when I'm driving.
2. During the winter, what temperature is your furnace set to while you're at home?
a) 22C (72F) or higher
b) 21C (70F)
c) 20C (68F)
d) 19C (66F) or lower
3. How often do you eat animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs?
a) At most meals
b) I eat dairy and eggs often, but I don't eat meat more than five times per week.
c) I'm vegetarian, but I eat dairy and eggs.
d) I'm a vegan; I don't eat any animal products.
4. How do you cool your house in the summer?
a) I open the windows and blinds during the night and keep them closed during the day, and use fans if I feel the need.
b) As above, and I turn on the air conditioning when it's extremely hot or humid.
c) I run the air conditioner most of the time, but keep the thermostat set at 24C or above, and make use of energy-saving measures (such as power-cycling systems) if they're available where I live.
d) I run the air conditioner most of the time and keep it set at 23C or lower.
5. What steps do you take to limit water usage in your home?
b) I don't let the water run while brushing my teeth or doing the dishes, or I have an energy- and water-efficient dishwasher and run it only when full; I also make sure that none of my taps are dripping.
c) As above, plus I have an energy- and water-efficient washing machine (and only do full loads of laundry) and limit showers and baths.
d) As above; in addition, I have a water-limiting device installed in my toilet (or a water-saving toilet) and limit the amount of times I flush; I also have a rain barrel installed outdoors to collect water for the houseplants and garden.
Part 2: True or false?
1. I have replaced some or all of my regular lightbulbs with compact fluorescents, and I turn lights off whenever I don't need them.
2. I fly once or less per year.
3. My household composts most of its food waste.
4. I try to purchase goods that use as little packaging as possible; for instance, when buying fruits and vegetables, I don't bag them separately or I bring a reusable bag for that purpose.
5. My household (of four) produces less than half a can of garbage each week.
6. I water my garden during the morning or evening, and only as much as is necessary; I let my lawn go brown during the summer, or don't have a lawn.
7. I bring my own bag when shopping, and turn down bags at stores as often as possible.
8. I try to save energy when doing laundry by using only cold water and washing full loads, and I hang laundry to dry whenever possible.
9. When given the option, I choose to buy locally produced goods rather than imported ones.
10. I live in an apartment or condo, or in an energy-efficient house shared with other people.
Add your score:
1. a) 4 b) 3 c) 2 d) 1
2. a) 1 b) 2 c) 3 d) 4
3. a) 1 b) 2 c) 3 d) 4
4. a) 4 b) 3 c) 2 d) 1
5. a) 1 b) 2 c) 3 d) 4
Add one point to your score for each "true" answer.
What does your score mean?
After adding up your points, check below to find out where you stand -- then go to the bottom of the page for links on how to increase your score.
5-8 points: Giant footprint
When it comes to the environment, you're leaving behind a sasquatch-size footprint. Either you don't care very much about conserving resources, or you just aren't informed -- but since you're taking this quiz, we'll assume the latter. Think of it this way: there's lots of room for improvement. Review part 2 of the quiz for steps you can take to raise your score, but most importantly, go back to basics. Try to cut back on how much power and water you use, and drive less.
9-16: Big footprint
You're on your way. You make an effort in some areas, but there's definitely more you can do. To decrease your impact, evaluate your scoring and figure out where you were losing points, and focus your efforts there. Also check out the articles below for more ideas on living a greener life.
17-25: Medium footprint
Nice job, green queen -- you're definitely doing your part, and it's appreciated by future generations! Now think about how you can make even more improvements. Is there one area where you scored particularly low -- for instance, water conservation or driving? Consider how you can do better.
25-30: Small footprint
You eco superstar! You obviously put in a lot of effort to reduce your footprint -- congratulations! Just remember that no one's perfect, and it's easy to slack off when you get comfortable. So give yourself a pat on the back, and then look for even more ways to conserve -- think about carbon offsetting as one way to do even better.