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How Many Earths Would it Take to Sustain You?

This article was written by in Consumer. 17 comments.


If everyone on Earth lived like me, it would take more than 7 Earths to support our world’s lifestyle.

That’s what NPR’s Consumer Consequences game told me after taking a detailed account of my living style. My ecological footprint is quite large due mainly to my transportation and eating habits. I commute alone, and even in my gas-sipping Honda Civic, that has a large effect on the planet.

EarthMost of the food I eat is not locally produced. The cost of food transportation isn’t just figured into higher prices, it means I am farther from sustainability and damaging the planet more than if I grew my own food and ate less meat and more vegetables and fruit.

I did win some points, but not many, for using compact fluorescent light bulbs and for not buying a large number of clothing items each month. Later in the game, there are options for seeing the likely effects of changing government regulations. This isn’t the most fun I’ve had playing a “game,” but it is interesting to see the data.

How many Earths would it take to support a world consisting of 6.6 billion yous? Share your result here.

Updated December 27, 2007 and originally published September 25, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar dong

I’m at 3.5 Earths. I really rack the earths on my eating habits. Where I do well is by living in the city in small apartment, and commuting by public transportation to work. I barely drive…

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avatar Pinyo

Thanks for sharing the site. I am at 5.4. I think my daily commute, trips to visit my sister, and coffer/beer that killed me.

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avatar Jeremy

5.7 here, and I too rack up the score on food and transportation. I do a bit of flying as well, so I’m sure that doesn’t help.

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avatar SMB

4.2 earths for me! I scored the highest (or worst, however you want to look at it) on food, which surprised me as I’m very nearly vegetarian. However, I do like my bread, cheese and coffee…

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avatar Barb

I’m at 4.4; it’s the food that really does me in. Taking public transportation to and from work and living in a small apartment help, but when I drive (which isn’t infrequently), I drive alone. At least it’s a Prius.

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avatar t

Whoo – I’m at 2.7! But, I should be lower, considering we have three adults living in a two bedroom apartment. It’s the food that gets us. Sigh. That and plane travel….

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avatar Bobby

3.0 Earths here. Get helped by the few miles I have to commute and the good gas mileage. Also, recycle quite a bit and don’t drink coffee, wine or beer. Like others, the food is where I really took a hit.

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avatar paidtwice

2.9 earths. the food really did me in. I am a vegetarian but I don’t eat a whole lot of local produce, although I do eat some.

Ah well. I was hoping for closer to 1 :)

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avatar plonkee

I’m also on 3.5 caused by food. I was hoping that my lack of a car would help me a bit more than it does, but I don’t think my non-recycling is that great either.

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avatar Zack

I was at about four earths, but I find these kinds of exercises frustrating, vague, and unhelpful. Who’s “everyone”? Are we saying that if every man, woman, and child on earth had my commute, that usage of gasoline would go up? How is this helpful, other than in creating a vague sense of guilt?

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,387 (Platinum)

Zack: “Everyone” is the 6.6 billion residents of the planet, according to the game. Helpful? Well, I think it’s just an interesting game that makes you think about consumption. There are some facts interspersed with the game. Maybe it will inspire someone to make small changes in his or her behavior or maybe it will build awareness of sustainability issues.

It’s just a game… anything is better than nothing. I don’t think it’s designed to induce a feeling of guilt, just awareness.

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avatar Pinyo

I have a proposal. We all should stop eating to save the planet. :-D

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avatar Penny Nickel

I came in at 2.6, although I think that’s low because I had trouble entering my correct number for plane flights. Like a lot of you, that was mostly because of food.

Zack, I think there are two valuable parts of a game like this. One is to get a look at what parts of our own lifestyles are the most resource-intensive; it helps highlight for each of us where the best places to reduce our impact are, such as eating more local foods or looking to alternatives to commuting.

The other is to think about how much the American/Western/First World lifestyle drains resources– and how much we depend on people in poorer countries balancing us out– and what that means for how we define success and “the good life” in general. Either we count on keeping them poor, or we try to work towards figuring out a better kind of development for all of us.

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avatar ed

That is B.S. leftist propaganda.
The first question is “how many people live in your house?” I have three kids so I put 5 for my wife and I. It then tells me that if everyone had three kids, then we’d need 0.6 earths. Nonsense!

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,387 (Platinum)

Ed: I think you need to complete the first round of the servey (not just one question) in order to get “meaningful” results… but yes, this is an exercise meant to get people to think about their consumption, so I guess that makes it leftist propaganda. The number of Earths a world of yous would require is irrelevant; the discussion about it is what’s important.

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avatar winter

3.3 for me. It’s my love for meat that drove the number higher.

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avatar Matthew

4 earths for me

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