There are several ways of calculating lifestyle impacts or “footprints”. We can convert all elements of a lifestyle (goods and services consumed, from housing to mobility, food, energy and leisure) into a material weight. This is called the lifestyle material footprint. A sustainable lifestyle footprint involves the use of about 8,000 kg of materials per year. The average European footprint is approximately 30,000 kg per year. Middle class footprints tend to involve the use of 40,000 to 60,000 kg per year.
Another method is the Ecological Footprint, which converts lifestyles into demands on the environment, measured by how much land and ocean each of us requires for food, housing, roads and carbon capture. An ecological footprint is measured in hectares but is commonly referred to by the number of planets that would be needed if, for instance, everyone were to live a European lifestyle. The target is a one-planet lifestyle. The most well-known footprint is the carbon footprint, which converts all activities into emissions stemming from a product’s full life cycle.
Middle-class footprints in developed and emerging markets are similar. People living on what is considered to be a middle-class income locally have access to similar things globally: a vehicle, a larger home, a ‘richer’ diet, home appliances and holidays.
There are tools available online that allow you to get an idea of what your own personal footprint is. WBCSD member company Henkel has developed a simple-to-use Carbon footprint, and the Global Footprint Network also has a quick calculator that tells you how many planets your lifestyle requires. Feel free to try them out and see what kind of lifestyle you are leading.