One Island, One Earth

An Ecological Footprint for Galiano Island

Most of us know that everything we do – from the food we eat, to the cars we drive, to the ferries we take to the city – uses natural resources that require a certain amount of land and sea to produce. But just how much land do we islanders require to support our community? Is it theoretically possible for Galiano residents to live sustainably within the means of the Island? The Galiano Conservancy needs your help to find out.

The ‘Ecological Footprint Measurement

In the 1990s, a method to answer these questions was developed by two UBC researchers, Dr. Mathis Wackernagel and Dr. William Rees. The measurement has two important components:   

(1) The ecological footprint captures the demand that humans place on natural resources. More specifically, this represents the amount of biologically productive land required to support the consumption and waste from humans. Some of the many competing demands for land include the need to grow food, regenerate timber, build infrastructure, and absorb the greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. 

(2) Biocapacity refers to the capability of a given area of land or sea to regenerate the resources we use, and to absorb waste from consumption.  

Looking at these two components together, we can determine if natural resources are being replenished at a rate that can support our lifestyles, and provide enough resources for future generations*. The Global Footprint Network found that this year, humanity used up its entire natural resource budget for 2020 by August 22nd! This means that we are currently running an ecological deficit: we are cutting down trees faster than they can grow back, we are not leaving enough fish in the ocean to reproduce, and we are burning fossil fuels far quicker than emissions are being sequestered. This is contributing to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that is driving climate change, and increasing the severity of natural disasters such as the wildfires that are moving through the west coast states.     

* It is important to note that this calculation does not take into account the resources required for all the plants and animals living alongside humans.  

Making it Local
Two Earths would be required for Saanich and Vancouver residents!

To help guide communities in their efforts to live sustainably and reduce their contribution to climate change, the BCIT EcoCity Centre led by Dr. Jennie Moore has developed a methodology to calculate the ecological footprint of municipalities in British Columbia using localized data. So far, the EcoCity team has found that if everyone globally had the same per capita footprint of Saanich or Vancouver residents, two Earths would be required

Can the Galiano community live within one Earth?

Can we live within one Island? 

Living Climate Change on a Small Island

Small island communities such as Galiano are unique: we lack the data and resources of larger municipalities, but we have strong social bonds that make us resilient. This makes it extremely difficult to calculate a meaningful ecological footprint with existing methodologies. With help from the BCIT EcoCity Centre and the Galiano community, we are working to develop a framework for collecting local, relevant data, to build an ecological footprint for Galiano from the ground up. To calculate the biocapacity of the Island, we will be receiving help from the Global Footprint Network. Looking at these two pieces together, we will be able to find out how many people Galiano Island can theoretically support (given the per capita footprint of a Galiano resident), and how many ‘Islands’ we would require to support the needs of the community.

From ‘Footprint’ to ‘Fingerprint’

Having an awareness of what our ecological footprint is, and what components of our lifestyles contribute most to our footprint (e.g., driving, eating meat etc.) is a useful tool. It can help us to effectively reduce our impact on the Island and the Earth, and it can help guide initiatives and policy by highlighting areas that require the most attention. But while metrics such as the ecological footprint can influence individual lifestyle choices and the initiatives that move forward in a community, both are still dependent on the intrinsic values and attitudes of community members towards sustainability. In 2012, two German researchers – Dr. Beate Ratter & Dr. Jan Petzold – gave these intrinsic values that guide behaviour a name: the ecological fingerprint.  They were successfully able to calculate the ecological footprint & fingerprint of Helgoland, a small island in Germany. 

The Galiano Conservancy hopes to repeat their success here on Galiano. To capture the ecological fingerprint of Galiano Island, we will be running surveys and conducting interviews to gather stories that will shape community member profiles. It is the ecological fingerprint of an island that stimulates action, and that drives a community to fight for policy that instigates lasting change. Our goal is that other small islands in the Salish Sea and beyond will be able to use the ecological footprint & fingerprint framework developed for Galiano Island so we can share results, learn from one another, and come together to drive sustainable action! 


How to get involved?

Our first data collection activity has officially launched! To participate, click here and report your vehicle’s odometer reading. We will check in again toward the end of next year for your updated odometer reading to calculate how many kilometers the community is driving. All data collected will remain anonymous. For your participation, your email will be entered in a draw to win prizes from local businesses.

We are currently creating a list of interested participants for other ecological footprint & fingerprint data collection activities listed below. We will provide straightforward easy to follow data collection instructions and materials when they are finalized.

Note: All tracking program and survey results will remain anonymous. Only aggregated data will be presented – no individual information or data will be shared.

Prizes for Participation!

At the end of each month there will be a draw where participants will have the chance to win some great prizes from local businesses and organizations! The first draw will take place at the end of January 2021 – prizes include a GCA t-shirt, a beautiful bowl, GCA tea, and a sticker. If your business would like to donate prizes for future months, please email


Project Activities and Estimated Timeline

Odometer Tracking Initiative – help us determine the impact of transportation on the Island by submitting your odometer reading at two points in time.

Food Consumption Initiative – complete a survey and keep a food diary for one week to help us understand the environmental impact of the Galiano community’s eating habits. In addition to what islanders are eating, we want to know how much food people get from off island, how much food islanders get from local farmers, how much they grow/hunt themselves, and how much food is wasted.

Household Waste Tracking Program – collect your waste and recycling as usual, and at the end of two weeks let us know how much you collected. You will also have the option to learn how to complete a waste audit to gain a better understanding of where your waste is coming from.

FREE Business Waste Audits – we will identify opportunities for you to reduce waste, and to divert it to other streams. Simply collect your waste as usual, and we do the rest.

Community Survey – we will be mailing out a survey to each household on the Island. Make sure to fill it out so your values, behaviours, and perspectives are captured.

Community Interviews – Share your story – we want to hear what islanders are currently doing to promote a sustainable life, what they have done in the past, and barriers they have come in contact with when trying to live a sustainable life. We also want to learn about what changes to the land and to the community islanders have noticed over time.

Mini Art Grants – are you a local artist with an idea for engaging the community in the project through art? Share your idea with us!

Email to indicate your interest in participating in our project activities. All data collected from the tracking programs and surveys will remain anonymous.

Public Information Session Recap – Nov. 17, 2020

Our One Island One Earth Ecological Footprint Public Information Session was a great success! The event started with a guest speaker series featuring Shar Wilson from Lelum Sar Augh Ta Naogh First Nation, Dr. Jennie Moore from the BCIT ecoCity Centre, and Dr. Beate Ratter from the University of Hamburg! Next, we introduced our initiative to calculate the ecological footprint of Galiano, and we finished with a community discussion. We are thrilled with the community’s enthusiasm, and we are working hard to incorporate their feedback into the project design. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Session Summary – live graphic recording by Adriana Contreras
Session Recording