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! 

Public Information Session

If you are eager to find out what Galiano’s fingerprint is, or if you want to find out if we can live within one Island, we would love to have you join us for our first Ecological Footprint Public Information Session on November 17th, 2020 from 5:00 – 6:30pm! We will be introducing the initiative and looking for feedback from the Galiano community to help shape the project! To sign up, please contact

Project Timeline

Fall 2020 

  • Host a public information session
  • Gather input from partners and local First Nations  
  • Explore data availability & survey design

Spring/Summer 2021

  • Start data collection! Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to participate
    • Mail out community survey
    • Gather oral histories through interviews
    • Launch ~2 week consumption tracking program
    • Reach out to businesses and nonprofits

Fall/Winter 2021 

  • Calculate the ‘ecological footprint’ and biocapacity of Galiano with the help of the BCIT EcoCity Centre and the Global Footprint Network
  • Compile results and recommendations in a report 
  • Create a model for calculating the ecological footprint and fingerprint of other small island communities

2022 & Beyond 

  • Host a public event to share our results with the community! 
  • Share our learning with school groups, tourists, local organizations and academics  
  • Calculate the ecological footprint of other Southern Gulf Islands
  • Stimulate climate action and policy that supports a more sustainable future!