Ecological Footprints at Cloughjordan Ecovillage
Ecological footprint analysis at Cloughjordan took place via participatory methods in which residents were actively involved in the design, data collection, interpretation and communication of findings, in line with the village's stated aim to be a working example of sustainable settlement and interest in monitoring progress towards this goal. Findings from a household survey completed by 47 of the 50 households in the ecovillage at the time showed residents to have an average ecological footprint (EF) of 2.03 global hectares (gha). Based on WWF estimates that the maximum average EF that would allow humanity as a whole to live within planetary limits, this represents an ecological overshoot of around ten per cent. The figure is slightly higher than the per capita EF forecast by five founder residents involved in the original ecovillage design (1.95 gha), well under half the EF calculated in a study of 79 Irish villages in 2006 (4.35 gha), and nearly a third lower than the EF in another Irish village that had achieved significant reductions via a four-year carbon reduction programme (2.93 gha).
Low EFs at Cloughjordan were achieved through technological, social and behavioural measures. The village's woodchip-powered district heating system means EF resulting from energy use in Cloughjordan was 6.5 times lower than the national average, while use of LED lighting and high efficiency appliances means energy EF is 48% lower than the national average. Composting, recycling and use of shared bins help keep waste EF to 0.32 gha, compared to a national average of 0.89 gha. Calculation of food EF showed this to be 2.3 times less than the national average due to higher proportions of plant-based foods, without taking into account the further benefits of self-cultivaton, permaculture growing and purchase of local produce. Despite many ecovillage residents having lengthy commutes to work, the EF due to car transport was slightly below the national average (0.33 gha compared with 0.36 gha). EF resulting from air transport was slightly higher than national averages; however the small size of this compared with the markedly lower figures in other areas meant the impact on overall figures was relatively low.
- Carragher, V., Peters, M., 2018. Engaging an ecovillage and measuring its ecological footprint. Local Environment 23: 861–878. https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2018.1481021