Thinking about footprints

The word ‘footprint’ keeps cropping up in conversations and things I’m reading.  For some reason it got highlighted in my thinking this week.    

We use the word ‘footprint’ to mean all sorts of things both physical and metaphorical.  The Cambridge English Dictionary,  gives examples in architecture, technology, engineering, business, environment, workplace, communications; these all apart from the ‘real’ meaning of footprint as ‘the impressions or images left behind by a person walking or running.’

I’ve found that I have many feet, and I’m now investigating some of them.   I have a digital footprint, a carbon footprint, an ecological footprint, a physical footprint, a housing footprint,  a lifestyle footprint , a social footprint, and probably others.    Taken collectively, maybe they sum-up an impression of who I am.  I wonder if a ‘personality footprint expert’ – maybe a future role for people? –  could examine my various footprints and offer someone else a view of my character, choices and attributes in a similar way that archaeologists examine footprints of bronze age individuals  and their artefacts in their settlements, as the archaeologists of Must Farm have done: 

“The people have faded out, but the static objects have become much clearer. You see much more: the vases on the shelves, the broom against the door. But we are not losing the people; we are finding the things that they made, they used, they cherished, they didn’t care about.” In their absence, the occupants are observable. “They are present in their clothes, in their shelters, in their pots, in their bowls, in their tools … ”

I say that a ‘personality footprint expert’ is a possible future role, but in some aspects the role exists already.  Recruiters routinely look at applicants’ social footprints on social media sites – to gain a more in-depth idea of a candidate’s personality and intelligence.  Social media interactions can, as HR professional, Kristy Aldridge, notes, give recruiters ‘information about an applicant’s extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. As well as clues surrounding decision-making and judgment.  Social media networks also allow recruiters to verify information that they have received through CV’s, applications, and recommendation letters.’   I’ve decided to take a look at what social footprint I’ve generated and what impression that gives of me.

The information about digital footprints is worth all of us reading.  Kapersky says,  ‘A digital footprint – sometimes called a digital shadow or an electronic footprint – refers to the trail of data you leave when using the internet. It includes websites you visit, emails you send, and information you submit online. A digital footprint can be used to track a person’s online activities and devices. Internet users create their digital footprint either actively (where the user has deliberately shared information about themselves) or passively (when information is collected about the user without them being aware that this is happening.)  The same article lists sixteen actions you can take to protect your digital footprint.  I’ve now got several actions I’m going to take to protect mine. 

Similarly, I got enmeshed in finding out more about my carbon footprint and my ecological footprint.  The carbon one: I had a go on calculating my carbon footprint (I wonder how deep my digital footprint is in doing this – I was offered the option of clearing my data which I did, but I guess there’s still evidence that I did the calculation).   The results: My footprint is 4.61 tonnes per year.  The average footprint for people in United Kingdom is 5.40 tonnes. The average for the European Union is about 6.4 tonnes. The average worldwide carbon footprint is about 4.8 tonnes. The world target by 2050 is 0 tonnes.  There are all sorts of suggestions on how to offset in each category (energy, car, travel, etc).  Another set of actions looms.

Heading over to the ecological footprint info, I found that ‘Humans use as much ecological resources as if we lived on 1.7 Earths. The Ecological Footprint is the only metric that compares the resource demand of individuals, governments, and businesses against Earth’s capacity for biological regeneration.’ It’s not about carbon but about resource sustainability.  

I used the Ecological Calculator and I find my results shocking.  Unlike my carbon footprint, the ecological one ‘includes both personal and society impacts.  The footprint associated with food, mobility, and goods is easier for you to directly influence through lifestyle choices.  However, a person’s footprint also includes societal impacts or ‘services’ such as government assistance, roads and infrastructure, public services, and the country’s military.  All citizens are allocated their share of these societal impacts.  This is why, if we want to achieve sustainability, we need to focus on both our own lifestyle as well as influencing our governments’.   What am I doing to influence my government?  More actions to take.

Looking for info on lifestyle footprints led me into the realm of archetypes and stereotypes.  I enjoyed the diversion of musing on which of 12 archetypes predominantly expressed my lifestyle footprint:  ruler, artist, innocent, sage, explorer, outlaw, magician, hero, lover, jester, everyman, or caregiver.    It was a bit like doing those team member profile surveys I had to do at work.  Unfortunately, the mentioned quiz link that would tell me what archetype I am, was not in the article.  No matter, I wondered what kind of lifestyle footprint each archetype had in terms of the things like possessions, clothing choices, home furnishings, books and magazines read, music listened to, artwork/visuals enjoyed, etc? 

Take the archetype ‘ruler’ described as ‘authoritative, driven, meticulous, resolute but may suffer from self-righteousness and pompousness. Rulers are the authoritative figures of society; the presidents and kings. Though some rulers may receive a bad rap, which in many cases is well-deserved, many are peace-seeking and just.’   Do you know anyone who represents this archetype?  What lifestyle footprint do they have?

A sign I’ve seen in many public spaces, is ‘Leave only footprints’, supposedly to encourage people to take their litter home with them.  But it’s also a sign that now suggests to me that I will now examine more closely my different footprints, assess which ones I want to leave, and work out if/how I can eradicate ones I have already left, or change the ones I no longer want to leave. 

Have you thought of assessing your footprints?  How would you do it?  Let me know.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: