How Many Planets Do You Need? Take the Ecological Footprint Quiz

Have you ever wanted to figure out your carbon footprint?  The folks at the Center for Sustainable Economy can help you with their award-winning ecological footprint quiz called “How BIG is Your Ecological Footprint”.

I took the quiz.  Most of the questions were simple, only two required a bit of research.  Question 8 was “If your house uses electricity, what percentage is generated from renewable hydropower, wind, biomass, or solar sources? The initial value is the country or regional average.”  The initial value pre-filled for me was 8.29%.  I decided to see if I could find something more accurate.  Turns out, it was easy to find the information I needed.  I went to our power company’s website (, and under Environment>Renewable Energy found that in 2009 17% of Southern California Edison’s energy came from renewable sources.

The other question requiring more than 2 seconds of thought was the mileage question – I had to go out to my car and check the odometer and divide by how many years I’ve had the car to figure out my annual mileage.  The rest of the questions were simple and straightforward.

It only took a few minutes to complete the quiz and get my, gulp, result.  As I was zooming through the questions, gleefully clicking this and that, I truly thought I was doing well.  I recycle everything, we conserve water, I don’t fly, I shop at farmers markets, blah blah blah.  Frankly, I was getting a little smug.  Then all of a sudden I was on the results page thinking “WHAT THE HECK?”

Here’s what it said:

“If everyone on the planet lived my lifestyle, we would need 2.75 Earths.”

The results also include a graph comparing your footprint with the national average and a lovely little pie chart showing which biomes you are destroying – apparently I am doing the most damage to forestland and the least to cropland.

I think I cried.

The graph comparing my results to the nation’s average did little to make me feel better.  Even though my overall carbon footprint was about 1/3 less than the national average and my food footprint was about 1/10 of the national average (woo hoo… I think…) it was hard to feel good about anything after finding out that my lifestyle requires 2.75 Earths.  UGH.

Once the shock wore off I realized that there are still a lot of things I can do to improve.  I plan to go back through the quiz, read all the associated links and change various answers to see what things I can do to make the most difference.  And then I will do those things!  I shall report back :-).

Now it’s your turn!  I shared my results – it’s only fair that you share yours.  Give it a try and tell us in the comments how many planets you require.  We won’t judge.

Take the quiz here.
Ecological Footprint Quiz by Redefining Progress


  1. Oh, I knew it would be bad. I need 6.33 Earths!!!!

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