Universiteit Leiden

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Footprint family: Concepts, classification, integration, and benchmarking against planetary boundaries

How to bring together different footprints into an integrated family and what are the synergies? What are the roles of inventory analysis and characterization in measuring individual footprints and how these affect a footprint family? How to benchmark environmental footprints against related planetary boundaries and why this represents an evolution from environmental impact assessment to environmental sustainability assessment.

2011  -   2015
This project is financially supported by China Scholarship Council This project is financially supported by China Scholarship Council

Short abstract

Starting from the idea of providing an overall picture of the impacts of anthropogenic activities on the planet’s environment, this PhD project brings together various environmental footprints into a footprint family which is further benchmarked against planetary boundaries from a systemic perspective. Its aim is to break down disciplinary barriers and to offer novel insights into environmental sustainability assessment.

Global-scale national footprints

Project description

Sustainability science needs interdisciplinary views and integrated approaches. Our work challenges the isolation of footprint analysis and planetary boundaries as two independent fields of research and makes use of both in a complementary way.

Material & Methods

The ecological, energy, carbon and water footprints are selected to constitute a footprint family, where the combined effects of the four footprints are evaluated. A parallel with the downscaling of planetary boundaries to the national level allows for comparison of current environmental conditions and critical capacity thresholds.

Results & Conclusions

The footprint family investigated is able to offer a more complete picture of environmental impacts for policy makers, particularly if based on a scientific impact characterization basis. A footprint-boundary environmental sustainability assessment framework has been established, with applications in greenhouse gas emission, water use and land use for major nations of the world.

Why Leiden University?

Leiden is a prestigious university with historical, world-wide reputation. CML is an elite research institution at the forefront of environmental and ecological sciences, particularly in the area of life cycle assessment which is a key methodology for footprinting.