Sustainicum Collection

Consus The aim of the project is to establish a regional science-society network for sustainability innovations in Albania and Kosovo in order to strengthen the connection and collaboration of institutions in the field of higher education, research and practice.

Resource facts

  • Independent of the number of students
  • Up to 3 lecture units
  • Internet connection necessary
  • English, German

Resource Description

Instruction file

Ecological Footprint for Holidays and Journeys(Resource ID: 116)

Tourism, journeys and leisure activities constitute a large part of the ecological pressure posed by the life styles in developed countries. This software calculates the ecological footprint (using the Sustainable Process Index method) of tourism and leisure mobility as well as for accommodation, subsistence and leisure activities. This calculator is designed to support education in tourism oriented curricula, economics as well as spatial planning. http://www.fussabdrucksrechner.at/en/calculation/tourism

The idea of the ecological footprint is to provide an easily understandable measure for the pressure human activities exert on nature. Simply put, the more resources an activity requires as input and the more emissions it generates (which may diminish the ability of the natural compartments soil, water and air to provide services due to degradation and loss of biodiversity), the greater the ecological footprint of the activity becomes.

This leads directly to the concept of a “natural budget” that is at the disposal for each person to cover his/her life style. If a person creates for all his/her activities, services and products an ecological footprint larger than the area statistically available for one person, the life style pursued is not sustainable.


The SPI is one method to calculate ecological footprints that takes emissions to air, water and soil besides resource provision into account. The method compares anthropogenic and natural flows according to the following sustainability critera1:

Principle 1: Anthropogenic mass flows must not alter global material cycles;

Principle 2: Anthropogenic mass flows must not alter the quality of local environmental compartments.

The SPI is a tool based on these criteria and is compatible to the modus operandi described in the ISO 14000 standard for life cycle assessment. It calculates ecological pressures for all technologies from the generation of their resources to the emission the whole life cycle generates until providing the product or service in question. It aggregates different ecological pressures to one number; this single number is the area necessary to embed a process or service sustainable into the ecosphere, in accordance with the tenets of the concept of “strong sustainability” that requires sustainable development to be based on the natural income rather than allowing for unrestricted substitution of different kinds of natural and human capital. As the natural income of our planet is mainly the energy radiated from the sun to the surface of our world, human (and natural!) processes will compete for “surface” as the basic resource to utilise this natural income. This is the normative background of all Ecological Footprint calculations and also of the SPI.

This leads directly to the concept of a “natural budget” that is at the disposal for each person to cover his/her life style. If a person creates for all his/her activities, services and products an ecological footprint larger than the area statistically available for one person, the life style pursued is not sustainable.

In addition to that the SPI also takes the quality of life supporting ecological compartments (soil atmosphere and water) into account as degradation in their quality will diminish the ability to utilise our natural income. It therefore focuses on aspects of environmental sustainability based on material and energy fluxes that processes exchange with their environments. The corresponding data for natural systems are the sedimentation rate of carbon in oceans, the natural concentrations of substances in soil and water, the exchange rates per area unit of airborne pollutants between forests and air as well as the replenishment rates for soil and water. The SPI allows for comparison between different life styles and, in this software, different ways of spending leisure time and different ways to travel.

Using the results for fossil resource consumption calculated by the SPI evaluation the software will calculate the Carbon Footprint as an auxiliary measure to discuss the specific climate change impact of the touristic activities in question. By using the same data base for the SPI and the Carbon Footprint the software guarantees compatibility of both evaluations. The calculation uses the partial area for fossil carbon as a reference. This area refers to the sedimentation to the ocean bed, the major process that replenishes the long term storage of carbon (from which fossil resources are drawn) within the global carbon cycle. The current imbalance between the (natural) flow to the long term carbon storage and the (anthropogenic) flow of carbon dioxide from burning fossil resources is at the heart of global climate change.

In the calculator the natural sedimentation flow is set to 73 kg CO2 equivalent per hectare and year. A car that runs 10,000 km per year and emits 2,800 kg CO2 (including the whole infrastructure, i.e. also the construction of the road for example) has an ecological footprint of 38 ha (equal to 35 soccer fields). The statistical area that an Austrian person may use as ecological footprint is 6.6 ha (including the aliquot sea area) for comparison.


The tourism calculator offers a self-explaining online-questionnaire. The students provide the profile of the touristic activity/journey that are relevant regarding ecological pressures. These are:

  • The kind of touristic activity (wellness, swimming, roundtrip, …)

  • Start and goal of voyages (in terms of global regions)

  • Distance to travel and modal split of means of transportation (the user is supplied with a link to find out distances)

  • Leisure activities (sports activities, wellness, etc.)

  • Accommodation (category of hotels, etc.)

  • Food details (vegetarian, non-vegetarian, etc.)

Details that are relevant for the footprint calculation like the number of passengers in a car and fuel consumption are also asked in the questionnaire. The calculation will take different energy mixes in the respective countries into account.

The results of the calculation will detail the ecological footprint according to the categories direct area consumption, fossil resource consumption, renewable resource consumption and emissions to air, water and soil. The footprint will also be assigned to different aspects of the activity (travel, accommodation, leisure activity). Besides the ecological footprint, CO2 emissions will also be shown for these aspects.

The results of the calculations will provide orientation regarding the ecological pressures incurred by different leisure activities and will help to optimise the life style. Calculations are based on average values. Students may however change parameters and create scenarios in order to identify the impact of changes to their leisure life style on the ecological pressures they exert. This applies to different leisure activities but in particular to different ways of leisure induced mobility.


Learning Outcomes
The objective of the calculator is to provide students with insight to the ecological impact incurred by leisure activities and travel.
Relevance for Sustainability
The calculator allows to question one‘s life style with regard to leisure activities. It also provides orientation on how life styles may be changed in order to achieve sustainability. Detailed analysis of the results allow students to identify the “ecological hotspots of their leisure activities and helps them to pinpoint necessary changes.
The calculator however may also allow students to enter into a discourse with stakeholders in trans-disciplinary practica in order to estimate the ecological impact of concrete leisure offers.
Related Teaching Resources
No specific previous knowledge / related resources required
Preparation Efforts
Sources and Links

1 Krotscheck, C., M. Narodoslawsky, 1996. The Sustainable Process Index - A new Dimension

in Ecological Evaluation. Ecological Engineering 6/4 (1996) pp. 241-258.

Narodoslawsky M. and C. Krotscheck, 2000. Integrated ecological optimization of processes with the sustainable process index. Waste Management 20:599-603

Funded by
Funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research within the framework of the call "Projekt MINT-Massenfächer" (2011/12)

Comments Write Comment


Prof. Michael Narodoslawsky


Michael Eder
This teaching resource is allocated to following University:
TUG - Graz University of Technology


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Teaching Tools & Methods

  • Simulation program