Pressures on the Environment

Copyright Environmental Protection Agency


Since the 1950s:

  • World population has more than doubled, while the global economy has grown nearly sixfold.
  • Carbon dioxide emissions are up fivefold, giving way to global climate change.
  • Water and timber use has tripled.
  • Paper usage has risen sixfold.
  • Air and water pollution have increased.
  • World grain stocks are declining.
  • Oceans are being over-fished.
  • Extinction of plants and animals continues to rise.
  • 60% of people in developing countries lack sanitation. (Vital Signs,2015)

17% of the world's population consume 80% of the world's natural resources.

Ireland's footprint
Copyright the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government


The high levels of consumption experienced on a global scale are reflected - on a smaller scale - in Ireland. Our 'ecological footprint' is already 1.23 times the size of the land available. Ireland has however, moved from a position of being one of the most resource-inefficient economies in the EU ( our rate of material consumption was growing faster than the population) to a significantly more efficient nation with regards to per capita consumption levels. The 2008 recession has been thought to have contributed to this changing trend (EPA, 2016).

In preliminary calculations by the UCD Environmental Institute, based on a standard methodology, the average size of Ireland’s ecological footprint is 2.38 hectares per person, or a total of 86,325km2 - some 1.23 times the size of the State (70,394km2).

Ireland has been ranked in at number 11out of 15 countries analysed in the Sustainable Progress Index. It was regarded as worst in terms of performance and progress on  Environment, Gender Equality, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Affordable Clean Energy, Reducing Inequality and International Partnership, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For further details visit the Social Justice Ireland website.

Ecological footprinting provides a means of demonstrating the importance of consumption patterns. We need to take heed of the results in order to reduce our footprint and set course for a more sustainable lifestyle, if future generations are to enjoy the way of living we enjoy today.


Which path to chose?
Copyright the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

The Choice Is Yours

There are two paths now that you can choose to go down. Doing nothing will mean consumption will continue to spike, but bringing some sort of sustainability into your life will go a long way to stem the tide.

The decisions to change to a more sustainable lifestyle rests with every one of us, either as an individual or as a member of an organisation. As a consumer or an investor in business, you are in a key position to make informed choices for sustainable living.

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