It is a measure of the impacts of all the processes it takes to provide you with everything that you buy and use and discard in the course of a year.
Footprints are estimated using a discipline called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). People in the field of LCA have compiled databases that give us quantitative models of the global supply chains of products and services, including the environmental impacts of each step in those supply chains. At Handprinter we use the results of LCAs to estimate impacts in relation to five impact categories: climate change, human health, water depletion, biodiversity impacts, and waste. People and organizations don’t just have a “Carbon footprint”, we have many footprints, one for each impact category.
Each icon refers to a different impact category: climate change, human health, water depletion, biodiversity impacts, and waste. When you click on an icon, Handprinter displays results for that impact category in the different parts of your dashboard. If you do this, and the results don’t seem to change much if at all, it means that the footprint and handprint impacts of your actions so far are very similar in terms of the fraction of your total annual footprint impacts. In other words, if your footprint is 358 days for climate and water and health, this means that your actions have reduced your climate footprint by 7 days (about 2%), and your water footprint by 7 days (2%) and your health footprint by 7 days (2%). This is not surprising since many actions have similar benefits for different impact categories.
In fact, LCA measures impacts in special units for each different impact category. There are even different possible ways and units to measure impact within a single impact category. These units are highly useful and informative for LCA specialists, but they don’t mean much to the rest of us.
At Handprinter we try to make your impacts more meaningful to you, by expressing each action’s impacts as a fraction of your total annual footprint. For example, planting a tree might create climate benefits equal to half of your carbon footprint. We could express this as “0.5 You-Footprints of climate change impact.” In the same way the impacts of eating a veggie burger instead of a beef burger might be equal to 1 ten-thousandth of your carbon footprint, or “0.0001 you-footprints of climate change impact.”
This is basically what Handprinter is doing, except we also take advantage of the facts that:
Right now, Handprinter is simply using data for the average annual footprints of citizens in each country. So when you select your country in your profile, you establish your starting footprint. Then your footprint gets adjusted from there, as you take actions.
In the near future we’ll add a feature that lets you fine-tune your footprint estimate. There are several good online carbon footprint calculators in the web; we’ll allow you to use one, obtain your personal carbon footprint estimate, and enter it in your profile. Then we’ll use LCA data to estimate your footprints on other impact categories based on your country and your personal carbon footprint.
Handprints are positive changes that you cause. When you replace your own shower head with a low-flow one, you reduce your footprint. When you give a low-flow showerhead to your friend, you reduce their footprint. Both of these positive benefits that you create are part of your handprint.
Note that you don’t have to be the only cause of a change, just one of the causes. Most good things that happen are caused by more than one person. And you don’t have to be a direct cause either. Most things that happen in the world are part of a chain or sequence of causes. Your handprint includes your full “ripple effects.”
Let’s say you buy a low-flow showerhead and it’s great; it is saving you money and reducing your footprint. So you buy one and give it to Maria. She uses it, loves it, and decides to buy one for Mark. Mark’s footprint is reduced, and your handprint grows if Maria wouldn’t have bought Mark the showerhead without your initial influence.
Handprinter helps you create, and trace, positive ripple effects in the world.
Think of your footprint as the “cost” of you living your life on earth for a year. It’s the environmental burden of what you choose to buy and do and use and discard during a year. Think of your handprint as the environmental gift that you give back to the world this year while you’re living your life. Your handprint consists of the good things that wouldn’t have happened without you. Your handprint is changes that you bring, outside the scope of your footprint.
Handprinter users are answering that question for you to the best of their ability! Take an action that you find in Handprinter’s actions database! Every action in the Handprinter database was suggested by somebody, and users are adding to the action database all the time. You can too.
The possibilities are truly endless, but Handprinter is here to help you get started, get a feel for handprint creation, and launch a lifetime of handprinting over-achievement! Check out this page (link to our “how it works”) page for a summary of 6 ways to create handprints. But if you want an idea right here, right now, how about helping your friend install a clothesline to dry their towels in the sun.
Remember that footprints and handprints can be expressed in units of time? This means, with both footprint reductions and with handprints, you can make part of your year “net positive.” Let’s say you reduce your footprint by three days. It’s like you’re living here on earth at no environmental cost for three days! The calendar will show you living “in the green” for today and two more days. This gives you time to ask: what else might I do? Create a 2-day handprint, and your net-positive period will grow. How long can you extend your streak? Can you help a friend extend theirs?
The scale shows you three things at once, for the impact category that you have selected: your footprint on the left, your handprint on the right, and the ratio of your handprint to your footprint on the scale’s dial. If your handprint is zero, the scale will continue to read zero as you take actions to reduce your footprint. But once your handprint is bigger than zero, you can increase your “good ratio” (handprint / footprint) by reducing your footprint and by increasing your handprint.
Your network shows many of the people involved in your handprint “ripple effect.” First, connected to you will see the handprinter users that you invited into handprinting. Then, you’ll also see the folks that each of them invited, and so-on.
From users! Handprinter is a platform to empower humans to collaboratively figure out how we can bring our collective footprint into balance with the needs of earth’s natural systems. Human creativity is unbounded, and so is our potential to succeed together at this challenge.
First, our administrators are notified, and we check to make sure it isn’t spam, or a duplicate of an action already in the database, etc. If we need to, we’ll contact you to help you modify and strengthen your action idea. Then we’ll approve it.
Once your action idea has been approved, it will be in the database, visible to all handprinter users, and they can choose to take your action. You’ll see your influence grow as more and more people are inspired by your action idea.
But we won’t know the impacts of your action until the action is modeled. We have a staff of volunteer modelers standing by to estimate the impacts of new action ideas. Once your action has been modeled, the footprint reductions and handprint creations that you have caused will become known to you and others, and this will work retroactively as well.
Handprinter is a project of NewEarth B, which is a for-benefit corporation, with a mission of providing positive environmental and social impacts. The two current projects of NewEarth B are Handprinter and the Social Hotspots Database.