Planning with Ecological Footprints: A sympathetic critique of theory and practice

Phil Mcmanus, Graham Haughton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The concept of the Ecological Footprint has become a popular and increasingly used approach in environmental policy and planning, for western cities in particular. The concept is useful not least as a metaphor that effectively communicates the message that environmental impacts extend beyond the built area of cities. However, the use of Ecological Footprint analysis as a measuring tool is problematic, particularly when it is used as a tool for comparisons between jurisdictions. This paper sets out the benefits of the concept, indicates its history and use, and offers a sympathetic critique of both the theory and practice of Ecological Footprints. We believe this is necessary so that policy makers thinking of adopting this approach are aware of its strengths and limitations, and avoid using the concept in a manner that may be misleading. Copyright © 2006 International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-127
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironment and Urbanization
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


  • Cities
  • Ecological Footprint
  • Hinterlands
  • Planning
  • Sustainability


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