The ’Ecological GDA’ Concept

GDA or Guideline Daily Amounts labelling (DRI or Dietary Reference Intake in the US) helps you plan a healthy diet by showing how much nutrients a typical portion of each food contains – in percentages of the recommended intake of an average adult.

Imagine a system, that would make it just as easy to plan an ecologically sustainable lifestyle.

Ecological GDA would be just that.

In other words, ecoGDA would provide a simple way to estimate the ecological strain of your everyday choices in e.g. food, living and transportation. This would be done by showing the emissions and natural resource consumption caused by each product or action – in percentages of the recommended maximums.

Examples

eco-gda-petrol-car
This ecoGDA label shows some direct and indirect emissions and consumptions of a typical drive to work in a pertrol car, with no passengers. Note: the actual values are not validated, but there just to demonstrate the concept.
eco-gda-petrol-car
Additional food or drinks you would possibly need for this bike trip aren’t included, since their ecological effect can be estimated with separate ecoGDA labels. Of indirect effects only those that in practical terms can’t be avoided are included in each ecoGDA label.
eco-gda-petrol-car
Here’s an ecoGDA for a typical cheeseburger. The perhaps surprising amount of freshwater consumption is mostly caused by producing the beef. Note: the actual values are not validated, but there just to demonstrate the concept.

Considerations

While the concept itself is quite clear, some of its fundamental elements need to be specified further in order to make ecoGDA a credible, practical and coherent tool.

What to track?

The above examples include CO₂ and methane emissions, freshwater consumption, total consumption of energy and consumption of energy produced by burning fossil fuels. Those are some of the typical and relevant variables to track in order to estimate your ecological footprint as a whole. The complete ecoGDA system could also include reusable and non-reusable waste, precious materials’ consumption and so on.

The individual amounts shown could then be decided case-by-case considering relevancy, available space and timeframe etc. While some situations call for a more comprehensive take, others could be solved with a quick summary instead, much like what’s done with the original GDA.

What would be the recommended maximum values – and who decides them?

While it’s obvious that there’s no exact mathematical formula to specify any of the recommendations in question, there are a lot of studies about how much our ecosystem is able to handle. I believe some of the greatest authorities in ecological study today could end up in a practical compromise that would, however rough, be perfectly sufficient for this purpose.

How and where would the end user find out the ecoGDA?

This depends on the situation. I would love to see these labels becoming common in e.g. food and product packaging, much the same way as the ’traditional’ gda’s. In cars, the ecoGDA could some day be integrated to the in-car computer’s diagnostic systems. In situations where there is no obvious interface to show the ecoGDA data, you could search a website or a mobile app for an applicable ecoGDA.

Next steps

  • Finding a credible authority that would be…
    • able to estimate recommended maximums for each emitted or consumed material and
    • willing to stand behind globalising the concept
  • Deciding which values to include in the system
  • Deciding and applying the logic to estimate the recommended maximum values
  • Promoting the usage of this system in food and product packaging etc.
  • Building a large ecoGDA database of typical products and actions in the categories of living, food and transportation
  • Promoting the system and its advantages globally

Interested?

My point is not to make a business for myself out of this, but to promote an idea that could actually make a change globally. I would be more than happy if someone in an organisation like WWF found out about this, took over the project and made it reality.

If you are that someone, I would be happy to negotiate further about the future of this project. Please find my contact information here.

If you would like to interview me about ecoGDA for a magazine or tv, I’d be happy to provide whatever additional information you need, in English or in Finnish.