USQ ecologist Andy Le Brocque says there are many simple lifestyle choices we can make to help reduce our individual ecological footprints.
USQ ecologist Andy Le Brocque says there are many simple lifestyle choices we can make to help reduce our individual ecological footprints. Contributed

Can banning the fast food burger save the planet?

IF EVERYONE on the globe lived the way Australians do we would need three planet Earths to support our global population.

Australians, as with most western countries, are living beyond Earth's capacity to support mankind, according to USQ ecologist Andy Le Brocque.

The environmental science and sustainability lecturer is one of two experts talking at USQ Fraser Coast in the Creating Waves Lecture Series on Friday, August 2, and the Open Day on Sunday, August 4, held in partnership with the Hervey Bay Whale Festival and Fraser Coast Regional Council.

The topic is Eating sustainably: what is the health cost of fast food?

Dr Le Brocque points out that Australia has an average ecological footprint of 6.7 global hectares (gha) per person and is the eighth highest in the world with regard to cost on the environment.

The average Australian footprint of 6.7 gha is equivalent to 15 football fields per person per year.

Global hectares is the scale scientists use to assess the impact of human activities measured in terms of bio capacity, which is the area of biologically productive land and water required to produce the goods consumed and to assimilate the wastes generated.

In other words, it is the amount of the environment necessary to produce the goods and services needed to support a particular lifestyle.

Dr Le Brocque said the global average footprint is 2.7 gha per person, which means Australia's footprint is more than two-and-a-half-times higher than the global average and considerably larger than that of Bangladesh at 0.62 gha or that of the lowest footprint of 0.04 gha found in Puerto Rico.

USQ biomedical scientist Lindsay Brown.
USQ biomedical scientist Lindsay Brown.

"More than half of the average Australian's footprint comes from greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity," he said.

"The average Australian household generates about 14 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.

"However, there are lots of relatively simple things we can do to reduce our individual, and the nation's, ecological footprint.

"One surprising area is our consumption of fast food.

"While one popular takeaway hamburger only weighs 200 grams, it has been estimated that the production, transport and storage of the burger's components, its assembly and final sale can generate up to 5kg of greenhouse gases.

"There are many simple lifestyle choices that can be made to help reduce our own individual footprints.

"These are also likely to save you considerable money, particularly as the true environmental costs become more factored into the price of our consumables."

Joining Dr Le Brocque at the lectures will be USQ's biomedical scientist Lindsay Brown.

Professor Brown's talk will look at the health risks with a fast food diet, and USQ's studies on interventions with foods that may reverse these risks. 

"The modern diet is very different from the typical hunter-gatherer diet, with an increased intake of saturated and trans fatty acids and a low n-3:n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) ratio," he said.

"These changes, together with a sedentary lifestyle, increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and hypertension."


  • Where: USQ Fraser Coast, 161 Old Maryborough Road, Hervey Bay
  • When: Creating Waves Lecture Series, 5.30-7.30pm, Friday August 2; Open Day, 10am to 1pm, Sunday, August 4