The phrase 'ecological footprint' was coined in the 1990s by Mathis Wackernagel, a Swiss mathematical engineer, who developed a means to measure human beings' consumption of natural resources according to their daily habits. His method allows us to see whether our planet is capable of supplying these resources and for how long. Dr. Wackernagel's concept is simple to use, and every individual, group, factory, village or town can enter the data relevant to its own way of life. The numbers almost always add up to the same conclusion: If we human beings continue enjoying our easy, comfortable habits and high standards of living, the earth's natural resources will be inevitably depleted.
Does this sound complicated? Actually it's not. It is known that modern lifestyles rapidly consume the earth's natural resources. These resources are limited, and the time needed to renew them is not sufficient to offset the speed at which we human beings squander them. Our planet cannot cope with this ongoing wastefulness. As Dr. Wackernagel puts it, 'Humanity is in a critical overdraft'.
For decades, Ramat Hanadiv has been managed according to green principles, doing the utmost to conserve natural resources and the environment. Waste products from the Memorial Gardens and Nature Park are added to compost piles that slowly decompose, and the finished compost is returned to the soil as natural fertilizer. Water from the sinks and toilets is collected and purified, then used for irrigation. In the Nature Park, the emphasis is on preserving a wide range of flora and fauna species and bringing back mammals and raptors which have disappeared from this area.
Construction of the Visitors Pavilion – which won a prize for excellence in green building from the Israel Standards Institute and the Ministry of Environmental Protection – offered Ramat Hanadiv the chance to illustrate the ecological footprint concept in a multi-dimensional format. From the balcony of the restaurant in the Visitors Pavilion, one can see the outline of the Ecological Footprint within the green panorama at the western side of the building. Inside this lovely garden, multitudes of delicate butterflies flit about, lured by flowers and shrubs they find irresistible, and people stroll among them while absorbing Ramat Hanadiv's extensive knowledge of environmental conservation and development.
In the Visitors Pavilion and the verdant expanse around it are other striking examples of how we can reduce our ecological footprint on the environment:
• The children's playground, constructed entirely of natural materials like rope and wooden beams. The mulch on the ground is made of wood chips produced at Ramat Hanadiv, and the play equipment is shaded by a canopy of pine trees.
• The geothermal cooling system installed in the Visitors Pavilion, which can be viewed through a window.
• The processing facility for 'gray water': After biological purification, every drop of water used at Ramat Hanadiv is recycled for irrigation.
• The goat shed, housing a herd with an important job assignment: the goats' controlled grazing helps prevent fires in Ramat Hanadiv's forests.
• The acclimatization cage for raptors, where they are carefully tended before being released and returned to the skies of Israel.
• Compost piles: Vegetative waste from the Nature Park and Memorial Gardens mounded here eventually turns into organic compost – the secret ingredient that makes Ramat Hanadiv's gardens so healthy.
From Ramat Hanadiv's green domain, we try to look into the distance and see beyond the present. Every day, in every inch of the Memorial Gardens and the Nature Park, we strive to keep our ecological footprints as small as they can be in order to leave as large a heritage as possible to tomorrow's generations: the generous bounty that nature has given to all of us.