To mark Earth Overshoot Day (August 2nd — the earliest to date) — the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate over the entire year — international research organization Global Footprint Network has launched a new mobile-friendly version of its signature Footprint Calculator.
The new Footprint Calculator, which is still in beta, allows users to measure their personal demand on nature and assess their own Earth Overshoot Day — the date Earth Overshoot Day would be if all people had their footprint.
A personal Earth Overshoot Day earlier than August 2nd means a user’s demand on nature is higher than the world average. If it is earlier than April 24, it is higher than Germany’s average; earlier than March 14, it is higher than the US average.
This year, Global Footprint Network and over 30 partners are highlighting solutions to help people reduce their personal environmental footprints and encouraging individuals to make pledges to #movethedate. If Earth Overshoot Day was moved back 4.5 days each year, we would live within the means of one Earth before 2050; we are currently using 1.7 Earths.
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Hear insights from Astrid Kaag, Social Resilience & Sustainability Advisor for the Netherlands' Noord-Brabant province, on applying global thresholds and allocations in practice — at New Metrics '19, November 18-20.
Reducing the carbon component of the global ecological footprint by 50 percent would move Overshoot Day 89 days. Fourteen percent of humanity’s carbon footprint is attributed to personal transportation. In many cases, interventions at the city level could help lower this number by creating environments that encourage active transportation and reduce dependency on cars and other fossil fuel-reliant modes of transport.
Food is another major ecological footprint driver, both in terms of food waste and resource inefficiency in food production. Approximately 1.3 billion tons of food are lost or wasted each year, constituting the equivalent of nine percent of humanity’s ecological footprint. Food loss waste in the US alone — around 40 percent of the food produced annually — is equal to the total ecological footprint of Peru and Belgium combined, or the total biocapacity of Mexico. The Global Footprint Network collaborated with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition to create an infographic that demonstrates food-based solutions for lowering the global ecological footprint. Cutting food waste in half worldwide could move the date of Overshoot Day back by 11 days and eating less protein-intensive food could move Overshoot Day 31 days.
“Our planet is finite, but human possibilities are not,” said Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of Global Footprint Network. “Living within the means of one planet is technologically possible, financially beneficial and our only chance for a prosperous future. We hope our new Footprint Calculator enables millions more people to explore sustainability solutions and gain an uplifting sense of the possibilities available to society.”
Major real estate company AMLI Residential and Eastman Chemical Company are two examples of companies that have committed to #movethedate back. In addition to developing LEED-certified buildings and installing Energy Star appliances, WaterSense fixtures and programmable thermostats in its developments to improve energy and water effiency, AMLI Residential has rolled out a number of community-level programs to help residents reduce their environmental impacts. Initiatives include community recycling programs, adding bike storage and repair shops and building AMLI communities near public transportation.
Eastman has outlined three ways it is working to slash its ecological footprint, the first of which includes developing solvents and fibers that are sustainably made — including a cellulosic yarn made from renewable pulp wood from sustainably managed forests and a high-performance solvent made from chemicals — that are readily biodegradable. The chemical giant says it is on track to meet its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and has also developed a water conservation strategy for manufacturing sites in water stressed regions.
More than two million people across the globe used the Footprint Calculator last year. The new Calculator allows users to play with options, learn about solutions and connect to brief sustainability facts. A person’s ecological footprint is the productive surface area required to provide all they use, including areas for food and timber, for urban infrastructure and to absorb carbon dioxide emissions.