How Sustainability Initiatives Can #MoveTheDate of Earth Overshoot Day

Jul 3, 2018 10:15 AM ET

On August 1, humanity will have used nature’s resource budget for the entire year, according to Global Footprint Network, an international research organization that has pioneered the Ecological Footprint resource accounting metric. The Ecological Footprint adds up all of people’s competing demands for productive areas, including food, timber, fibers, carbon sequestration, and accommodation of infrastructure. Currently, carbon emissions make up 60 percent of humanity’s Ecological Footprint.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from late September in 1997 to August 1st this year, the earliest date since the world first went into overshoot in the early 1970s. In other words, humanity is currently using nature 1.7 times faster than ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.7 Earths.

We can reverse the trend. If we moved Earth Overshoot Day by 5 days every year, we would return to using the resources of less than one planet by 2050. Researchers from Global Footprint Network and Schneider Electric estimated how many current off-the-shelf, commercial technologies for buildings, industrial processes and electricity production alone could move the Earth Overshoot Day. They concluded that such technology could move the date at least 21 days, without any loss in productivity or comfort. This is a conservative estimate as it is based on Schneider Electric’s offers – and additional technologies may exist to move the date even further. For instance, reducing intense energy consumption of homes, buildings, and cities will push back the actual date of Overshoot Day; halving the carbon component of our global Ecological Footprint would move Overshoot Day by 89 days. Humanity needs to move the date 4.5 days per year before 2050 to operate within the means of our planet.  For more than 10 years, Schneider Electric has been committed to reducing the impact of natural resources usage in its own operations and the operations of its customers: 

Schneider Electric serves four key end markets, which account for about 70 percent of the world’s energy consumption, representing a significant opportunity to curb energy consumption and drive the global economy’s planet compatibility. 

Since 2005, Schneider Electric has been measuring its sustainable development progress with the Planet & Society Barometer. This year they closed the 2015 – 2017 period with a record result for the Barometer. The company achieved 9.58/10, above the target of 9/10 — an unrivaled performance since the launch of the Barometer in 2005.

Now reimagined for 2018 – 2020 as the Schneider Sustainability Impact, the new indicator of the company reflects their holistic view of sustainability with ambitious targets such as being powered by 80% renewable electricity, having 200 sites labeled toward zero waste to landfill, reaching 1 medical incident per million hours worked, or training 350,000 underprivileged people in energy management.

Read more about Schneider Electric Sustainability Impacts here.