Here’s a depressing date for your diary. Today it’s August 1, just seven months and one day into 2018. And we have already consumed a year’s worth of the Earth’s resources.
So, happy Earth Overshoot Day!
For anyone who wants to join a rather gloomy party, you need to know this is the date when the world slips into ecological debt after demanding more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year.
The earliest date on record
Or to put it another way. We now need 1.7 Earths to meet our demands for natural resources.
And here’s the bad news. This year Earth Overshoot Day is the earliest date recorded since the world first went into ecological debt in the 1970s.
We all know it doesn’t have to be like this. The Global Footprint Network, which calculates Earth Overshoot Day, states that simply reducing our carbon footprint by 50% will push back this depressing date by three months.
And the best place to start? By making our buildings more sustainable.
Buildings and excessive energy waste
In Europe alone, buildings produce 36% of CO2, consume 40% of all energy, devour half of all extracted materials and generate more than a third of all waste. It’s excessive.
We have to step up rates of energy efficient renovation for buildings around the world to slash these emissions and curb our greedy consumption of energy.
There are reasons to be optimistic. The 28 countries of the European Union, for example, have agreed to create strategies that will make their buildings ‘nearly-zero energy’ by 2050.
With what is known as the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive annual renovation rates are mandated to increase to an average of 3% a year. It’s a unique opportunity. And one that can be replicated around the world.
But three things are required to make any renovation revolution a success — serious political ambition, regulation that triggers change and, of course, money. One without the other means any initiative is destined to failure, but if combined the result will be historical success.
In France, for instance, where the building sector accounts for 45% of energy consumption and 27% of carbon emissions powerful political will has resulted in ambitious plans that aim to renovate 500,000 buildings every year.
More with less
We have to find new ways to recycle, reuse and reduce our waste. At Knauf Insulation we are proud that our Glass Mineral Wool products use up to 80% recycled glass, our Wood Wool materials come from certified sustainable forests and we are now sending 69.4% less waste to landfill than we did in 2010.
But it’s not enough. We are constantly working to find new ways to do more with less.
And the building industry as a whole has to do more. We understand that and that is why we are working hard to make buildings more sustainable from the start. This means near-zero energy use, sustainable sourcing and understanding the environmental impact of buildings across their entire lifecycles so that we can target where we can all do better.
Every journey starts with a single step, goes the cliché. And we all need to step up. Right now. On August 1. Earth Overshoot Day should be our annual call to action. It’s not too late to push back.
But it might soon be.