August 19, 2015
Earth Overshoot Day—Not a Day Worth Celebrating
I’m writing this on August 14th, 2015. Yesterday (August 13th) came and went as normal with little fanfare. But something happened that day that’s incredibly important and all too often ignored.
What is Earth Overshoot Day?
The Global Footprint Network (GFN), a global think tank dedicated to spreading the science of sustainability, calculates Earth Overshoot Day to the best of their ability every year.
The calculation is made by looking at how much natural resources we use in terms of timber, food, space, water, carbon, etc., and then looking at how much area is needed to provide those resources and how much land is available on the Earth.
To put it in the simplest terms possible, let’s use an analogy. Earth Overshoot Day is basically the day a person spends their entire annual salary for the year. Except in this case, the salary is our planet and the person is humanity as a whole.
Ideally, the day you spend your entire yearly salary would come sometime after December 31st. And for most of human history, it has. But in 1970, Earth Overshoot day occurred on December 23rd. It has been coming earlier ever since. Last year, it happened on August 19th.
Basically, the best way to look at it is that we’ve been taking out loans to supplement our income for the last 45 years. A normal family that lives this way would have their house foreclosed long ago. A business that operates like this would have declared bankruptcy by now. This isn’t a smart way to budget resources.
Skeptics may ask, “Hey, we haven’t figuratively declared bankruptcy as a planet yet—if Earth Overshoot Day is such a big deal, why haven’t we felt the consequences yet?”
Well the truth is we’re feeling them right now. The evidence is everywhere.
- Scientists say we’re about 100 years into a mass extinction event not seen since the dinosaurs.
- Global warming is set to create severe food shocks.
- El Niño may rival the strongest year on record this year.
And those are just headlines I’ve been reading this week. Make no mistake about it—we’re paying for our overuse of Earth’s natural resources.
So what can we do?
The truth is, there isn’t really an easy answer to this question. Of course, doing all the things that you’ve been told to do since you were a kid (recycle, don’t leave the tap on, etc.) will help, but even if everyone on earth did that, it still wouldn’t be enough to push Earth Overshoot Day off the calendar.
In order to really fix this problem, we’re going to have to take a hard look at the way we as a planet do business. This is where most of our environmental allowance is going every year.
At Packsize our mission is to provide smart packaging for a healthy planet. Packaging may only be one cog in your business, but we figure we ought to provide the best, most sustainable, most efficient cog possible. Using smaller boxes not only creates happier customers and reduces your environmental impact, it also saves your business money.
It is in fact possible to be more sustainable and more profitable. The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. It just requires some creativity to get there.
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