By Simon Wyatt
For fifty years now, Earth Overshoot Day has marked the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources exceeds what the earth can regenerate in that same year. After that date has passed, the global community starts using natural resources borrowed from future generations.
As it is, the global community currently uses 1.7 planets worth of resources every year, but it’s worth noting that resource use for every country is different, and some use far more than others. For example, if the entire world was to live like the average American then we would need five planets worth of resources to sustain us.
Since it started in 1970, the date for Earth Overshoot Day has crept steadily forward to 29 July in 2019 and its insidious pace has slowed on only two occasions previously, during the global energy crisis and again during the last global recession. In 2020 the date is predicted to be 22 August, which represents the biggest positive shift since its introduction. However, whilst the sustainability agenda is the highest it has been for decades this reduction in demand is clearly a consequence of the global pandemic and only a short-term respite for the planet.
As the pandemic continues to take hold, the world has ground to a halt. In the fight to slow the spread of the virus, people are staying home in larger numbers than ever before, bringing about one of the few positive consequences of the pandemic – a reduction in resource use and carbon emissions. Key to this is a reduction in aviation, manufacturing, and construction, three of the biggest offending industries when it comes to resource use and carbon emissions.
Those of us in the construction industry should by now be aware that we are responsible for over 40% of the UK’s emissions and over 60% of its resource use, and therefore have a great responsibility to move our industry toward a sustainable future, embracing the principles of a circular economy. To do this, we need to build back better, starting with a retrofit first approach and then looking to reuse and repurpose parts or whole existing buildings as resources for future developments.
As we work to transition to a Net Zero Carbon economy, resource use will become key. It is important that as an industry we embrace the principles of a circular economy, consider whole life carbon in everything we do, and start to see existing materials as future resources rather than something to be disposed of. Only then can we do our part to #movethedate.