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Beyond all limits


This year, July 29th is what is referred to as “Earth Overshoot Day”, which means that humanity will be living beyond its means for the remainder of 2019.

Take a look in your wardrobe. How many T-shirts do you own? And how many do you wear on a regular basis? Be honest! Certainly not all of them. But what harm, you tell yourself. At the end of the day, those T-shirts didn’t cost the Earth. But maybe they did – quite literally! According to online magazine Aethic, it costs the Earth around 2,000 litres of water to produce a single T-shirt. Assuming that each of the almost 200 Haniel employees owns around ten T-shirts, this alone represents a debit of four million litres of water from the world’s resource account. And all that is just for a consumer good that we don’t really need in such numbers. This shocking figure shows that we are living far beyond our means and are over-exploiting the planet, which is what the annual ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ is designed to remind us of. This year, it fell on the 29th of July.

We would need 1.75 Earths
The term ‘overshoot’ that gives the day its name refers to excessive consumption. Put simply, humanity has already consumed all of the resources that the planet can reproduce within a year during the period from 1 January to 29 July 2019. Our consumption for the remaining five months of the year will be ‘without an account balance’. Based on these figures, we would need a 1.75 Earths for 2019! The date is calculated by the Global Footprint Network (GFN), which measures what is called the ecological footprint and, in so doing, keeps track of our ‘current account’ of resources. For years, it has been necessary to move Earth Overshoot Day forward by several days. In 2017, for example, it fell on the 2nd of August, and in 2018 on the 1st. This year, we reached it a full three days sooner. Unfortunately.

In view of this trend, the GFN has launched an initiative under the hashtag #movethedate that aims to raise awareness of this unsustainable lifestyle. The goal is to delay the arrival of Overshoot Day by five days each year until 2050. This would mean making it fall as “late” as the 3rd of August in 2020. At the same time, the initiative aims to inspire people to come up with personal sustainable solutions to address five problem areas identified in the system:

  1. The ‘Cities’ area includes smart urban planning as well as affordable, accessible and sustainable public means of transport.
  2. ‘Energy’ shows how ending the use of fossil fuels would also deliver financial benefits. This also includes measures such as retrofit solutions – the subsequent addition of low-energy upgrades – to existing buildings and industrial processes.
  3. In the ‘Food’ area, the GFN makes a case for making more efficient use of resources to produce food as currently one third of food waste is lost.
  4. The category ‘Planet’ focuses on re-forestation, regenerative agriculture and sustainable fishery policies in order to protect the resources of soil, air and water that are so essential to human survival.
  5. And finally, growth of the ‘Population’ can be mitigated by giving women equal status in society and in the workplace.

The implementation of specific major projects in these areas would delay the arrival of Earth Overshoot Day respectively by several days. If we can reach the day on the December 31st in 2050, we will have achieved the initiative's goal, balanced our climate account - and eased our conscience.

On its website, the Global Footprint Network provides a calculator that allows you to measure your personal ecological footprint. More information can be found here.