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What is earth overshoot day?

How sustainable housing is sending Earth Overshoot Day back 

What is Earth Overshoot Day? Why should you care? What can individuals and businesses do to move the date back? And how can sustainable Ecoliv modular homes help? These are all important questions that we will endeavour to answer and explain in this article. 

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s resources budget for the year. It means that the resources the planet can regenerate for the year have been used ahead of schedule and we are running a deficit.

From the overshoot date onwards, humans are just maintaining an ecological deficit where the earth is over capacity to regenerate the resources being used.

According to their research, the Global Footprint Network has identified the world has been overshooting since the 1970s. Back then the date used to fall in late December but since then, the date has been creeping forward earlier and earlier every year. In 2021, the international overshoot day was July 29th, so how did it get this bad? 

The short answer is emissions are increasing and biodiversity loss is occurring faster. Biodiversity is the variety of all living things; the different plants, animals and microorganisms, the genetic information they contain and the ecosystems they form. Human impact on the environment is accelerating the destruction of biodiversity which we need to survive.

In this Journal article, we delve into the data demonstrating the supply and demand of natural resources and show how an ecological footprint calculator can help illuminate the impact of our individual choices. Read on to learn how Earth Overshoot Day is calculated and how Ecoliv homes are working to help households reduce their ecological footprint and live more sustainably.

The demand vs supply of nature

The Ecological Footprint (the demand for ecological resources) measures how fast we consume resources and generate waste. The footprint can gauge humanity’s dependence on natural resources and how much of the environment is needed to sustain a certain lifestyle.

The footprint can be calculated by population, country, region or even your own personal footprint. In Australia, our ecological footprint per capita in 2022 is 9.31 global hectares (gha) compared to the global average of ​​2.75 gha.

On the other side, ecological footprints can be counterbalanced by biocapacity (the supply of ecological resources). Biocapacity is also measured in global hectares (gha) and refers to the ability of a biologically productive area to continuously generate renewable resources and absorb human waste. A region is considered unsustainable if its ecological footprint is greater than its biocapacity which can lead to high emissions of carbon dioxide into the air.

Smoke from building sites pumping carbon emissions into the air. Image credit: Marcin Jozwiak

Smoke from building sites pumping carbon emissions into the air. Image credit: Marcin Jozwiak

How is Earth Overshoot Day calculated?

In the Nowcast report calculations for countries and the world as a whole are done through the National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts, based on 15,000 data points per country per year. However, it is worth noting that this data comes with a time delay. Typically, the latest data is delayed by about 4 years, meaning that the 2021 edition of The National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts reports on results up to 2017.

The calculation 

(Earth’s Biocapacity / Humanity’s Ecological Footprint) x 365 = Earth Overshoot Day. 

For example, 2017 data shows us that the global ecological footprint was 2.8 gha and biocapacity was 1.6 gha. (1.6/2.8) X 365 = 208.57, 209 days from January 1st 2021 is the 29th of July 2021; hence it being dubbed Earth Overshoot Day. The day in 2021 where humans have exceeded the amount of natural resources that can be regenerated in that year. 

Somewhat alarmingly, if we flip the equation, 2.8/1.6, we can see that at this point in time we need 1.75 earths to sustain our use of the planet’s biological resources.

Why should we care?

It can be overwhelming to dwell on the various environmental impacts of humans on our earth home. National Geographic agrees that sometimes the public conversation on climate change and global warming seems trapped in a ‘doom loop’. However fixing climate change, biodiversity loss and living thoughtfully within the means of our planet are not out of reach. Research indicates that not all countries have an overshoot day – which proves change for the better is possible. 

How can eco-friendly homes help move the date?

100 Days of Possibility was designed by the Earth Overshoot Day organisation offering 100 ways businesses and humans can collectively reduce the effect of our current practices, which we can no longer afford. One of the strategies included is building smart and sustainable housing which it is estimated could push back the date by 21 days

Ecoliv has been a leader in building sustainable, modular homes for over 13 years. Our range of home plans have a minimum 7-star energy rating that is climbing to 8. Achieving a whole-of-home approach helps to reduce waste, energy costs, consumption and carbon emissions. 2021 research found that by using prefabricated factory-built modules overall construction waste can be reduced by up to 52%. 

The San Remo project is a custom Ecoliv sustainable home build overlooking Bass Strait.

The San Remo project is a custom Ecoliv sustainable home build overlooking Bass Strait.

Ecological Footprint Comparison: Ecoliv modular homes vs traditional houses

The Ecological Footprint Calculator from the Global Footprint Network is an online tool that helps to visualise the impact of our choices. The results are formulated from assessing factors such as what we eat, how many hours we spend using transport and the energy efficiency of our home to name a few.

We used the calculator to compare regular housing options with our range of Ecoliv modular homes. Our research compared the Ecoliv Eco Generation plan 3B house with a standard traditional 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house. We based the standard home size on ABS data from the 2021 CommSec report. Keeping all other parameters the same, we were able to calculate the direct impact housing has on our ecological footprint, carbon footprint and Earth Overshoot Day per capita.

The results are in. How Ecoliv stacks up compared to a traditional Australian home

We used the Footprint calculator to compare a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom Ecoliv EcoGeneration house with a traditional 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house, keeping all other variables the same.

We used the Footprint calculator to compare a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom Ecoliv EcoGeneration house with a traditional 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house, keeping all other variables the same.

The calculator confirmed that Ecoliv’s eco-friendly home designs could largely impact an individual's contribution to the environment. The results identified that by switching to an Ecoliv modular home, individuals can reduce their Ecological footprint by 2.4 gha and their carbon footprint by 5.1 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. 

Similarly, our carbon footprint contributes to a heavy percentage of our ecological footprint. The calculator results indicate that we can reduce this percentage by 5% through sustainable housing alone. Lastly, the most significant influence of sustainable housing is the opportunity to push back the Earth Overshoot date year by year. Our calculations indicate that by swapping to an Ecoliv home, you could push the date back by 50 days. 

The Ecoliv difference

The Age reports that rural Victoria will need an additional 87,000 new homes in the next 15 years to tackle the housing shortage. 87,000 new houses stand to add an additional 1.2 million tonnes of emissions each year. Even if just 10% of the new houses built were carbon neutral, that would save almost 130,000 tonnes of emissions from entering the atmosphere each year.

Our range of EcoGeneration homes are operationally carbon neutral and it’s just one of the ways our modular designs are working towards sustainability, below is a list of just some of the sustainable features that our homes are equipped with as standard. 

Energy efficiency

  • Solar power
  • Passive solar design 
  • Energy efficient light globes 
  • Heat pump hot water systems 
  • Maximum star rated electrical appliance

Water efficiency

  • Water tank configuration
  • Water saving plumbing fittings
  • Water saving appliances

Air quality

  • Low VOC paints
  • Low VOC timber products
  • Window placement

Materials

  • Timber framing and trusses
  • External cladding
  • Double glazed windows
  • Joinery
  • Insulation

Waste reduction

  • Sustainable construction process

Ultimately, we believe that sustainable living is an opportunity for humanity to reduce its impact on the environment. Help us #movethedate and ensure our earth can regenerate the resources we use.