71 % of Earth’s surface is covered in water. That adds up to 326 quintillion gallons. With that much water lying around, it may come as shock to learn that less than 1% of it is actually drinkable (University of Michigan 2006). This still adds up to a lot of water. But according to some experts, water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase, and it will continue to grow significantly in both developed and developing countries in years to come (Zabarenko 2011). Water scarcity may well become an issue within our lifetimes.
Energy is essential to everything we do in society, from browsing Facebook to powering industry. The lifestyle that many individuals lead is dependent on access to energy whenever and wherever we want it. But energy, too, has its limits. According to an article in USA Today, The oil giant BP predicts that the world only has 53.3 years of oil left (DiLallo 2014). Whether or not this estimate is accurate, the fact remains that the amount of oil under the earth’s crust is finite—it will eventually run dry.
The moral of the story is this: the resources we use today will effect what resources are available for future generations. The supply is not endless. We need to rethink a more sustainable approach to the use of non-renewable resources to preserve them for a rainy day. We must find a more rational way to use the Earth’s resources so that we don’t exhaust the supply.
Go Green to Earn More Green
Resource conservation doesn’t just have to be good for Mother Earth and your great-great-grandchildren. It can also promote the bottom line of business. You can consider strides toward conservation as a type of virtuous entrepreneurship—these efforts may promote social change that is good for the globe, but they are, at heart, business deals.
Consider an entrepreneur who develops a product that can extend the gas mileage of your car. Whether or not an investor cares about the health of the planet, he can still invest in the device because it makes good financial sense. If we begin to shift the paradigm of resource efficiency so that sustainability innovation is connected with business cases, we can harness power of business to reduce, reuse, and renew.
The Regenerate Project
Business actors and policy makers are the ideal partners for conservation innovation. Circular Society is in the early stages of organizing a project which is designed to bring these thought leaders together. A conference, tentatively named “Regenerate,” plans to gather diverse perspectives on conservation of energy, water, and raw materials and provide a platform where sustainability entrepreneurs and investors can interact. The conference may also invite school-age children and teens to encourage a conservation dialogue early with the next generation of impact makers.
This conference will be a first step toward making the connection between conservation and capitalism. As a general rule, businesses do not always pick the most environmentally-effective solutions available if they do not clearly support shareholder goals. The Regenerate conference is an opportunity to open a conversation with corporate leaders around managing risk associated with bringing good resource sustainability solutions to the market.
Reduce, Reuse, Renew
The conservation conversation is all about regenerating our models of utilization and challenging old ways of thinking at all levels, from individuals to families to corporations. You can join the conversation in many ways, beginning with raising community awareness of sustainability issues. Come up with a way to promote recycling, or innovate a conservation idea that others can invest in. Influence the decision makers in your local government or your place of employment to consider ways to conserve resources.
If you are a business leader, you can determine whether your company can dedicate a portion of its research and development budget to sustainability innovations, or you can support and coach an entrepreneur who is trying to bring a new sustainability technology to market. No matter what level of the conversation you join, each decision to support the conservation of energy, water, and raw materials makes a difference.
Written by Heather Burdsal on behalf of CircularSociety
University of Michigan (2006). Human appropriation of the world’s fresh water supply. Retrieved from http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/freshwater_supply/freshwater.html
Zabarenko, D. (2011, October 25). Water use rising faster than world population. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/25/us-population-water-idUSTRE79O3WO20111025
DiLallo, M. (2014, June 28). The world has 53.3 years of oil left. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/06/28/the-world-was-533-years-of-oil-left/11528999/