What is Earth Overshoot Day?

Posted in: Environment

Posted on: 18.08.2020

From the food we eat to the materials we build with, living in balance with the planet means not taking more than it can replenish. And when it comes maintaining a safe climate, it means not emitting more carbon dioxide than our natural world can reabsorb.  

There is a limit to how much the planet can regenerate what we take from it. The day when we as humanity have officially used up our yearly ecological budget is called Earth Overshoot Day. This year, it falls on Saturday 22nd August.  

This means that for the rest of 2020, we’re effectively in debt to our planet – borrowing resources from future years instead of living within our means.  

How is Earth Overshoot Day measured? 

Earth Overshoot Day is an awareness-raising campaign set up by the Global Footprint Network, an international research organisation dedicated to providing tools to help cities and countries live within their ecological limits.  

The Global Footprint Network measures the demand different countries put on their available natural resources, tracking areas such as population, food demand, material demand and energy use.  

The diagram above shows that we’ve been using more than what the earth can replenish each year for over half a century.  

Read more about how Global Footprint Network works out the date of Earth Overshoot Day here. 

Is Earth Overshoot Day the same for each country? 

As well as the average date when humanity has used up the planet’s ecological budget, Global Footprint Network also provides a date per country. This is because countries use resources at different rates.  

The diagram to the right shows that, if everyone in the world used resources at the rate we do in the UK, Earth Overshoot Day would have fallen on 16th May. Whereas if everyone had the lifestyle of an average person in Indonesia, we wouldn’t use up our ecological budget until 18th December.   

We all have work to do to live sustainably and protect the planet. But some countries have more to do than others. 

Can the date of Earth Overshoot Day be moved? 

Yes. 2020’s date is almost one month later than in 2019, when it landed on 29th July (the earliest date ever). This year, the COVID-19 pandemic paused ‘normal’ life for many of us, meaning that humanity used fewer natural resources. 

However, COVID-19’s effect on things such as carbon emissions is only temporary. To permanently move the date, we have to make the way we live more sustainable, for good.   

What can we do to move the date? 

Thankfully, there are a lot of actions we can all take to tread more lightly on our planet. Governments and corporations must address their huge impact, but collectively individuals can make meaningful changes too. Here are some of the ways in which you can decrease your own environmental footprint: 

1. Eat a planet friendly diet  
When it comes to the food we eat, there’s one rule that’s as good for our health as it is for the planet: everything in moderation. Buy from local, sustainable producers, think about reducing the amount of meat and dairy you eat, and look into greener farms that are kinder to the environment   

2. Use your voice to demand change 
With the vast majority of the world’s population expected to live in cities and urban areas by 2050, get involved in making the place you live more sustainable. From supporting campaigns for electric public transport and better cycling and walking routes, to writing to your MP about tackling air pollution.  

3. Use energy sustainably 
Finally, try to reduce the amount of energy that gets wasted by making your home more efficient. Check out our blog for ideas on how to green up your home.  
And, when you do use energy, make sure it’s renewable. Our 100% renewable electricity is generated here in the UK from sun, wind and water. We also offer green gas, of which 10% is biogas. You can get a quote here. 

How else do you reduce your impact on the planet? Share your suggestions on social media this Saturday using #movethedate to join the international conversation around Earth Overshoot Day. 

We’re marking the day with something a little different. Keep your eyes on our social media channels for the big reveal…  

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