Earth Overshoot Day describes the day when all natural resources that can be naturally regenerated by our planet within one year are used up. In order to draw attention to the finiteness of our resources and to create awareness of this, the global Earth Overshoot Day was calculated and dated annually from 1970 onwards. At that time, it still fell on 30 December. But our habits have changed so much and the population has grown so much (1970 around 3.69 billion; 2020 around 7.79 billion) that this date is now brought forward by a few months. In 2021, Global Warming Day fell on 29 July. A frightening date that should be a sign to all of us that it is high time to rethink a few things.
The Calculation of Earth Overshoot Day
Every year, the Global Footprint Network calculates the day of action based on statistical data from 200 countries. The biocapacity of the planet is divided by the ecological footprint of humanity and multiplied by 365 (the number of days in a year).
For 2021, it was calculated that we need 1.7 piles of earth to cover humanity’s global resource consumption without creating a deficit.
Earth Overshoot Day is calculated globally on the one hand, but also for individual countries on the other. A country’s Overshoot Day is the date on which Earth Overshoot Day would fall if all of humanity consumed as much as the people in that country.
Let’s compare ourselves with the rest of the world. If everyone lived like the German population, we would need 2.9 Earths to feed everyone for a year and Earth Overshoot Day would already be on 4 May. That sounds pretty intense, doesn’t it? Yet Germany is not even in the first place. The front-runner is Qatar with a consumption of a whopping 9.2 piles of earth, closely followed by Luxembourg with 8 piles of earth in just one year. Things are better in countries like Indonesia, Ecuador and Egypt. Here, Earth Overshoot Day is at the end of the year. Some other financially weaker countries actually do not have an Earth Overshoot Day at all, as consumption per capita is much lower than in richer countries. In addition, pristine or undeveloped natural areas help to sequester more CO2 and continue to sustain livestock. However, it will take some time and action before we in Germany get around to moving Earth Overshoot Day that far. Nevertheless, we see how urgent it is that we change. The alarm bells are ringing and the question is, how much longer can we go on like this?
There is likely no single correct solution for this equation. Rather, there is a mishmash of various approaches. In the future, we need to revamp our infrastructure, make our processes more resource-efficient, reduce the CO2 emissions we produce, and capture it through reforestation of our forest areas. However, what is important and achievable for each of us is to lead a more resource-friendly life. Even if we do not see immediate results, it is worthwhile to tackle the issue vigorously. Because if we take no action, our descendants will pay the price, not only here but around the world. Our wasteful way of living reduces animal populations in other countries or even leads to their extinction. Rivers and oceans become polluted, and the air we breathe becomes worse. In the future, large cities will have the greatest impact on our resources. The lifestyle of people and environmental policies determine when natural resources will run out. It is estimated that by 2050, about 80% of the population will live in such megacities.
Reach out and help
What we can all do to push Earth Overshoot Day back and take some of the pressure off our home, planet Earth:
- Rethink diet
Pay attention to facts like Place of origin, packaging and season. The shorter the journey to you, the less CO2. Buy unpackaged or plastic-free food or make your own food. A purely vegan diet is also much more resource-efficient than a vegetarian or meat and fish diet.
Buy only what you really need and try to throw away as little as possible. Some vegetables can be regrown and “reused”. Spring onions, for example, grow back quickly after a few days in fresh water and you can harvest the leaves again.
- Transport alternatives
Fewer cars, more bicycles and public transport. That saves CO2 very effectively. And if it has to be the car, try to carpool or use carpools.
- Buy clothes consciously
Take a look at second-hand shops. It’s a real treasure trove, especially for basic and unusual vintage items. This way, fewer new items are produced, fewer pollutants are used and you also save money. A little tip: Try your hand at upcycling! You can upgrade old clothes or sew them over so that you feel like wearing them again. You can find numerous tutorials on YouTube. Our personal favorite: Kathi from How to slay grandma’s Wardrobe!
- Natural Garden
Even without much space, for example on the balcony in spring you can scatter a few seeds for flowers that are especially interesting for bees and butterflies. Bees are an extremely important part of our ecosystem and need food sources that are unfortunately becoming increasingly scarce due to our behavior. Vegetables like vine tomatoes are also happy on a spot on the balcony or windowsill.
- Travel Sustainably
Visit small hotels, try to avoid flights, and buy local food to reduce transport and energy use.
There are still plenty of easy and relaxed ways for you to do something good for everyone on the side. By using the hashtag #movethedate on social media, you can find even more inspiring ideas and approaches on how to move the Earth Overshoot Day date further back and live more sustainably.
Take the plunge and take action! The only question that remains is: Do we even have the opportunity these days to shift the Earth Overshoot Day to December 31st? Let’s try it together!