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 Wednesday 2nd August.
This means that for the rest of 2023, 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 19th May. Whereas if everyone had the lifestyle of an average person in Jamaica, we wouldn’t use up our ecological budget until 20th December.
We all have work to do to live sustainably and protect the planet. But some countries have more work to do than others.
Does earth overshoot day move?
Earth overshoot date fluctuates slightly every year. Last year it was the 28th July, which was the earliest overshoot date ever. And in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic paused ‘normal’ life for many of us, meaning that humanity used fewer natural resources pushing Earth Overshoot day back by around a month to the end of August.
In general, the trend is flattening, although it is difficult to know how much of that is due to efforts to decarbonise, and how much is due to economic slow down. What we do know is that progress is much too slow. To reach the UN’s IPCC target of reducing carbon emissions 43% worldwide by 2030 compared to 2010, we would need to move Earth Overshoot Day 19 days every year for the next seven years.
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 the huge impact of using fossil fuels for energy and transport, 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.