Earth Overshoot Day is the day each year when we have consumed more of the Earth’s natural resources than the planet is able to produce in a 12 month period. It’s the day when the total combined consumption of all human activity on Earth during a single calendar year overtakes the planet’s ability to generate those resources during that year. This year Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 13, 2015.
Scientists calculate Earth Overshoot Day by measuring all the resources that Earth started to produce back on January 1, 2015. This includes oxygen, food, drinking water, medicine, forests, mineral ores, and energy resources. Then they compare that to human consumption of those same things.
Well, we are overdrawn. We have consumed more resources than the Earth has generated. Dr. Mathis Wackernagel of the Global Footprint Network puts it this way, “Earth Overshoot Day is like the day you spend more than your salary for a year, only you are all humans and your salary is Earth’s biocapacity.”
In less than seven and a half months, we consumed more natural resources than the Earth will produce in this entire year. For the rest of 2015, all of us will be living on resources borrowed from the future. Our children and our children’s children will have to pay the price long after we’re gone.
In an ideal world, Earth Overshoot Day would come sometime after December 31. But that hasn’t happened in a long time. Back in 1970, Earth Overshoot Day occurred on December 23. But since then the date of Earth Overshoot Day has crept earlier and earlier every year. August 13 is the earliest date yet, breaking last year’s dubious record by four days.
The date of Earth Overshoot Day is different for every county, and the date of Earth Overshoot Day is earlier in the United States and China than it is in most other nations. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. The World Wildlife Fund has published a list of seven things that everyone can do to reduce their carbon footprint.
- Turn your thermostat down two degrees in winter and up by two degrees in summer, you can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 2,000 pounds per year.
- Turn your lights off when you are not using them. Get in the habit of turning off the lights if you are going to leave the room for 15 minutes or more. Also turn off any electronic devices; such as power strips and unplug electrical devices when you’re not using them. Even the small light that indicated the device is plugged in burns electricity. It all adds up.
- Stop paying bills by mail. Instead, save paper by using e-billing. Paper products make up the highest percentage of solid waste in America, and hard copy bills on paper also generate about 2 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.
- Use cold water in the washing machine whenever possible. This can save about 80% of the energy required to wash clothes. Choose the warm setting on the washing machine instead of the hot setting.
- Buy local. Shop at the local farm market whenever possible. In the supermarket, look at the labels and buy the fresh fruits and vegetables grown right here in the good old USA. In America, fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles before they reach your supermarket. Transporting fruits and vegetables that far generates a lot of carbon dioxide.
You can reduce your carbon footprint by buying local and buying American. Do you really need to buy the big onion grown in Peru? Isn’t the onion grown in the same State you live in just as good? If not, buy one grown in California.
- Recycle everything you can. It gets easier and easier to recycle every day. Many municipalities require trash pick-up companies to provide their customers with recycling bins for glass, plastic and paper. So do some supermarkets. For example, Wegman’s supermarkets in Western New York have recycling bins set up for glass bottles, plastic bottles, paper, and even plastic bags.
Check to see if there is an electronics recycling center in your area, which will take your electronics and old batteries. They don’t charge you a cent, because they make their money by selling the items to a bulk recycler.
- Go solar. Install solar panels on your home. It will lower your electric bills, reduce your carbon footprint and increase your home’s resale value. You start getting your investment back immediately when your electric bills go down. You get a much bigger return on your investment when you sell the house.
Every little bit helps. If we all do what we can, maybe Earth Overshoot Day will be later next year.