The Global Footprint Network is marking the unwelcome arrival of Earth Overshoot Day, which this year falls on 2 August, with the launch of a new mobile-friendly ecological Footprint Calculator to allow people to see how their lifestyle impacts on the planet.
Earth Overshoot Day is dedicated to marking the point where the total resources used by humans outstrips that which the planet can replenish in a year. This year the day falls six days earlier than last year (8 August), once again breaking the record for the earliest that it has occurred, continuing the downward trend seen in recent years.
Currently, according to the Global Footprint Network, the research organization that calculates humanity’s consumption of resources and the ecological capacity of the Earth to sustain that consumption, we consume 1.7 Earths-worth of natural resources and processes each year.
When this is broken down into the ecological footprints of each country in the world, the figures do not reflect kindly on the UK, with humanity needing 3.0 Earths if everyone lived like us. The worst offenders among the Western nations are Australia and the US, needing 5.2 and 5.0 Earths respectively.
Fighting back against the effects of humanity’s overconsumption – namely deforestation, drought, fresh-water scarcity, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, and the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – requires everyone on the planet to do their part, which is where the Footprint Calculator comes in.
Used by some two million people around the world last year, the Global Footprint Network’s Footprint Calculator allows individuals to measure their own ecological footprint and to calculate when their own personal Earth Overshoot Day would fall if everyone on Earth replicated that individual’s consumption habits. The app also provides sustainability facts and solutions to bring their footprint down.
In working out a person’s Ecological Footprint, the calculator takes into account what they eat, where their food comes from, where they live, energy efficiency of their household, their transport and how much rubbish they produce compared to their neighbours, and how much productive surface area is required to meet all of their needs.
Commenting on the launch of the Footprint Calculator, Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of Global Footprint Network and co-creator of the Ecological Footprint, stated: “Our planet is finite, but human possibilities are not. Living within the means of one planet is technologically possible, financially beneficial, and our only chance for a prosperous future.
“We hope our new Footprint Calculator enables millions more people around the world to explore sustainability solutions and gain an uplifting sense of the possibilities available to society.”
Currently only a beta version and available in English, the Global Footprint Network hopes to make future iterations of the calculator country-specific, multi-lingual and more fun.
Solutions, solutions, solutions
The Global Footprint Network not only presents the damage that humanity is wreaking on the planet but offers solutions, with more than 30 partners joining with the Global Footprint Network this year to promote the #movethedate campaign, which aims to push back Earth Overshoot Day by 4.5 days every year, which would see humanity return to within planetary limits by 2050.
The Global Footprint Network has identified two areas in which significant improvements can be made: carbon and food. By reducing the carbon aspect of Earth’s ecological footprint by 50 per cent, Overshoot Day could be pushed back by 89 days, while cutting food waste in half could move the date back 11 days and eating less protein-intensive food could move it back 31 days.
Furthermore, the #movethedate campaign is actively encouraging people to sign up to one or more of various pledges on their website, with a new pledge announced every week. The pledges, such as trying a vegetarian meal, cycling to work, or tackling food waste, are designed to be simple and show how small lifestyle changes can set someone on their way to reducing their ecological footprint.
Last year, there was much optimism that the Paris Climate Agreement, signed by 200 countries committing to cut carbon emissions would begin the journey towards bringing humanity back within its limits, however, this seemed to have been thrown into jeopardy by President Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the deal earlier this year.
Despite this setback, Wackernagel remains positive about what he’s seen from businesses, cities and high-polluting countries like China in their efforts to reduce their ecological footprints, adding: “Despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, many US cities, states and large businesses are redoubling their commitments. Meanwhile, China, the country with the largest total Ecological Footprint, is firmly committed to building an Ecological Civilization, with many initiatives to accelerate its carbon peak. Scotland, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua are other examples of countries that are rapidly decarbonizing their energy system.”
For more information on Earth Overshoot Day, visit the Global Footprint Network website, and don’t forget to calculate your own personal Ecological Footprint using the Footprint Calculator!