I was fascinated by the idea and impressed that someone came up with it and managed to calculate it. But it was terrifying to see how wasteful the entire planet was being and how fast we’ve been going through our natural resources.
Don’t get me wrong. I knew people were wasteful. But having that information put in such a specific data point, hit me hard.
In 2019 Earth Overshoot Day fell on July 29. From that day forward, we were consuming resources that Earth was unable to regenerate in a year. The truly worrying part is that every year, consistently since 1982, the Earth Overshoot Day has been falling earlier and earlier in the year.
In 2019, my personal Overshoot Day fell on July 17, which, let’s face it, was not all that good.
When I was making goals for 2020, I made a prediction that this year, given the overall trend, the Earth Overshoot Day would fall on July 26. And I vowed to try to do what I could to maybe #movethedate.
Then the pandemic happened, and I was sent to work from home. In the last 4 months, I went to the office maybe 7 days total. My use of public transport plummeted, and my use of electricity went down a little as well. I ate a little more junk food, but everybody needs comfort food during a global crisis, right? All in all, when I went to calculate my ecological footprint today, it came back with a very motivating result of November 11. A long way from July 17!
It safe to say, I wasn’t the only one who drastically reduced their footprint due to the pandemic. According to the Global Footprint Network report, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused radical shifts in resource demand. The report anticipates a 14,5% reduction of the Carbon footprint as well as 8,4% reduction in forest products footprint.
The report further states that the “COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the food system, but overall, it is not clear whether it has changed the food Footprint”. With lockdowns in place people have stopped going out to restaurants and bars, but the delivery platforms have been doing quite well. A lot more people have been cooking at home (at time, like myself, baking bread and pizza), but the supply chains in many developed countries proved unable to withstand the disruption.
All in all, our footprint has reduced enough that the Global Footprint Network felt confident to calculate Earth Overshoot Day to fall on
22 August 2020
The work is obviously not done yet. The biggest challenge going forward is to make sure the date doesn’t go back to July in 2021 and that our sustainable habits remain after the threat of COVID-19 disappears.
We need to pressure employers to keep and develop solutions that will allow their workers to work from home at least some of the time.
We need to encourage people who discovered baking bread or urban gardening to keep those hobbies.
At the same time, we need to make sure that the restrictions put in place during the pandemic don’t erase the sustainable habits. We need to encourage the stores to start allowing reusable containers and go back to offering products not packed in plastic.
Only together can we affect change.