Earth Overshoot Day – also known as Ecological Debt Day – marks the day when humanity has used up all the biological resources that Earth regenerates in the course of a year. This year it lands on 28 July. As of today the world's population is living ecologically beyond its means. Currently, humanity consumes 74 per cent more in the course of a year than the planet's ecosystem can regenerate. That is equivalent to 1.75 Earths. Two years ago, Earth Overshoot Day was 24 days later; primarily because the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic restrictions also reduced resource use. However, the negative trend from pre-COVID-19 years is now resuming: This year, Earth Overshoot Day is again one day earlier than in pre-pandemic years 2018 and 2019.
Germany already reached the critical point three months ago where more natural resources were consumed than can be regenerated within one year. In addition to technical possibilities for improving energy and resource efficiency, a change in our behaviour can also make a contribution. Whether we are more conscious of our food consumption, take shorter showers or cycle more: We can all make a contribution to living more resource-efficiently in the future. But this requires a change in thinking and action in all areas of our lives. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Manfred Fischedick, Scientific Managing Director of the Wuppertal Institute, emphasises: "Politics must change the framework conditions on a large scale and enable adapted behaviour. Industry is called upon to offer sustainable products and services. As citizens and thus consumers, we can build on this and consciously make our everyday lives more resource-efficient. The sooner we join forces, the greater our chances of delaying Earth Overshoot Day for as long as possible."
The international research institute Global Footprint Network (GNF) calculates Earth Overshoot Day annually using the Ecological Footprint. It measures the ecological assets that a given population or product requires to produce the natural resources it consumes and to absorb its waste, especially carbon emissions. The Ecological Footprint tracks the use of productive surface areas. Typically these areas are: cropland, grazing land, fishing grounds, built-up land, forest area, and carbon demand on land.
The GNF's platform Power of Possibility gives advice on how change is possible: In the five areas of healthy biosphere, energy, food, cities and population, the network presents over 100 solutions that can help to reverse the ecological overload so that the planet's biocapacity is not further exhausted. According to the Global Footprint Network's calculations, a switch to smart grids and more efficient power systems would delay Earth Overshoot Day by 21 days. In addition, if food waste was cut in half globally, Earth Overshoot Day could be delayed by another 13 days.
The following links provide further information on Earth Overshoot Day as well as links and tools that help to calculate our personal ecological footprint.