What is Earth Overshoot Day?
Yesterday was 2019’s Earth Overshoot Day. It is a fairly simple concept to grasp: the day marks the point in the year in which humans use up all the resources our planet can regenerate in a single year. The scary thing is, since this started to be measured back in 1986, Earth Overshoot Day has been creeping ever earlier in the year. Last year it fell on 1st August; this year it has nudged into late July.
Think of it as being like ecological credit, or a biocapacity overdraft. Like with finance, we are being allowed to spend beyond our means. It’s easy to whip out the credit card a week before pay day, but you’re only eating into next month’s money. If we’re not careful, we’ll end up bankrupt.
Our consumption is outstripping the planet’s natural resources at 1.75x the rate our precious resources can regenerate. Currently, if the whole world’s population lived as luxurious a lifestyle as the UK, we would need 2.7 Earths to support our consumption. The UK alone needs four UKs to support the demand of our population.
How is it calculated?
It is calculated by dividing the world’s biocapacity (the amount of resources generated by Earth) by the world’s ecological footprint (human consumption of these resources for that year), multiplied by the number of days in the year.
Earth Overshoot Day is based on the entire planet’s consumption, but it is also broken down into individual countries (see the below infographic), and you can even work out your own personal overshoot day by using this calculator (it’s worth it for the graphics).
As you can see, the UK’s Overshoot Day arrived in the first half of the year, on 17th May. Given this, and that as energy consultants our efforts have a much higher impact than those of just one person, we have a responsibility to do all we can to help #MoveTheDate next year to a later point than July 29th.
How can we help push back Earth Overshoot Day?
Our new Carbon Consultant Stephanie Strange plays a pivotal role in helping our clients to live more sustainable lifestyles:
“In my eyes, Monarch is employed by our clients to assist and provide the information that they do not have. I have a responsibility to guide our clients through this new green circular age, so even if the education I provide only changes the approach of half our clients’ procurement of utilities, I see that as a step in the right direction – towards the protection and regeneration of our planet’s natural resources, and pushing back Earth Overshoot Day.”
People often repudiate their own domestic efforts towards saving the planet, when comparing them to those of large industry. As in, why should Tim from Scarborough do meat-free Mondays or drive 23 miles to a farm shop in Newton-on-Rawcliffe to fill glass jars with locally sourced fava beans, when the government continues to licence fracking countrywide? Such liability injustice reduces Tim’s fava beans to plankton viewed from space. We appreciate this here at Monarch and even though it’s important to do our bit in every possible instance, we see our position managing the utilities of a portfolio of clients as one of great opportunity and responsibility. This is something Stephanie knows only too well:
“I come from a background in marine biology so I am well aware of how rapidly our ecosystem is deteriorating. I could have chosen to do something for our earth by conserving our oceans on a remote island, but that is only impacting on a comparatively small scale.
“However, working here at Monarch, I have the opportunity to target a range of client’s portfolios, to help educate and support them towards the transition to a more circular future on a wider scale.
“Firstly, you must identify the kinds of resources that are contributing to such an early Overshoot Day this year and how much of these you are consuming, only from there can you benchmark that data to make targets moving forward.
“Then the key is reducing consumption, and that all starts with being efficient with our use of resources. The building efficiency of the UK is one of the lowest across Europe, so I see it as a priority. Our clients employ our energy audits to identify areas in which they can improve and to let us help them make those savings. Waste, too, with our partner ESS is something that should be reviewed to ensure our waste is being responsibly dealt with, not being shipped off to Asia to deal with.
“Next, is looking at where you get your consumption supply, whether it’s electricity or gas. Green electricity is now being offered cost neutral from certain suppliers. Contracting some of my own clients to cost neutral green, I have seen as one of those small wins on a larger scale. In addition, on-site generation is a great way to get that price certainty, from opportunities like solar PV, to ground source heat pumps, there is always something to be explored.”