This year, Earth Overshoot Day lands on 28th July, but what is it?
Earth Overshoot Day was first conceived by Andrew Simms of the UK think tank New Economics Foundation in 2006. It is the date at which humanity has used all the natural resources that Earth can regenerate in that year. After this day we are in the red, in a deficit, borrowing from next year. The earth naturally replenishes resources such as water, soil, gas, and vegetation, all the things we rely on day-to-day. Yet we are using them at an alarming rate. Earth Overshoot Day is a stark reminder of the pressure we as humanity put on a delicate system.
At Greenham we are taking matters into our own hands to reduce our use of Earth’s natural resources. We have reduced our fuel consumption by 16.9% since 2019 through innovations such as installing solar film matting on our vehicles, allowing savings of up to 700L of fuel and 1800kg of CO2 per vehicle annually. We are supplied with 100% renewable electricity from REGO-backed sources and have decreased our overall energy consumption by 32.1% since 2019. With initiatives such as these, we are on a path to push Earth Overshoot Day later into the year.
How is the day calculated?
Global Footprint Network is an international research organisation that hosts and calculates Earth Overshoot Day. This is done by firstly calculating the Ecological Footprint, which captures the population’s demand for plant-based food and fibre products, livestock products, space for urban infrastructure and forest for carbon dioxide absorption. They then calculate the Biocapacity, which is the Earth’s area of biologically productive land and sea, and built-up land. Both the Ecological Footprint and the Biocapacity are measured in global hectares, with one hectare being equivalent to 10,000 square meters.
Once calculated, the Ecological Footprint is compared to the Biocapacity. If a population’s Ecological Footprint, its demand for resources, is greater than the Biocapacity, that region runs into an ecological deficit. At this point, a region starts to import more goods, liquidate its ecological assets (such as overfishing), and emit more carbon dioxide.
On a global scale, the ecological deficit is the overshoot since we can’t import resources from other planets…..yet!
Over the past 50 years, Earth Overshoot Day has moved forward by 7 months. In 1971, humanity was using the equivalent of 1 Earth’s worth of resources, in 2021 humanity used 1.75 Earths worth of resources. Without challenging our current resource consumption this number will continue to increase. So, how can we at Bunzl Greenham help reduce the number of Earths required to support humanity and #MoveTheDate?
One big step is the quality of products we supply our customers. Quality products not only offer our customers a better service and experience but also increased longevity. A quality product is often designed to have a longer life span, reducing the quantity of products required and overall reducing waste. Products such as 3M respirators and hearing protection come with care guides and offer replacement parts for areas that degrade quicker, assisting the user to increase the longevity through proper care and reducing waste. The constant stream of waste to landfill decreases the biologically productive land and increases greenhouse gas emissions. Overconsumption of resources and products is the leading factor of Earth Overshoot Day which is why we are on a drive to expand our range of sustainable products available.
Working closely with suppliers such as Kimberly Clarke allows us to suggest more sustainable products to our customers. A recent success story has seen a simple swap from one toilet tissue to another, saving 57,895 kg of CO2e and 409,472 litres of water due to the differences in manufacture. It is savings such as these that will help towards moving the Earth Overshoot date.
When 350,000 tonnes of textiles are sent to landfill each year, partnering with firms such as Avena offers a reduction in waste sent to landfill for ourselves and our customers. Avena offer a secure shredding process that repurposes products into second generation materials, reducing the need for virgin materials. Through Avena’s Zero Waste to Landfill approach, every tonne of textiles recycled saves 3.62 cubic meters of landfill space and 13500 kg of carbon into the atmosphere vs landfill or incineration.
Earth Overshoot Day is a reminder of our reliance on Earth’s natural resources and serves as an opportunity for us to reassess our habits and make impactful changes.
Further Reading & Media: