The first Earth Overshoot Day was calculated in the 1980s and marks the day on which people have used up more than their share of resources that the earth can reproduce in one year.
This year, the day occurred the earliest in history: August 2nd, 2017. Global Footprint Network tracks and monitors this energy value, and encourages people to evaluate their own personal footprint by using an online calculator. The calculator provides a useful reality check as it can be easy to self-console or remove oneself from the admission that their general lifestyle negatively affects the planet. For instance, data shows that if the population on Earth carries on using as much energy as they currently do, we would need 1.7 Earths to make the consumption sustainable.
However, the GFN calculator is not wholly reliable as there is no option for non-houseowners or people who do not use cars. As such, the end result is impaired by this omission for those who generally live off-grid, such as for those who use bicycles and walking as a method of transportation.
Still, the website is a useful and relevant wake-up call for any internet-accessing members of the 21st century population. The site also provides suggestions on how to combat the overuse of the world’s resources including the following: eating less meat, burning less fuel, and wasting less food.
To expand on this, eating less meat causes a reduction in the demand, and thus the supply of it, which means that there would ultimately be a decrease in the carbon emissions that result from meat production, as well as the generation of methane gas that is especially prominent in cows. Some also suggest switching from beef to chicken for a lesser carbon footprint, but where possible, total meat reduction is best.
As an alternative to meat, beans and pulses are an amazing source of protein, as well as rice, bread, and many other carbohydrates. Myths reinforced by the meat industry that vegans struggle with protein intake are generated to confuse people into ‘needing’ meat as a protein. With that said, while a vegetarian diet is encourageable, a reduction in the consumption of meat is also reasonable in lessening one’s personal carbon footprint.
Meanwhile, prior to the resource calculator, previous civilizations lived with eating meat and remained under the threshold for energy overuse.
As such, one way to burn less fuel can come from simple swaps, such as trading the car journey to work for a bicycle ride or trading the weekend drive for a hike. Use of public transport, where possible, is also effective, as one journey is made for multiple people, rather than hundreds of engines on the motorway with one person in the driver’s seat. However, when the train or the bus isn’t an option due to tight timing or very specific locations, setting up regular car shares is a great way to reduce carbon emissions. For instance, when two or more drive the same route, pairing up reduces the amount of engines polluting the air.
As well, food waste has reached worrying levels in many countries across the globe, which means that edible food is going straight into bins that has cost the Earth more than each price tag. Energy goes into processing food, making packaging, and disposing of the food. To put this into perspective, the waste and recycling advisory body has said that the UK threw away 4.4million tonnes of edible food waste in 2015.
With this in mind, the early arrival of Earth Overshoot Day this year marks a new urgency insofar that we must act immediately to reduce our carbon footprints, both individually and as a globe. To accomplish this, education on the importance of food waste, energy efficiency, and carbon offsetting or reduction is vital. This could be emphasised in schools, at work, and every institution. In addition, habitual practices, such as turning the power off, such as for unused lights, storing leftover food, sharing food that might spoil before it does, and a steady move towards a vegetarian-inclined diet might be helpful to reduce one’s footprint.
Moving forward, the publicity of Earth Overshoot Day demonstrates a positive awareness of the situation, but what’s needed now is a reaction to it.
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