Earth Overshoot Day has been delayed for the first time since 1970s, thanks to Covid-19 lockdowns

Earth Overshoot Day is when humans exhaust an entire year's reserves of Earth's natural resources

                            Earth Overshoot Day has been delayed for the first time since 1970s, thanks to Covid-19 lockdowns
(Getty Images)

The Earth Overshoot Day is late this year. The event, which marks the moment when humans exhaust an entire year's reserves of Earth's natural resources, has been delayed this year by more than 20 days, according to Global Footprint Network, an independent think tank. 

Global Footprint Network calculates the Earth Overshoot Day every year. Delaying the date this year are Covid-19 lockdowns, which drove global Ecological Footprint — a measure of a population’s demand for the supply and services of natural resources — by almost 10% this year. It is the first such delay since the early 1970s. Humans have been consuming ecological resources as if we lived on 1.6 Earths, according to a statement from Global Footprint Network. 

(Global Footprint Network

"This year’s sudden Ecological Footprint contraction cannot be mistaken for progress," Global Footprint Network CEO Laurel Hanscom, said in a statement. "This year, more than ever, Earth Overshoot Day highlights the need for strategies that increase resilience for all."

The founder of the Global Footprint Network, Mathis Wackernagel told BBC: "Everything we use puts a demand on nature in terms of space; the potato that takes space, I want milk from the cow, it takes space, to absorb the extra CO2 from burning fossil fuels takes space." He added: "All these things that take space we can add up and then we can compare how much is our demand compared to how much is available." Despite the pandemic, we have exceeded demands by 56%, the estimates have suggested.

Still, experts believe the Earth could march towards recovery if humans act now and not wait for another disaster like Covid-19. A movement called #MoveTheDate has taken off, urging people to help reduce their ecological footprint. "Solutions suggest that it is possible to live within the means of our planet. If we #MoveTheDate five days each year, humanity would be using less than one planet before 2050," Global Footprint Network said.

How can you contribute?

Also important is what we eat. Reducing meat intake by 50% could delay the date by 17 days. "Using world data on meat production, we have calculated that it takes 14 times as much biologically productive land to produce 1 ton (or 907 kilograms) of beef as it takes to produce 1 ton of grain," they explained. Further, cutting food waste by half could also delay it by 13 days.

Other solutions include walking and biking or using public transportation if safe, choosing electric vehicles and buying local and organic food. Clothing makes up 3% of the global ecological footprint. Getting creative by mixing and matching outfits to create new ones will also help.

(Global Footprint Network

Planting trees, growing an edible garden, or volunteering with a local conservation organization could go a long way in helping delay the Earth Overshoot Day. What is more, cutting carbon footprint by 50% could move the date by 93 days, according to the estimates. Find out more here.

Mike Childs, head of policy for Friends of the Earth, told The Guardian that "this year’s improvement in the way we use our natural resources is solely down to Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns. Unless there is a significant change in the way we act, the situation is likely to return to normal, or worse, in the following years."

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