Unesco Green Citizens

Earth Overshoot Day – When Natural Resources Run Out

9 June 2022

July 29. By this time last year, we had exhausted all the resources that the earth can regenerate in a year. Embodiment of an over-consuming society and a planet that is out of breath, this day that occurs annually is called the Earth Overshoot Day. From Mexico to New Caledonia, citizens are engaging in local and sustainable initiatives, preserving the health of our planet and helping to #MoveTheDate. Take inspiration from them and help to move the date too!

Overshoot Days around the world in 2022 – Striking differences

If Earth Overshoot Day 2021 occurred in July, this world average hides huge disparities between regions of the world. Based on Global Footprint Network data per country, we can estimate the average Overshoot Day 2022 for North America and Europe as 26 May, while it would be 2 August for Arab States.

However, there are major differences even within these regions. Among the Arab States, some countries had already exceeded the capacity of ecosystem regeneration by February, while others would reach the threshold in December.

Close to the world average are Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific, with respective Overshoot Days likely to occur on 31 July and 24 June 24 this year.

If we calculate the average Overshoot Days of all African countries, the critical date would occur by the end of September. However, one must keep in mind that this average is based on existing Overshoot Days per country, when more than 20 African countries do not have an Overshoot Day! This means that their ecological footprint per person is lower than the global biocapacity per person, thus not using more resources than the Earth can provide.

Overall, one assertion remains: most of the world’s countries are in overshoot, and taking action is vital to preserve both our planet’s resources and our wellbeing.

How to move the date?

Two main factors are causing the Earth Overshoot Day to occur sooner every year. Caused on the one hand by the increase of our global carbon footprint and overconsumption of renewable resources. On the other hand, ongoing deforestation has diminished the ability of forests to absorb carbon.

So, is it possible to reverse the trend and push the date? To all the sceptics out there, the proof lies in the year 2020! Following the measures taken to face the Coronavirus pandemic and the consequent slowdown in economic activity, Earth Overshoot Day was pushed back by 3 weeks worldwide!

From international to local action, everyone can do their bit to help move the date by adopting more sustainable and environmentally friendly consumption patterns, and helping to preserve natural resources.

Discover 2 inspiring citizen-led initiatives below!

Tree Nursery Amelëm – Supporting reforestation

In New Caledonia, dry forests have suffered heavy deforestation. According to the New Caledonia Environment Observatory, today they cover only 1% of their original surface area.

Dr Christine Poelbauer set herself the goal of reforesting the island to revive ecosystems and consolidate the role of forests as carbon sinks. This small insulate territory is an important biodiversity hotspot, with “one of the highest observed rates of endemism in the world for terrestrial flora” (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

With the association Mocamana – L’Esprit Nature she founded in 2005, Christine Poelbauer launched the tree nursery Amelëm in 2021 – Amelëm meaning “bringing them back to life” in one of the indigenous languages.

Growing only indigenous trees in order to support local ecosystems, the association’s goal is to produce 30,000 plants a year and to replant them across the island. The initiative also focuses on empowering local communities to grow native plants and flowers, especially those listed as endangered by the IUCN.

Back in May, more than 20 volunteers mobilised the planting of 250 trees in Park Brunelet, the first ones produced by the tree nursery! Among the species planted, some rare endemic species on the verge of extinction!

Learn more

Retrak – Developing sustainable building materials

Did you know that the building sector alone represents about 40% of carbon dioxide emissions in developed countries? Producing considerable waste and relying heavily on the use of renewable and fossil raw materials, such as water, wood and ore, this sector is directly targeted by the issue of the exhaustion of natural resources.

With the aim of “building a sustainable future”, young Mexicans developed an innovative and sustainable building material: Retrak PolyAl. What makes it special? It is made out of recycled Tetra Pak food packaging!

By extracting and using the polyethylene and aluminium contained in the used packaging, Retrak company extends the life of the initial product, fostering circular economy, saving precious resources from being wasted and avoiding the production of resource-consuming traditional building materials.

For every ton of TetraBrik recycled, 100,000 liters of water, 22kg of fuel and 1,500kg of wood are saved. And for every ton of Retrak PolyAl material produced, the company avoids releasing the equivalent of 0,5 tons of CO2 into the environment.

In order to create more sustainable cities and communities, the committed citizens at the head of Retrak are educating local populations about waste management. They now hope to expand the reach of their project and bring their promising building material to Europe!

Learn more

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