Earth Overshoot Day is the day of the year when humanity has used more ecological resources than the Earth can naturally regenerate over an entire year, according to calculations by York University’s Ecological Footprint Initiative.
In 2021, it falls on Thursday, July 29—nothing to celebrate, especially considering that last year’s Earth Overshoot Day was a whopping three weeks later, on August 22. Our global carbon footprint has increased up to 6.6% compared to 2020, proving that emissions reductions from the pandemic were temporary.
Laurel Hanscom, the CEO of the non-profit that popularized Earth Overshoot Day, tells mbg that she hopes we can push back the date “by design rather than disaster” moving forward. Since carbon emissions make up the majority of our ecological footprint, those will require the most attention. “The best thing we can do is reduce emissions and preserve the natural carbon sinks that exist on the planet,” Hanscom says of how we can push this bleak occasion back.
A recent report by the International Energy Agency adds that in order to get to net zero emissions by 2050 and avoid further climate disaster, we’ll also have to start pulling carbon from the atmosphere more proactively. While companies around the world are working to manufacture their own carbon sinks (areas that absorb more carbon than they release) using new technologies, Hanscom says it’s not currently happening at a scale that would impact the timing of Earth Overshoot Day.
Clearly, reducing our emissions, protecting the planet’s natural ability to absorb carbon, and creating new technologies that can help us do both will take work—but plenty of innovators are up for the challenge.
Today, we’re spotlighting a few of the organizations working to help push Earth Overshoot Day back on our calendars in years to come. From a big-name brand capturing carbon to make perfume to a grassroots non-profit protecting Indigenous land rights, they prove there’s no one way to make a difference. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a reminder of all the potential solutions out there and how to help lift them up.