Earth Overshoot Day: What's Your Ecological Footprint?

Happy belated Earth Overshoot Day!

Wait … is that not a thing?

Earth Overshoot Day fell on August 2, 2017. By that point, we had used more from nature than our planet could renew in a whole year. Overfishing, overharvesting, overemissions of carbon dioxide …you’ve probably heard all of these terms in a Netflix documentary or two.

I decided to take the test and learn how many planets it takes to support my lifestyle. I had some good habits, such as walking everywhere and rarely driving a car. My partner had lovingly bullied me into turning off lights and unplugging devices that weren’t in use. Yet I certainly wasn’t an environmental saint. A prolific traveller, I have been on many planes in the last ten years. As I answered each question, I unironically drank iced coffee out of a disposable cup.

I was as honest as I could be, cringing as I fessed up to my habits and happy when I could admit my minimalist lifestyle and propensity to buy only when something breaks (iPhone 4 … I’m looking at you!) I eat mostly vegan. I recycle my butt off.

I started to breathe easier. How bad could I be?

Apparently, not great. If everyone lived like me we would need three and a half earths. THREE AND A HALF.

My personal overshoot day is April 14. Ouch.

(Honestly, I was so embarrassed, I almost lied about it. But own your truth, right?)

This was a huge wake up call. Apparently my leg powered, vegetarian self needed a swift kick in the behind. Quite honestly, I felt ashamed. I love this planet. My food and shelter and goods emissions were small. My mobility emissions? Through the roof. The New York Times has called flying the “biggest carbon sin,” so I really shouldn’t have been surprised. One long flight does as much damage as a year’s worth of driving and carbon itself makes up 60% of humanity’s ecological footprint.

“Our planet is finite, but human possibilities are not. Living within the means of one planet is technologically possible, financially beneficial, and our only chance for a prosperous future,” says Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of Global Footprint Network.

Take the test – not to feel badly about yourself, but to get real. The results will end with some tailor-made solutions. How might you improve this number, little by little? Mine was fairly obvious – consolidate trips, fly less, and when I do fly, go carbon neutral. There were also other fantastic ideas, such as challenging my city’s leaders to support sustainability policies.

You might start by improving in one of four areas: food, cities, population and energy. Getting competitive with yourself in this particular area of life can have a worldwide impact and you can work towards becoming a footprint champion. You can even win swag by moving your date forward.

I am working on it. Talk to me in a year, because I can’t keep on taking more than this earth has to offer.

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