2021 Earth Overshoot Day Highlights Need for Sustainable Manufacturing
Earth Overshoot Day has come and gone for 2021, and with it comes another glaring reminder of the dire state of our climate change crisis. This year’s Overshoot Day occurred on July 29, keeping in line with past figures with the notable exception of 2020, when the pandemic pushed it back almost a full month. Earth Overshoot Day is one every manufacturer should consider and factor into future plans. The current rate of human consumption is unsustainable without concerted efforts to replenish resources.
What is Earth Overshoot Day?
The Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability research organization, designates Earth Overshoot Day as the date by which people have exhausted the ecological resources the planet can regenerate within a year. It’s the day when Earth has officially exceeded its ecological budget. In 2021, humans passed the balance point in only seven months. We’ll use resources at a deficit for the remainder of the year.
Implications for the planet are more devastating as Overshoot Day approaches the beginning of the year. Back in 1970, Overshoot Day occurred on December 30. Since then, it has fallen earlier in almost every year. The date will continue to move forward each year until humanity slows its rate of resource consumption.
Which countries use most and replenish least?
While many countries can do better at managing consumption, several are dramatically overusing available resources.
The United States, for example, uses around five times the amount of available ecological resources each year. It would take around five Earths to sustain humanity if everyone on the planet consumed resources at U.S. rates. If every country consumed resources like Europe and Asia, we’d need somewhere between two-and-a-half and four Earths for sustainability.
Countries like Qatar, Luxembourg, and the United Arab Emirates are even bigger offenders than the United States. If everyone followed their rate of consumption, it would take somewhere around five-and-a-half to nine Earths to satisfy global needs. That said, these countries are much smaller than the United States, meaning their impact on global resource depletion carries less weight. Other major offenders include Denmark, South Korea, Germany, and China.
What can manufacturers do to push back on overshoot?
Earth Overshoot Day is a sober reminder for manufacturers who could do more to promote a greener future. Lowering emissions with clean energy would have a significant effect. Estimates of fossil fuel consumption suggest it makes up around 87% of our carbon footprint. According to the Global Footprint Network, cutting that number in half could push Earth Overshoot Day back as much as 93 days.
Reevaluating resources is another strategy manufacturers can deploy to help reduce consumption. In some cases, companies could easily repurpose waste as a resource. For example, many now reuse post-consumer plastics by including them in new products.
According to the Global Footprint Network, Earth Overshoot Day could occur as early as June 30 by 2030. Everyone must do their part to reduce consumption and resource depletion, and the manufacturing industry has a significant part to play.