For the UK, Earth Overshoot Day is on June 3rd this year. This means that if everyone in the world lived like us, we would have consumed as much biological resources as the Earth yields in an entire year by that day. We would need the equivalent of 2.3 Earths every year.

Using more than the Earth can provide is called ‘overshoot’ and it means that we are degrading ecosystems and hurting future generations.

The later the better

There is vast inequality in the number of resources and energy used per person, both between and within countries. The more sustainable and balanced a country’s consumption of resources is, the later in the year their overshoot day is. 

Some countries, like Qatar and Luxembourg, hit their overshoot day as early as February, while Jamaica, Ecuador, and Indonesia conserve their biological resource budget until as late as December.

The graph below shows when the UK’s overshoot day took place based on consumption in each year since 1960. The closer the blue line is to the top of the graph, the later the overshoot day. The UK has been overshooting its fair share of biological resources since 1960 by a rather large margin, with the overshoot increasing until 2007. Since then, the overshoot day has moved back considerably. Whilst overshoot is still high, the direction of change is encouraging.

System change is needed

Stagnation is not good news. Slow improvement isn’t either. To safeguard a stable ecology, overshoot day should be pushed back towards December and into the new year, which would make overshoot disappear. This means that we must use much fewer resources.

Achieving a sustainable level of resource use requires us to rethink our economy. The ecological footprint clearly shows that living a truly sustainable life requires much more than switching to electric SUVs, eating organic beef burgers, and hitting the carbon-neutral button when flying for a holiday.

If we truly want to transition towards a sustainable way of living, we need to find ways of demanding much less from the planet’s natural resources.

The countries where gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is highest are consuming a disproportionate share of resources and emit the most greenhouse gases. If we are to achieve a globally sustainable and fair level of resource use, one that enables high human welfare and thriving societies, it is fundamental that we guarantee everyone a fair share of these global commons. This can only be reached by massively reducing the consumption of the extremely rich.

How does Triodos Bank aim to move the date?

Firstly, we exclude a wide range of socially and environmentally harmful practices, ranging from fossil fuel producers to companies involved in illegal deforestation or controversial logging activities in protected areas.

Secondly, we select financing and investment opportunities that have a positive impact on society and the environment. We focus on five transition themes: energy, food, resources, societal, and wellbeing,  while at the same time working towards our ambition to reach net-zero emissions by 2035 at the latest. Three of these transitions as well as reaching net zero are directly linked to reducing the ecological footprint.

The food transition aims to create a sustainable food system. We do this through the promotion of nature-positive and carbon-negative farming practices, nutritious diets, as well as transparency, true pricing, and living wages.

Complementary to this, our resource transition aims to move our economies away from wasteful to nature restoration. Achieving this transition would lower the number of resources used. With our long-standing presence in the renewable energy transition, we contribute to decarbonisation through both energy generation and storage.

The other two transitions – wellbeing and societal – are fundamental in building good lives for people while reducing our footprints. Our wellbeing and societal transition themes aim to contribute to flourishing communities of free, healthy, and inspired people.

Thirdly, we try to influence policy and regulation to facilitate these five transitions. We try to level the playing field for sustainable organisations by advocating for regulatory changes. A recent example is our support for a global fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, to accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels altogether.

All in all, through these actions taken together with our community of like-minded individuals and organisations, we hope to contribute to a more sustainable society. If we manage to achieve these transitions with society as a whole, we can banish Earth Overshoot Day to the history books together