What is Earth Overshoot Day?
If you haven't heard, Earth Overshoot Day is August 22nd this year.
It's the day that scientists estimate our demands of the Earth's resources exceed what it's able to regenerate in a year.
Last year Earth Overshoot day fell on July 29th — about 3 weeks earlier than this year. This is quite a significant jump largely attributed to the pandemic. Covid-19 disrupted how we lived and how the economy functioned.
We stayed home more. We drove less. We bought less stuff.
And all of these changes led to clearer air in traditionally polluted cities. Air quality also improved, although clarity enjoyed a more significant leap.
It also led to us gaining 3 weeks for Earth Overshoot day.
But we want to make sure we achieve progress like this by design, not disaster. We want to be able to live within our means on this planet.
So how can we design better solutions to do this?
Often solutions are focused on huge systems changes. This can feel out of reach in the current political climate, as well as during a pandemic.
So what can we as individuals do to make a difference?
Individual actions have long been pooh-poohed as a viable way to make progress on global environmental issues. Another challenge? Advice for individuals seeking to make a difference can be vague, complicated, or hard to remember. Rarely, if ever, is there any feedback on the impact of new actions or habits.
It's frustrating to even get started, keep going, or feel like you can make a difference with these huge global issues.
Let me tell you why we at Tree Shrugger think individual behavior change is actually the key for this moment in time.
Every change we desire and identify as critical for our future requires individuals to do something different than they are today.
Let me repeat: a brighter climate future hinges on individual behavior change.
The policy changes you want? Policy changes require more people to vote science-supporting folks into office. And it definitely does not stop there. A massive amount of individuals need to speak up loudly and consistently over time. Moreover this civic engagement needs to be matched with changes in the way we live. Policy makers need to see the culture is genuinely shifting.
The market and industry changes we need? Our 'buy green' approach so far is not changing things very quickly. We need to drive less, eat less carbon intensive foods, shift our consumer habits beyond green marketing, and clean up our trashprint. This will disrupt carbon intensive practices baked into our economy. Which sends critical signals to investors, managers, board rooms, and elected officials debating different practices and regulations.
But if we only focus on being zero waste or vegan we miss the bigger picture: our total carbon footprint.
Why is that important?
Often people get weighed down by what I call "impossible grey areas". Have you ever spent an exhausting amount of time trying to find a perfect eco-friendly solution? And you only end up with imperfect options that usually cost too much?
These time-wasters are bad for two reasons. It makes the process less fun and rewarding (yes, that matters!). It also distracts us from easier and higher impact ways to make a difference.
It's time we get focused and make sure we're having fun with planet-friendly behavior change.
At Tree Shrugger we help people focus on simple, repeatable ways they can make a positive impact. Based on tests and behavior change theory, here are some effective ways to simplify making a difference.
Simplifying Your Best Next Planet-Friendly Step
- Focus on lifestyle benefits now. Most environmental materials focus on avoiding longer-term negative scenarios. Unfortunately, long term scenarios are difficult to feel connected to day to day and week to week. But we can reframe planet-friendly living around how it aligns with living better right now. When we do this we build in the ability to feel positive reinforcement on a regular basis. If you are starting to feel exhausted or discouraged by "impossible grey area", it's time to rethink what other shifts better align with your priorities and life right now!
- Pick a simple, repeatable action linked to your lifestyle, goals, or priorities. You can make a positive impact so many different ways. We get overloaded when there are too many options. But when we zero in on one repeatable action, it clarifies the next step making it easier to start and maintain.
- Invite a buddy or two along! Social support is really helpful in normalizing positive planet habits in your life. It keeps it present and visible in your life (we are more likely to take part in actions and behaviors we see others doing) as well as built-in accountability.
Psst – If you are looking for some simple support to make your next step easy and enjoyable: check out our Tiny Planet Pack! Each Tiny Planet Pack fully includes the above 3 ingredients with the added bonus of measurable shifts! We pre-calculated 1% carbon reductions across the 4 highest impact daily activities: driving, eating, buying stuff, and throwing it "away". Even better? You can find your perfect shift in less than 10 minutes!
Silver bullet? No, but our best immediate opportunity to make significant progress.
Behavior change offers a missing link between our current situation and a brighter climate future. It's not a silver bullet solution, but it's a key missing step that is needed for larger systems changes. Making a simple planet-friendly habit shift is something we have the most control over, can reap the most direct benefits from, and can do ahead of an election.
And all of these small shifts can add up to a huge impact. 67% of people in the US say global warming is important to them.
If that many people made a 1% carbon reduction shift it would prevent almost 50 million tons of carbon pollution within one year. And if those small shifts actually helped them live better now? It would make it easier to grow a larger movement of change.
The Unique Opportunity in Front of Us Now
We're at a unique moment in time, albeit an extremely challenging one. The pandemic has caused serious disruptions. We have had to tackle living and working in different ways. It's made painfully clear what is working against our wellness and the health of our communities.
We have an opportunity to take stock of how we want to live during this pandemic and beyond. It's a chance to explore new shifts and habits to live better now, and help the planet along the way.
In the wise words of Dr. Jane Goodall: You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what difference you want to make.
Do you want to help spread some positive impact? Share this with friends and invite them to join you in making a simple, repeatable shift to live better now and tread lighter on the planet.