Climate Crisis

The UK has reached its Overshoot Day 

19 MAY 22 | 3 minute read

If the world’s population lived like we do in the UK, Earth Overshoot Day 2022 – the day humanity is in debt to our planet – would be 19 May.

From today, the UK’s demand for resources now exceeds what the nation’s ecosystems can renew over the full year.

Let's stop wasting time...and our Earth

It’s now been around six months since COP26 took place in Glasgow and political leaders are being urged to pick up the pace on delivering their commitments.

As Helen Wollaston, the Interim Chair of our board, recently said, there is a misguided assumption that we have time to fix things and reverse our wrongs. The truth, however, is that many scientists believe the changes are irreversible and, instead, we need to adapt now. We need, and must make, vital changes to how we live and use the Earth’s resources.

Scotland is already putting adaptation measures into place - such as building flood defence walls, establishing green infrastructure, and rethinking how we heat and cool our homes and buildings. All of which will provide flexibility and resilience against future shocks and severe weather events.

However, many of these adaptation measures come at a cost to the environment in the form of raw materials and resources. If we continue mining our Earth to create new products and services, then greenhouse gas emissions will only increase – and our Overshoot Day will come even earlier.

Something needs to change

Around 80% of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from all the materials and resources we manufacture, use, and throw away.

These numbers are alarmingly high. Something needs to change. And it needs to change now.

The circular economy is a powerful weapon in our fight against the climate crisis. We can be clever with our mitigation and adaptation tactics by reusing more of the products and materials already in existence, thereby minimising waste and reducing further demand. In short, changing our mindsets from “make, use, dispose” to “make, use, reuse”.

There are clear opportunities to consider how we best make use of what we already have. This could be things like refurbishing infrastructure and buildings, rather than constructing from scratch; or looking at nature-based solutions that integrate green infrastructure and ecosystem services into the built environment, which will further boost resilience and promote circularity.

We’re living like we have more than one planet when there’s #OnlyOneEarth but moving to a more circular economy is a powerful weapon in our fight against the climate crisis.

Photo of reusable bottles from the Beauty Kitchen - circular economy

Taking action to move the date

There are already a number of businesses, in Scotland, that are doing fantastic work in operating sustainably – real proof that the circular economy can and does work.

Businesses like Kenoteq, who are at the forefront of a circular revolution in the construction sector by producing non-fired brick made from 90% reclaimed demolition materials; and Beauty Kitchen, who are renowned for their ‘return, refill, reuse’ system which invites shoppers to return empty bottles and tubs for everyday products, like shampoo and moisturiser, to then be cleaned and refilled for other customers.

Overshoot Day in the UK is a warning that, for the remainder of the year we are, we’re essentially borrowing future resources. We’re currently living like we have more than one Earth to sustain us. Like we have all the time in the world.

By harnessing the power of the circular economy, we can reduce damaging greenhouse gases, protect precious, finite resources and #MoveTheDate further down the year.