For those of you who have been with this little blog of mine for some time, you probably noticed that in addition to a passion for personal finance and financial freedom, I am also deeply concerned about climate change and human environmental impact.
Even though I carefully curate my inbox to avoid newsletter clutter and spam, there are actually a couple I read with interest. One of those are the mails from Global Footprint Network, a nonprofit organization which calculates the earth overshoot day, or the day when humans start using more than the planet can replenish in a single year.
So when their mail about earth overshoot day and their campaign to move the date hit my inbox, I knew it was going to be worth my time.
This year, earth overshoot day is calculated to occur on August 1st.
I mean, let that sink in for a moment. We are one month shy of using twice as many resources as the earth can replenish in a year. That is madness! If you look at humankind’s ravaging of the earth as a mindless consumer incurring credit card debt and ruining their finances, they would be spending almost twice as much as they earn!
And as any of you personal finance savvy people out there know, there is always a debt to pay in the end, and when you borrow, there will be interest.
This is terrifying to me, and even more terrifying is that this earth deficit has been growing steadily since the seventies, with only a small dip in the early 80’s and the financial crisis of 2008.
This just can’t continue.
The flip side of these sombering news is of course that all you frugal, conscious, living-below-your-means people out there are also in an excellent position to help #movethedate!
The dedicated people over at Earth Overshoot Day have already designed an attractive, easy-to-use website with 6 actionable steps plus an optional one for you to take in an effort to help move the deficit in the right direction.
None of these steps are expensive, difficult or impossible. In fact, several of them are frugal, healthy and could help you fatten up your wallet, such as eating more plant-based food and less animal products, commuting by public transit (if you have a functional one), riding your bike to work or moving closer to work to save both emissions, money and time.
Did you know that the energy we use for heating, light and other electrical appliances at home and at work represent over 30% of carbon emissions? That is more than all of transportation, including freight, planes and trucks at almost 20%! Putting a sweater on or opening your windows/going outside instead of turning your thermostat up or down could make a world of difference. Switching to LED too, one bulb at a time as they go out if your frugal gene forbids you from replacing something perfectly functional.
Yes, we need to switch to renewables, but that is no excuse to burn electricity like there’s no tomorrow. Conservation and conscious use (and thoughtfully built homes!) is essential in order to save money and reduce our energy needs and strain on the environment.
The other steps, such as speaking to your city leaders or picking up trash in your area are completely free!
It is easy to see that the creators were opting for a handful of simple, actionable steps their readers could follow up on. Other steps could include producing less waste, consume less (quality over quantity), live smaller/share with flatmates, and investing in renewables and local businesses.
There are so many things we can do to help this situation. Many of you are probably doing some or many of them already.
How about planting a fruit tree, a berry bush or creating a greener indoor space? Plants breathe in carbon dioxide after all, and if more of us opt for more and bigger plants and less lawns and driveways, we could reduce our grocery bill significantly and sequester more carbon at the same time!
In short, more trees for everyone, trees are fantastic! Grow food, not lawns.
In personal finance terms, earth overshoot day represents our debt to the earth and to future generations.
If this was one person incurring debt, anyone would be able to say that what they are doing cannot continue indefinitely. Creditors will eventually catch up with them, and they might wind up losing everything.
But in the most basic of terms, money is just an intangible representation of real, physical resources.
If you use your land resources to grow apples, you can sell them to get money. With this money, you could buy, say, potatoes.
But you might just as easily have traded apples for potatoes with your neighbour without the money middle man.
I know money and finances is not quite as simple as this, but bear with me.
If your land resources are depleted, perhaps by soil erosion, acid rain or flooding, your ability to grow apples and thus earn an income will be diminished. If you don’t take care of your apple trees and provide them with fertilisation, care and sunlight, they might just wither and die.
Even the wealthiest CEO of the most high-tech company relies on tangible resources in the end. Even the most sophisticated software requires hardware to run, and materials for hardware must be mined and produced somewhere.
It’s all resources.
And we are using way more than we have.
If you want to take this conversation to your friends, family, children or into the classroom, there are plenty of excellent resources, most of which I have already shared links to. One of my favourites has to be The Fish Game, a simple game for children which illustrates the effects of overfishing and overtaxing our natural resources.
If you want something higher level, there is the Footprint Futures, which illustrates how humans are dependant on the environment.
Let’s make noise about earth overshoot day and implore others and challenge ourselves to move the date, both online and offline. If you can change your habits to improve your finances, you can also change your habits to help create a more sustainable world.
Frugal beasts, let’s #movethedate!