Earth Overshoot Day is today – food contributes significantly to the environmental burden

Press release 2017-08-02 at 7:38

WWF Finland and the Ministry of the Environment report

Today, Wednesday, 2 August humanity has used up the renewable natural resources the Earth generates this year. Food production and the greenhouse gas emissions caused by transport and living are the major causes of the overshoot.

Earth Overshoot Day is the day on which, according to calculations, our consumption exceeds sustainable yearly use of natural resources. The date of the overshoot day is based on calculations conducted by the research institute Global Footprint Network.

“We do a lot of good small deeds to reduce the negative impacts on the environment, but the continuing increase in consumption eats away the benefits of our actions. We should multiply our capacity to make choices that are better for the environment and consume in a more sustainable way,” says Liisa Rohweder, Secretary General of WWF Finland.

Especially the energy used for living and transport expands our carbon footprint, which is globally the most important reason for the overshoot. Food production also contributes to unsustainable use of natural resources. About 70 per cent of the land area in agricultural use is used for the production of meat and animal-based food.

“The best alternative from the point of view of the environment is to replace at least some of the meat by vegetables,” Rohweder summarises.

Growing plants is always required in the production of meat, eggs and milk products, so the environmental impacts of animal-based products are almost without exception bigger than those of plant-based products. The WWF Meat Guide (in Finnish only) published at the beginning of this year guides people to make better choices for the environment on their plates. Sustainably harvested or farmed fish is an excellent alternative from the point of view of the environment; especially local Finnish fish can be recommended.

Our choices affect the wellbeing of the environment elsewhere

According to the figures, Finns use up their share of the Earth’s natural resources about four months before the global average. The national overshoot day for Finland was as early as 3 April. If everyone consumed like Finns, more than three planets would be needed for consumption to be at a sustainable level.

“From the point of view of the environment, it is unsustainable that we keep on living on ‘credit’ by overusing natural resources. Everyone can influence overconsumption by considering how they live, move around and eat. Consumers should favour responsibly produced food and reduce the amount of food that is thrown away. In addition to choices made by consumers, we also need firm policy measures,” says Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment.

Our consumption in Finland has impacts globally: for example, more than 90 per cent of the impacts on biodiversity that are related to the consumption of food in Finland are generated abroad.

“With our choices, we can make a difference in the wellbeing of nature globally. It is also our responsibility, since we use products that originate from different corners of the world every day,” Rohweder points out.

The raw materials of the products we consume in our everyday life often originate from places in which local residents depend on the wellbeing of nature. These people, often among the poorest in the world, can see the consequences of overconsumption in their environment as deforestation, drought, lack of fresh water, soil erosion and the declining diversity of nature.

Further information:

Liisa Rohweder, Secretary General, WWF Finland, tel. + 358 40 840 7461, liisa.rohweder@wwf.fi

Jarmo Muurman, Senior Environmental Advisor, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 295 250 185, firstname.lastname@ym.fi

Taru Savolainen, Special Adviser to Minister Tiilikainen, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 40 535 8622, firstname.lastname@ym.fi

Further information on Earth Overshoot Day: www.overshootday.org

NOTE! The overshoot days reported in the media in different years are not comparable. The comparable dates are always calculated based on the data of the most recent calculated year. According to the latest information, the overshoot day has in the past few years fallen at the beginning of August. Further information: www.overshootday.org/newsroom/past-earth-overshoot-days

Ecological footprint calculator: www.footprintcalculator.org. The calculator does not currently contain the figures for Finland.

The WWF Meat Guide helps you to make food choices that are better for the environment: wwf.fi/lihaopas (in Finnish)