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Wasted clothing, overpopulation and sustainable farming - why is Earth Overshoot Day today?

  • What people can do to reduce their carbon footprint
  • Facts and figures regarding some of the most excessive industries
  • All this following a week of extreme weather in Manchester

The 29th of July has been declared as Earth Overshoot Day by the Global Footprint Network for 2019.

This is the illustrative day on which humanity overspends the resources the planet can replenish in a year, and has never been earlier than August until this year.

Until the 1970s, the day was calculated to be after the calendar year, meaning Earth was living within its means, but the day has crept earlier into the calendar year ever since.

Research by sustainable fashion company, Thought, estimates the UK's consumption of new clothing to be higher than the rest of Europe.

This is because few people repair their clothing when it breaks, due to lack of know-how, lack of time, or just convenience.

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Around 350k tonnes of clothing goes into landfill each year, but if more of an effort was made to repair clothing, the UK's waste, pollution, carbon and water footprints would be dramatically reduced.

John Snare, Co-Founder and CEO of Thought commented: 

“The amount of clothes that are thrown away each year because they’re broken or damaged is terrifying. It’s unsustainable and it needs to change. At Thought, we are proud supporters of slow fashion – our mantra is ‘wear me, love me, mend me, pass me on’, so we hope this research will increase the UK’s awareness of the negative effects of throwing repairable clothes away rather than extending their lifespan by mending them."

But, while clothing waste might be a problem in Britain, it is not the biggest contributor to Earth Overshoot Day.

Research published in Environmental Research Letters in 2017 concluded the best thing to do to reduce your carbon footprint was to not have children, which would save 58.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year in developed countries.

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To put into context how much that is, driving a car spends only 2.4 tonnes per year, so you could drive for 24 and a half years before impacting the climate as much as having a baby.

Other recommendations by the study were to avoid air travel (saving 1.6 tonnes per a transatlantic flight) and going vegetarian (saving 0.8 tonnes per year).

The cattle industry requires an insane amount of fresh water and land to support the 270m dairy cows in the world, and the output of manure and odor from on-farm activities can negatively impact air quality.

Though going vegetarian would help to reduce demand and therefore numbers in livestock industries, the two biggest animal farming industries are cattle (for milk) and chickens (for eggs), so going vegan is much greener than vegetarian. 

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Before anyone points it out, growing soya has negative impacts on the environment as well, but nowhere near as much as livestock farming.

Climate change should be a hot topic in the UK right now following the hottest ever temperature of 38.7 degrees in Cambridge on Thursday, as well as Manchester's hottest of around 35 degrees on the same day which was followed by torrential rain causing floods this weekend.

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