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diagram of coastal city and town illustrating carbon footprint

Teaching Environmental Sustainability with Earth Overshoot Day

Earth is a wonderful planet that generates lots of ecological resources. Unfortunately, the demand for resources by humans (our so-called ecological footprint) is greater than what Earth can provide each year. Earth Overshoot Day is the day when humans use up all the resources that Earth can produce in that year and “go in the red”.

Since the 1970’s Earth Overshoot Day has moved from December all the way back to July. 

This year, Earth Overshoot Day is July 28th. The rate at which humans use the resources and services provided by Earth is becoming more and more unsustainable.

Talking about Earth Overshoot Day with your classes is a good way to explore several topics including:

  • Sustainability
  • Ecological footprints and our impact on the Earth
  • Carbon emissions and carbon footprints

Below are a few resources you can use with your classes to explore these topics, as well as collections of articles here at Science Journal for Kids that will support your classroom endeavors.


  • Check out a collection of articles investigating different aspects of sustainability. There are articles about keeping mountain regions healthy, how to better protect oceans and fisheries, managing ecological disasters, and identifying at-risk areas for deforestation. Remember that each article has topic-specific resources and lessons available as well.

Ecological Footprint

  • Check out information about your ecological footprint. Explore data from across the world. Look at case studies where politicians and policymakers have used ecological footprint information to design more resilient cities. Make sure to look at the education blog under tools and resources for additional lesson plans and tips for talking about ecological footprints with your students.
  • Have students explore this ecological footprint calculator to see what their own resource use looks like.

Carbon Emissions and Carbon Footprints

  • Check out a collection of articles investigating different aspects of carbon emissions and carbon footprints. There are articles about the production of biofuels, the impact of our diet on carbon emissions, our patterns of consumption, and even how burping cows contribute to the carbon footprint of raising livestock. Remember that each article has topic-specific resources and lessons available as well.
  • Use this carbon footprint calculator with your students to see what their own carbon emissions look like.
  • Explore this lesson plan about carbon emissions and the impact of carbon on climate change. It includes students calculating their carbon footprints and provides discussion points for teachers to wrap up the activity.

Title image credit: WWF Japan and Global Footprint Network; Ecological Footprint for Sustainable Living in Japan, Earth Overshoot Day

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