Overshoot Day Competition

When we’ve used Earth’s natural budget of resources for the year we’ve hit Earth Overshoot Day.  Each day after, we begin to exhaust Earth’s natural resources. This year it fell on August 13th.

Perhaps a strange connection to make, I’m instantly reminded of the film Il Postino. There is a scene on the beach when the postman is speaking with the poet about the water supply. The poet says the water has run out but he has only been using enough for he and his wife’s needs. The postman replies, well there you go, you’ve been using too much.

Of course the film’s context for the water supply is a commentary directed at political corruption and injustice. However, the notion that stuck with me was the subjectivity of need. How much water do we NEED? How much of anything do we need? Do we ever think of what the Earth needs?

This is why Earth Overshoot Day is a great idea: to note how much we can use responsibly, and how much is just excessive. When a competition to design an image promoting Overshoot Day popped up on my twitter feed via DoTheGreenThing.com, I had to download the brief.



The brief was open to a few avenues to make people aware of issues they can change. For example, buying local food is not only fresher but simply cuts out the massive effect of airline fuel on the planet.  I chose to examine the aspect of Population, focusing on the element that families should be generally more educated about ecological issues.

And so the design process began. I spent all week ticking over ideas, trying not to sweat the ever approaching deadline. Of course finding time to sit down to sketch is nearly impossible with my one and a half year old son getting into everything from tearing up important papers to bringing in slugs as gifts for mom. But it was through playing with him that ideas began to pop up. Initially, I thought about a dollhouse with solar panels; taking something traditional and adding a modern twist. Perhaps I would be able to make mini panels and see about borrowing a dollhouse. A simpler alternative, I drew in crayon (with my left hand) a child’s drawing of a family outside a house with a big sun, a tree and of course, solar panels on the roof. Not convinced, I put it aside.

As I find with most projects, it’s important to keep going and continue exploring alternatives. Enter my son’s red and yellow plastic scoot along buggy.  During my post assembly beer (that buggy came in half a dozen parts and worked up a thirst) I noticed the advert insert for accessories – one being a petrol pump. Why not a charging station instead I thought. This is when the idea for my entry came about. My son has picked up how to hold a fork (well kinda) and to wave goodbye through watching. He’ll soon learn that plastics go in a separate bin than the trash and that the glass is meant to accumulate on the countertop until mom gets grumpy and we walk it to the special red bin a few blocks away.  This was the basis for my entry, not that mom can get grumpy, but that parents can pass down a greener mindset for a better future, almost effortlessly, by being aware of their daily routine. If parents make the decision to swap a petrol stop for a recharge, it’s possible the next generation will take on greener habits too.

Lead the way

From a design perspective, I decided to execute the idea with watercolours because they are soft and warm; appropriate for conveying a child at play. It was a conscious decision to make the race and gender of the child ambiguous in an attempt to make the image universal. The thick quality paper also brings in an earthy feel. Unfortunately, I don’t think that translated well in the final photographing of the image. Working on this when the slug king was asleep and in the final moments before the deadline, the lighting wasn’t as good as I would have liked. Clicking “submit”, off it went, and off I went to bed.

Ticking over the brief all week and moving past my initial idea paid off as I would later receive an email informing me that my design had been chosen! It was a real thrill to see my image on the Earth Overshoot Day site in conjunction with the Global Footprint Network. Have a peek Here to see the write up and the other great entries.

A fantastic organisation, I’m glad to have taken part and contributed, albeit in a small way, to a campaign that asks us to reflect not only on how much we use but also how much we need.