Below is a list of international and national days and weeks to mark particular events or topics that promote education and awareness of sustainability. A summary of each event is given with some useful links to resources that could be accessed to use with students or spark a discussion.
2 August – Earth Overshoot Day
Earth Overshoot Day is the day of the year on which the demands of humans on nature exceeds the Earth’s biological capacity to regenerate. This means that between January 1st and August 2nd in 2023, humanity’s demand for biological regeneration is equivalent to the entire planet’s annual regeneration.
Earth Overshoot Day 1971-2023 (Credit: Global Footprint Network)
While this is five days later than Earth’s Overshoot Day of July 28 in 2022 there is still a lot of work to be done. Students could use the ecological footprint calculator to calculate their personal Overshoot Day and explore ways to reduce their impact.
- Ecological Footprint Calculator (Global Footprint Network)
07-13 August – Keep Australia Beautiful Week
This is a week to raise awareness about the simple things we can do in our daily lives to reduce our impact on the environment. This year themes and behavioural changes that are being encouraged are to DO THE RIGHT THING and to REDUCE What’s in Your Bin.
- Keep Australia Beautiful
- ABCs very popular series War on Waste (Series 3) is airing during late July and early August.
- Take 3 for the Sea is a mission to rid the oceans of plastic by encouraging people to pick up three pieces of plastic waste in the environment and dispose of it properly.
- Waste in Australia (AusEarthEd blog)
This could be an opportunity to highlight how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s ecological knowledge is used to sustainably manage resources.
- Aboriginal Resource Management in NSW (AusEarth blog)
- Indigenous seasonal calendars (CSIRO)
- The Banbai and Ngoorabul calendars of NSW showcase traditional fire management practices. Other calendars can be accessed from Indigenous Weather Knowledge (Bureau of Meteorology)
12 August - World Elephant Day
A day to raise awareness of elephants as a keystone species. A keystone species has a disproportionately large effect on its environment. Removing it can dramatically reduce biodiversity. Elephants maintain the health and biodiversity of their habitats as seed dispersers and ecosystem engineers. Recent studies are showing that losing elephants could accelerate Earth’s climate crisis because elephants play a direct role in shaping forests that help to store carbon.
- Study of Elephants (Journal of Mammology)
12-17 August – National Science Week
A week to take part in one of Australia’s largest festivals and there are lots of events to take part in. Consider registering a team for the quiz to win some cash prizes, including $1000 for a school team.
17 August – National Thrift Shop Day
There has been an awareness campaign called National Op Shop Week in the past, however in 2023 there are localised events in different parts of Australia. It encourages everyone to purchase second-hand items and to visit thrift stores to embrace the idea of ‘reuse’ which is higher on the waste hierarchy and has a positive impact on the environment.
Waste Hierachy (Credit: Planet Ark)
7 September – International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies (UN)
A day to raise awareness for the need to overcome air pollution as it has a health impact and a climate impact.
- Microplastics and climate (Yale article)
- Plastic microfibres from clothes (article by Fashion Revolution)
16 September – International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer (UN)
The Montreal Protocol (1987) is a treaty that turns 35 in 2023. It ended one of the biggest threats to life on the surface of the Earth: the depletion of the ozone layer. Nations of the world came together to control nearly 100 ozone depleting substances by phasing out production and consumption and eventual elimination. Some have since been found to also contribute to global warming and without the Montreal Protocol would likely be in much greater concentrations in the atmosphere today. The Montreal Protocol and subsequent Kigali Amendment (2016) has been the most successful global environmental initiative ever.
- The Hole - A film on the Montreal Protocol, narrated by Sir David Attenborough (UN Video)
18-24 September – National Organic Week
To increase awareness of the benefits of organic products and farming production systems and accelerate the uptake of these in the wider Australian community and environment.
- Benefits of Organic Foods (Article)
22 September – Car Free Day (UN)
A day to encourage motorists to give up the use of their cars for a day. This can contribute to a reduction in vehicle emissions which according to the World Health Organisation caused 4.2 million deaths in 2016. Transport is also a large contributor to global warming. Some cities such as Paris are transforming for this to be the norm.
- How Paris is Leading a Sustainable Transportation Revolution (YouTube Video)
29 September – International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (UN)
UN figures of food produced that is lost between harvest and retail is about 14 percent globally. Then a further 17 percent of the food that is retailled is lost as waste (11 percent in households, 5 percent in food service and 2 percent in retail). This is a day to raise awareness to prioritise actions to reduce food waste.
- Reducing Food Waste (Clean Up Australia)