Global Footprint Network:

Earth Overshoot Day Campaign

Using Inspiration To Create Social Change


Global Footprint Network (an international environmental research organization that is changing how the world manages its natural resources) has a critical mission: Save Planet Earth.

Each year Global Footprint Network actively promotes Earth Overshoot Day, the date when humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year.

The challenge was two-fold:

1) How to move people from awareness to action necessary to reverse the dangers facing our planet from overfishing, overharvesting forests and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester. 2) How to overcome the overwhelming message of doom and gloom that has been told over the last decade and created a state of paralysis and passivity.

“After several years of attracting media attention, we realized we needed to shift our approach. Our campaign objectives are to create greater sustainability awareness and inspire action. However, the message of doom and gloom that often overshadows these issues is not creating the change we need. So instead we emphasized fun, positive actions to create a sustainable future,” says Ronna Kelly, Global Footprint Network Communications Director.

Indeed, a growing body of evidence shows positive motivation is more effective than negative motivation. CNN founder and environmental funder, Ted Turner, funded the Frameworks Institute to do research into how to “frame” global warming. Frameworks did focus groups, and hired cognitive scientists to study how voters think about global warming disasters. They showed scary footage of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and other myriad apocalyptic images, and then asked people what they thought. Here’s what the cognitive scientists concluded: “The layering on of dire consequences, then, reinforces that this problem is too big to address.”

For the 2016 Overshoot Day campaign, Global Footprint Network needed to re-think its strategy, create a concept and execute on a plan to optimize towards “action and solutions” in a way that people felt like they could address.


The first step was a collaborative strategy workshop to define the campaign objective, target audience: Men and Women worldwide with interests in environment, sustainability, energy, consciousness, biodiversity, nature, outdoors, future generations, stewardship and social justice.

Once we identified in our target market, we used the [mto] emotigraphic™ profile process to determine key messages — with the new direction to create action and solutions. The concept that rose to the top was a “Pledge for the Planet” campaign that gave each audience type a single action they could take (and share!) to create and inspire change.

The pledges included ‘Lower your household energy consumption’ and share a selfie and ‘Host a vegetarian dinner party.’ (The latter was taken and tweeted about by environmental advocate, entrepreneur and business icon Sir Richard Branson!)

The result: Thousands of participants made pledges and the campaign attracted social media support from a new cast of supporters, including Chelsea Clinton, the UPS Foundation, and the chief sustainability officer of Tiffany & Co.. And most exciting of all, the hashtag #PledgeforthePlanet has caught on and is still being used regularly on Instagram and Twitter. Check out some of our #pledgefortheplanet photo winners from around the world!

Now, the team is working to build an even more successful 2017 campaign with greater corporate involvement. Be sure to join us next year, the survival of our planet depends on YOU!

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“The campaign development process with mto was creative and strategic. We walked away with our team aligned around a clear and empowering vision, a step-by-step plan to execute, and the mto team stayed plugged-in throughout the entire process.”

~ Ronna Kelly, Communications Director, Global Footprint Network

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