Blog: How many planets do you need to live?

17th November 2017

How many planets do you need to live?

by Tanisha Raffiuddin

It is easy to get bogged down by the everyday rigours of architectural practice and lose sight of what it means to be a truly sustainable practice/live a sustainable lifestyle.

According to Bioregional, Ecological footprinting shows that if everyone in the world consumed as many natural resources as the average person in the UK, we’d need three planets to support us.

For those of you who don’t know, One Planet Living (OPL) is a sustainable living initiative of Bioregional and its partners to make truly sustainable living a reality. Rooted in the science and metrics of ecological and carbon footprinting, they have compiled 10 ‘One Planet’ principles that can be used to reduce your environmental impact to a sustainable level and give you a better quality of life. Principles include health and happiness, local and sustainable food, sustainable transport and zero waste among others.

To aid you to measure your personal ecological footprint, Bioregional have developed a footprint calculator. It is a simple and straightforward exercise and can take anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes. After calculating your impact you receive a personalised Action Plan packed with practical things you can do to achieve One Planet Living. Your resulting footprint is benchmarked against the resources of 1 planet (earth in this instance), allowing you to understand whether your consumption is within your allocated 1 planet, or whether you need the resources of more planets to suit your current lifestyle.

In an effort to ‘practice what we preach’, JRA embarked on the One Planet Living Challenge. The team at JRA used the OPL footprint calculator to calculate their individual and household environmental impact. To make things interesting, JRA’s sustainability team organised an in-house competition and offered prizes to the top eco-conscious staff members. The gamut of questions ranged from ‘how full is your rubbish bin at the end of the week?’ to ‘how much do you spend on clothing and shoes a month?’ and even ‘how many of your neighbours do you know by name?’ That last question may take you by surprise, but the reality is, living in London, not knowing your neighbours names is fairly common.

The JRA team results ranged from 1.3 planets to a whopping 4.5 planets (conveniently attributed to teenage offsprings). The results were eye opening and a reality check to say the least. Most of the team were very surprised, and somewhat embarrassed to find their results well over the 1 planet target. The exercise helped raise awareness of our personal impact and helped gauge what we need to do to make improvements to our lifestyle choices; over and above the green buildings and spaces we design.

Despite being active built environment practitioners, the journey towards an inherent sustainable lifestyle begins at home. The OPL exercise is easy to do and can be the first step in your journey towards making more environmentally positive contributions to our planet. And it only takes 15 minutes.

So, are you up for the One Planet Living Challenge?