The problem with One Planet Living…
In the latest edition of my monthly e-mail bulletin The Low Carbon Agenda, I made an aside that an organisation should not have more than 7 top-level sustainability goals. I immediately got an e-mail from a sustainability practitioner saying she was being asked to use the One Planet Living system which has ten objectives and was this a problem?
The problem was illustrated by the fact that, even though I have read the One Planet Living objectives many times, I still had to look them up to remember what any of them were. OK, you could argue I’m going senile early, but if you go over more than 5-7 objectives, they all just become a haze.
For the record, here are the ten:
- Zero carbon: Making buildings more energy efficient and delivering all energy with renewable technologies.
- Zero waste: Reducing waste, reusing where possible, and ultimately sending zero waste to landfill.
- Sustainable transport: Encouraging low carbon modes of transport to reduce emissions, reducing the need to travel.
- Sustainable materials: Using sustainable healthy products, with low embodied energy, sourced locally, made from renewable or waste resources.
- Local and sustainable food: Choosing low impact, local, seasonal and organic diets and reducing food waste.
- Sustainable water: Using water more efficiently in buildings and in the products we buy; tackling local flooding and water course pollution.
- Land use and wildlife: Protecting and restoring biodiversity and natural habitats through appropriate land use and integration into the built environment.
- Culture and community: Reviving local identity and wisdom; supporting and participating in the arts.
- Equity and local economy: Creating bioregional economies that support fair employment, inclusive communities and international fair trade.
- Health and happiness: Encouraging active, sociable, meaningful lives to promote good health and well being.
Some of these could clearly be sub-objectives of the others. Sustainable transport could be a sub-objective of zero carbon. Local and sustainable food – local should be a possible subset of sustainable, but overall this objective could be covered by zero carbon, sustainable water and land use. (One could also ask where phasing out persistent organic pollutants fits in… Oh, I do get very pedantic…)
Anyway, my point is that One Planet Living, like all such systems, is a framework developed to help you, not ten commandments carved in stone. If you find yourself struggling to match your efforts to the framework, then the tail is wagging the dog and you should adapt the framework to your needs, find another one or generate your own. And, whichever you do, if you go over 7 objectives, you will find other people struggling to remember them – not just me!