“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Have you pursued something for years only to have an unlikely opportunity fall in your lap? In 1992 I read a copy of In Context magazine (now YES! Magazine) cover-to-cover and discovered the concept of sustainability. It introduced me to big ideas like car sharing and vertical gardens. With shivers up my spine, I knew then that someday, somehow I would build a career developing sustainable living. I’ve had some spectacular failures along the way, but it’s a good road to be on. Last Thursday I received an invitation to participate in a mysterious 2-day workshop starting Friday. Yes, the next day. My vision statement stuck to the mirror starts off with “I know that wonderful changes in my life can happen suddenly and are always within reach.” This might be one of those.
Have you heard of the One Planet concept? Probably not, but there’s an org for that. In brief, if everyone in the world lived on the environmental footprint (used Earth’s resources) that Europeans do, we would need three planets with the resources of Earth to be sustainable. But wait, it gets worse; if everyone lived like North Americans, we would need FIVE Earths! And even with billions of people living in poverty, right now we are overshooting the Earth’s resources. Meaning that if you think of the Earth as an endowment, we are spending the capital and the interest is dwindling.
I found out about One Planet three years ago, at the 2008 Ecocities World Summit in San Francisco. Sounded great. And very hypothetical. Even now, there are only four projects in the world that are endorsed and entitled to display the OnePlanet logo. They have a rigorous One Planet Action Plan with targets and strategies for each of the 10 One Planet principles approved by the project review board, and have made a commitment to monitor performance until 2020.
So here’s the wonderful part: there’s a development on Bainbridge Island, called the Grow Community, that is planning to become a One Planet community! And the workshop was to get community input, with the guidance of BioRegional facilitators, on what that could mean. It was a juicy brainstorming creative session, made all the sweeter with fabulous gourmet vegetarian and mostly locally-sourced food. We worked hard. My eyes glazed over quite a few times as I took my own mental breaks, but I loved hearing excited responses to my ideas, and I LOVED seeing so many creative ideas from the group. Bainbridge Islanders, you can be proud that your city council and city planning was represented, along with student and faculty from Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Sustainable Bainbridge, and many more. I was in heaven.
The organization behind One Planet–BioRegional–“uses 10 One Planet principles to help our partners create places where living and working within a fair share of our planet’s resources is easy, attractive and affordable.” So BioRegional educates developers on what it takes to be a One Planet community, helps the team figure out what that means for their project, then finally validates and endorses the few projects that actually follow through on their plans and achieve a path towards One Planet living. (Nobody is ‘there’ yet, because people buy food from mutli-planet stores and work at multi-planet job sites and send their kids to multi-planet schools, etc. Apparently it takes a village to live a One Planet lifestyle.)
You can find out about all of the 10 principles, and as expected, Zero Carbon, Zero Waste, and Sustainable Transport are three of them. But so is “Health and Happiness!” And I’ve now been deemed the volunteer “champion” of health and happiness, which means that I will be part of the team that writes the action plan that defines the project as One Planet. That’s all I need, is one more project. Really! Wonderful changes can happen suddenly.