Saving the planet is currently a very relevant topic. Greta Thunberg makes frequent headlines for protesting, and COP 26 isn’t too far behind us, and TV programmes like Seven Worlds One Planet are highlighting the magnitude of destruction we are causing due to our consumerist and wasteful habits.The One Planet Development is a forward-thinking Welsh planning policy by the One Planet Council, a voluntary body, promoting sustainable principles to enable people to generate most of their resources from the land they own and work towards a zero-carbon lifestyle.
The policy’s principles are that each person should live off 2.8 hectares of land by using 100% renewable energy systems such as harvesting rainwater, living in a carbon neutral home and using land-based produce to satisfy 65% of their needs. Subsequently the Policy certifies that participants consider every aspect of their lives in order to mitigate any potential damage to the environment. The goal is for each person to use their fair share of the Earth’s resources. It was adopted by the Welsh Government in 2011 and since has seen 36 approved schemes, which are annually audited to ensure the requirements of the policy are being met.
Grow Your Own: Not for Everyone?
Each person participating either as a household or part of a community would have to achieve the targets for food, income, energy and waste needs within 5 years of starting the project. Applications for the programme are accompanied by a lengthy management report outlining exactly how the requirements will be met. This document includes a business plan, as well as ecological footprint, zero carbon, biodiversity, community and transport assessments, and an exit strategy to be implemented should the development not meet the criteria by the end of the five years.
The skills and energy required in growing your own produce, and building and sustaining your own carbon neutral ho
me, and of course managing the whole operation in the long term are extensive and could be beyond many people’s capabilities. As a result, this could be more challenging for some than it is for others. Whilst the One Planet Council
provides an extensive contact list including ecologists, carpenters, planning consultants, architects, horticulturalists and permaculture experts, acquiring knowledge and expertise from these specialists’ costs time and money, as well as passion and enthusiasm for that way-of-life from the outset. The policy has stringent regulatory procedures to ensure that everyone taking part is meeting the targets. Setting up and maintaining infrastructure of this magnitude is a full-time job, meaning most occupations outside of this venture would be discarded. In fact, most people that have ventured into the lifestyle, provide their additional income requirements through crafts.
Pictures by Lammas Ecovillage
Is it feasible?
The idea behind the policy is fantastic and certainly those who have embarked on the challenge should be supported rather than criticised. In theory if this mode of living was scaled up across the whole planet, or indeed if a notable percentage of people were living in this way, then we would be further along the way to solving the climate crisis than we are now. The policy however states each person has 2.8 hectares (28,000m2) to live on, but in Wales where the population density is 148 people per km2, if everyone were to live on an equal amount of land, it would only give each person 0.675 hectares (or 6,750m2), less than a quarter of the requirement of the policy. If we then explore transferring this policy to England where the population density is 274 people per km2, each person would have just 0.36 hectares (3,600m2) to live on, and for London it would be just 0.0178 hectares (178m2). And all of this isn't taking into account topography, as substrate types such as rock, sediment, saltmarsh, heather, bog, acid grassland, fen, marsh and swamps are incapable of cultivating arable crops.
The Policy’s regulatory procedure is to ensure that people are successfully living ‘off-grid’, and so this requires full engagement in the process – a huge commitment. So professions in the public sector, an NHS nurse for example, will never be able to spare the additional time required to invest in growing their own produce. The policy is now over ten years old and many who began it back in 2011 are finding the physical tasks more difficult and are switching to less demanding tasks, like medical herbalism or teaching to maintain their income. This remains viable only because of the limited number of these developments.
So how realistic is the policy in our heavily consumerist based lifestyles? Should smaller, ‘bitesize’ versions of the policy be introduced to allow, and reward people for living in a more sustainable fashion? If we all tried to incorporate an idea from the Policy into our daily lives as well as the other changes we are already making, we’d be much closer to saving the planet.