Sustainability is Not Just About Carbon: The Bioregional Footprint Calculator


Image credit: Bioregional Development Group

It's funny. I know that climate change will spread disease, endanger native cultures, and spread conflict around the Globe - in short, I know that climate change is the single biggest environmental challenge facing humanity. Yet I can't help but worry that we may be getting carbon-centric - where being green becomes simply about being low carbon - without worrying about the other aspects of our ecological and social impact - from habitat loss to water use to exploitation and inequality. That's why I've always loved the holistic approach of UK-based Bioregional Development Group, the folks that brought us the BedZED Sustainable Housing Community in London, among many other projects. Now they have developed an online calculator based on their 'One Planet Living' model, that helps folks evaluate their environmental and social footprint way beyond simply tallying up the carbon they emit.
The Bioregional Ecological Footprint Calculator doesn't minimize the significance of carbon emissions or energy/fossil fuel use - it simply augments this with other aspects of our lifestyles, from water consumption to support for biodiversity to buying "stuff" to discarding trash - even taking in the concept of supporting and encouraging local community and culture. All with the goal of providing an action plan for improving almost every aspect of our lives.

The calculator comes in both a long and short version (the long version appeared to have a bug when I was trying to use it), and asks everything from what kind of house you live in - and how many people live in it - through to how often you decorate, what kind of toilet you have, how often you buy fair trade or sweat shop free products and even how often you use your public library! As with any such online tool, it's hardly a complete or empirical scientific approach - after all, how the heck do you quantify the relative merits of putting up a bat box versus the benefits of installing loft insulation, or visiting a museum? But even the simple act of filling out the questions is a great way to get thinking about our complete impact - and to start to understand Bioregional's take on true sustainability - looking way beyond simply lowering carbon emissions, and starting to design and nurture communities and businesses that nurture a truly sustainable way of life.

More on the Bioregional Development Group
BedZED Seven Years On: Did this Pioneering Development Work?
TreeStations: A Bioregional Solution to Urban Forestry Waste
Centralized Ordering for Decentralized Supply: The Bioregional Charcoal Company
The TH Interview: Pooran Desai and Sure Riddlestone of the Bioregional Development Group
Firewood: Bioregional Development Group's Latest Offering

Tags: Activism | Architecture | Carbon Footprint | Cities | London | United Kingdom

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