One Planet Living: From BedZED in London to ECOWEEK in Agios Nikolaos – Interview with Environmentalist Benjamin Gill of Bioregional (UK)
Benjamin Gill is the international Technical Manager for One Planet Living.
Ben works to develop the One Planet Living framework, ensuring that its targets are in line with the latest climate science, and to increase uptake of the program globally.
He works closely with number of projects in implementing their sustainability strategies such as Villages Nature (Paris), Singita Grumeti (Tanzania) and Hollerich Village (Luxembourg). He has developed sustainability strategies for new build communities (WGV, Hollerich), government (Fremantle, Sutton, Defra), tourism operations (Village Nature, Singita) and organisations (B&Q).
He studied at Cambridge and Imperial and is a Chartered Environmentalist with Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment. Ben lives in Athens, Greece, where he enjoys gardening, keeping bees and cycling in the mountains whenever his family allow him to.
Ben will be one of the speakers at the international conference ECOWEEK, a week of sustainable design, green building and envisioning for ecological interventions and proposals for the city of Agios Nikolaos on Crete. From July 3 until July 10 the city will host the conference and sustainable design workshops with the participation of experts from Greece and abroad — Canada, England, Israel, Turkey and Italy.
Give us some background on Bioregional and the work that you do.
Benjamin Gill: Bioregional is an entrepreneurial sustainability charity established in 1994, our aim is to establish projects that can sustain themselves financially, but will also bring social and environmental benefits. While our work started in agricultural and waste management project our biggest impact has been in developing zero-carbon communities where residents can live a truly sustainable lifestyle. The 100 home mixed use community off BedZED was the first of these projects, and was followed by the 170 apartments at One Brighton in 2010, we are currently seeking further opportunities.
On the back of this we have created the One Planet Living framework and a network of partners who are also committed to creating truly, and measurable sustainable communities or organisations. We use the success of our projects and those of our partners to undertake advocacy work for more sustainable solutions – particularly with the UN.
- Give us an idea of what One Planet Living is and how you intend to apply it to Agios Nikolaos.
Benjamin Gill: If everyone in the world consumed as many natural resources as the average person in Western Europe, we’d need three planets to support us. We need to learn to live happy, healthy lives within the means of our planet. At Bioregional we have developed a proven system to do just that called One Planet Living. The One Planet Living Framework consists of 10 cross-cutting principles which provide a simple way to plan, deliver and communicate sustainable development. It focuses on how people live their lives – going beyond cutting carbon and conservation to nurturing wellbeing and building better communities. All of this is wrapped up in a simple story that’s easy to understand.
At Agios Nikolaos we will be working with NGO ECOWEEK to use One Planet Living as a creative design tool to get design students to focus on how their designs can influence the end use and enable them to make more sustainable choices.
- How do the One Planet Living principles apply to green buildings?
Benjamin Gill: One Planet Living puts buildings in context, direct impacts from buildings are important, but the wider impacts on transport and how we live our lives can be much greater. An average resident at BedZED has a carbon footprint about ½ the average of someone in the UK, and about ½ of the saving is due to the buildings themselves, but ½ is due to the fact that they drive less and have even changed what they buy and eat.
One Planet Living asks the question, ‘how can this project make sustainable living easy?’ and challenges designers to start from the point of the user and what they need to live sustainable and then work backwards to the design outcome.
- What other One Planet Living principles will be applied at ECOWEEK in Agios Nikolaos?
Benjamin Gill: One Planet Living is based on 10 principles and all are of equal importance in creating a sustainable project, so we will be encouraging all participants to keep this high level perspective throughout. On the other hand ECOWEEK is about delivering practical projects, and so there will be a real focus on using sustainable materials to improve public space and provide amenities for the community.
- What will be your involvement at ECOWEEK 2016 in Crete and how the city will benefit from the One Planet Living guidelines?
Benjamin Gill:Working with ECOWEEK we are devising the project guidelines for the workshops. I will then be delivering an introductory lecture and supporting the workshop teams to get set up. The One Planet Living Principles are freely available for use and Bioregional are developing a range of tools for municipalities and tourist destinations to make use of them to make their operations more sustainable. Potentially one of the ECOWEEK teams can remain involved after the one-week ECOWEEK workshop and undertake an opportunity analysis of Agios Nikolaos’s current practices against the ten One Planet Principles. This is the first step to developing a complete sustainability Action Plan.
Where can one find more information on One Planet Living?