Why does One Planet Living want us to live like Europeans?

The Goals of One Planet Living

Find out what your ecological footprint is by accessing the One Planet Calculator and Action Plan.
Find out what your ecological footprint is by accessing the One Planet Calculator and Action Plan.
Dougal Waters/Photodisc/Getty Images

Technically, One Planet Living doesn't want North Americans -- or anyone else -- to completely model European lifestyles (since Europeans do their fair share of environmental consumption). However, the European Union is pioneering several initiatives for sustainable living that the rest of the world is now paying close attention to. There are 10 areas in which the One Planet Living plan calls for us to clean up our act.

  1. Zero carbon: The first guiding principle is to create a net amount of zero carbon emissions. We can lower carbon emissions by designing energy-efficient buildings and other infrastructures and using local renewable energy sources to power these structures. Purchasing energy-efficient appliances can help lower carbon emissions too. In order to bring net carbon output to zero, people can purchase carbon offsets, which you can learn more about in How Carbon Offsets Work.
  2. Zero waste: This item emphasizes eliminating the waste stream (like your weekly trips to the trash) to landfills and incinerators. Reducing trash production, increasing recycling and composting, and harnessing the waste disposal process as an energy source will all help achieve zero waste.
  3. Sustainable transport: The transportation systems of the One Planet Living plan focus on decreasing our use of gas-guzzling vehicles in favor of clean-burning fuel methods that cause less pollution. Using alternative methods of transportation also help decrease pollution and road congestion. In addition, promoting telecommuting and videoconferencing for office workers can cut down on transportation's environmental impact.
  4. Local and sustainable materials: The fourth principle calls for a greater use of local and reclaimed materials. This would decrease shipping costs and shipping-related pollution while providing greater support to local economies (among other things).
  1. Local and sustainable food: Ideally, food supplies should be grown locally in a carefully managed manner that doesn't have a harmful impact on the environment. Keeping the process local could reduce the impact of the methods and materials we use for packaging, processing, and disposing products. The security and quality of food could be better managed as the local products travel a shorter distance and pass between fewer hands. Shipping costs would be lowered and there would less damage to the environment.
  2. Sustainable water: Polluted water sources and disruptions in the water cycle lead to water shortages, droughts and desertification. Items in this category are aimed at increasing proper water treatment and conservation practices while decreasing water pollution and restoring natural water supplies.
  3. Natural habitats and wildlife: This principle falls into two categories: protect existing natural habitats and generate new ones. This would help put the breaks on environmental degradation and species extinction.
  4. Culture and heritage: This focus falls on decreasing the homogenizing effects of globalization by celebrating and preserving local customs and traditions. Regional cultures would be encouraged to thrive, potentially fusing with the new viewpoints and practices regarding sustainability.
  5. Equity and fair trade: This principle seeks a better economic balance among the citizens of the world. Trade practices would emphasize elements such as open and fair trading relationships, better working conditions and more stable livelihoods for people everywhere.
  6. Health and happiness: This principle looks to encourage physical well-being through the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. Physical, mental and spiritual health would be targeted through community measures and other institutions.

­Whew! While you might not see One Planet Living's top 10 list featured on any late-night talk shows, it does describe the core basics of how the plan works. Let's examine some of the ways these principles are being put into action on the next page.