Friday, February 5, 2010

One Planet Agriculture

The green rating system people are most familiar with in the U.S. is LEED. As a result, rating systems are often perceived as prescriptive formulas that garner sometimes dubious results. After all, a checklist can only take sustainable systems thinking so far.

One Planet Living is a British rating system from a different mold. Based on ten high level principles, such as Zero Carbon and Zero Waste, the One Planet system is meant to reduce the footprint of development, and is open to interpretation and adaptation to local conditions. In fact, identifying local best practices to meet or exceed is an intrinsic part of the process. Administered by the 'entrepreneurial charity' BioRegional, the One Planet literature points out that if everyone lived like a North America, we would need five planets to sustain the global population. Their goal is to bring our development standards into balance with the one planet we all share.

[Image: BedZed, a One Planet Community in London]
What I particularly like about the One Planet Living system is its recognition of food as a vital part of planning new communities. Principle #5, Local and Sustainable Food, asks planners and developers to design a food production and delivery system for their new community, one that focuses on organic, local and mostly vegetarian. As they summarize on their website:
Industrial agriculture produces food of uncertain quality, harms local ecosystems, and may have high transport impacts.
The holistic viewpoint behind this rating system has connected the dots between the food we eat and the damage done to ourselves and our environment when we eat from the industrial hand. Design strategies include requisitioning requirements for institutions to purchase local organic food, incentives to encourage local organic restaurants, the creation of farmers markets, community gardens and community kitchens, and even the creation of a community website with recipes featuring in season local produce. Working at multiple scales, the system balances human and ecological health with local business in fashioning a well rounded approach to designing food systems sustainably.

I recently completed work on a new planned development that hopes to be approved as a One Planet Community. Integrating small farms with their markets and communities, while considering the farm as part of the greater ecology, habitat, human health and recreation of our site, was a very rewarding way to work. Here's hoping more clients will be willing to think about food as part of the designed landscape in the future.