Personal Sustainability: Living on 1 Planet a Day
What would it take to live sustainably, within the limits imposed by our planet? Currently, humanity uses 1.5 times as many resources every day as the Earth can replenish, meaning that we are depleting the soils, forests, and fresh water necessary for our own survival. It would take 1.5 planets to sustain the world population; trouble is, we only have one!
Things will only get worse as additional countries industrialize and their people seek the same standard of living as we have in the United States, where we consume resources at a rate 4 to 5 times faster than the Earth can replenish. This can’t continue, but what are we doing about it?
To be effective, sustainability goals should be specific, measurable, and have an end in mind. It is not enough to focus on one visible part of the problem (say, pollution or waste), then pledge to reduce it by some amount. This only leads to more questions such as, What type of waste? and Reduce by how much? Will this amount even be enough or is there something else entirely that could be more effective?
Searching for goals with a measurable impact, energy efficiency consultant Matt Malinowski examines what it would take for all 6.8 billion of us to live without straining the planet---and then does it. Borrowing from the exercise of living on 2 dollars a day (used by development engineers to understand the challenges of the world’s poor), Matt sets out to live on 1 planet a day, using only the resources that the Earth can replenish and hoping to find a model of successful living that we can happily export to the rest of the world. Through the process he discovers the challenges and pleasures of true personal sustainability.
About Matt Malinowski:
Matt Malinowski studied at MIT and has worked as an electrical engineer in Silicon Valley and Germany. He currently lives in Washington, DC, advising government clients on improving the energy efficiency of electronics through standards and incentive programs. He loves spending long days in the mountains and adventuring in places both near and far. He loves cities most of all and hopes someday to work on sustainable urban design.