How are you using One Planet Living?

I first came across One Planet Living in 2013 when I was photographed for a 10-month One Planet City exhibition for One Brighton. I must admit, initially it washed over me completely!

But in next couple of years something clicked. I was looking at all principles and comparing them to our projects at The Green Centre and realised things fit together perfectly, thinking: “yes, this goes in zero waste, that goes in food, that goes in energy”. One Planet Living is so intrinsic to everything we do.

We used to have a premises in East Brighton but had to move out and were effectively homeless for a while. We bought a double decker bus to do a mobile project and ended up using it to work on. We then moved to a farm, then another one, and now we’ve got an office in a storage depot in Farringdon.

It’s not really a place the general public go however, and we had to work out how we engage with them again. We ended up getting a stall at Brighton Market, right in the middle of the city - we get a footfall of 600 people at our Zero Waste initiative.

It’s fantastic. On the stall, we have recycling, reuse, and an education table about the One Planet Living principles, focusing on a different theme each month. When people come to recycle, we use stories around each of the items by bringing in the principles and helping people make connections to them.

What do you like about One Planet Living?

I think from having been a teacher, the structure of One Planet Living felt so beautiful on so many levels, with it including every aspect of life. For me, that was brilliant. And 10 is such a fantastic number – when you start school you learn to count to 10, you have 10 fingers, your tests are marked out of 10. It’s a great number to work with.

Do you have any inspiring stories from your work?

We use the Equity and Local Economy principle a lot. We’ve been working with communities in Kenya, Uganda and Gambia. We made friends with people who own a shipping container down the road and learnt that their communities in Gambia were desperate for stuff. Because we had so many donations, we gave them school equipment, tools and sewing machines to send over.

We’d also been working with a Kenyan community to provide sanitary towels to young girls so they could attend school, but when Covid hit, they didn’t have any food, water or soap. So, we raised £1,000 through our community to buy these things for them. I love the connections we’ve made in Africa and the fact we can help the people there in these ways.

Bioregional runs training in One Planet Living, with dates to suit different time zones. Find out more here.

There are times in life you need to be sprinting, but there are so many other times that you need to let it breathe and let it be.

Melanie Rees, The Green Centre

What are you most proud of?

The Green Centre is an entirely voluntary organisation and our volunteers are a real mash of people – some have long-term health problems, some are on student placements etc. I really take pride in how we look after them. I have worked in several therapeutic communities and we use these principles to plan our day. We make sure they can get to volunteering through a car share, walking or cycling – we have regular breaks, reflect together often, and have lunch together. It’s so lovely and so human.

I despair when I pop round to the shop and see children eating sausage rolls and crisps on the way to school. As a child, we ate every single meal together as a family. It’s so important for bonding. So, if I were to choose one thing, I would say the thing I’m most proud of is the community that we’ve built.

What advice would you give to someone using One Planet Living?

The advice I want to give anyone starting on any environmental journey is this: unless you set time aside, it’s never going to happen. Sustainability can’t just be an add on. The Green Centre is open every Tuesday and Thursday, therefore, for the last 14 years, I’ve dedicated every Tuesday and Thursday to it. if I hadn’t set aside these two days of my life to specifically work on environmental stuff, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have, both personally and for the Green Centre.

Once you’ve set aside time, you need to be patient – give yourself 6 months to a year because you can’t be an expert in One Planet Living overnight. You need to reflect and sit still. Slow and steady wins the day – that's my motto. There are times in life you need to be sprinting, but there are so many other times that you need to let it breathe and let it be. Once everything is lined up it will just happen, you don’t need to force it.

What are your plans for the next 6 months?

I can’t say too much because we’re in the middle of negotiating something. But... expect to see us building a larger community of peers under the heading “Planet Brighton”. We’ve been bubbling away behind scenes on this for the past couple of years taking steppingstones and getting funding dedicated to it. We’ve been asked to run it but with Covid, we were worrying whether we would even be around at the end of the year to do so. We were questioning if we were going to survive. Thank God we have. Things are about to marry up – keep your eyes peeled over the next 5 to 6 weeks.

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