Sutton One Planet Living

Posted on March, 01 2012

Crafting the zero-carbon suburb 

Crafting the zero-carbon suburb

Sutton is a municipality in southwest London which has signed on to the principles of One Planet Living. With the goal of reducing its ecological footprint by 65% as early as 2025, Sutton has become the first municipality in BioRegional’s One Planet Regions programme. As a first step, all municipal buildings are to be zero carbon by 2017. Sutton council has engaged the whole community in the work, aiming to enable a zero-carbon lifestyle by 2025.

Keywords: One Planet Living, suburb, ecological footprint, energy efficiency, retrofitting

The London borough of Sutton shows what suburbs on the periphery of mega-cities can do for the environment. This southwest London borough also demonstrates the potential of cooperation between a city and an NGO. These past two decades Sutton has been home to BioRegional, an entrepreneurial charity that develops local, practical solutions for sustainable development. In the beginning BioRegional worked with local environmental projects, including recycling in closed-loop systems, revitalisation of lavender production, recycling of wood waste, and support for the local production of charcoal, with the goal of creating a culture for local and regional resource and waste management.

One Planet Living
The Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED) housing project in Hackbridge, Sutton, which BioRegional developed together with WWF at the turn of the millennium, became the prototype for One Planet Living. BioRegional has continued to act as a planning consultant on nearly a dozen newly constructed sustainable residential estates. Four projects have been fully endorsed as One Planet Communities to date: One Brighton, One Gallions, Sonoma Mountain Village and Mata de Sesimbra. BioRegional's One Planet initiatives also includes One Planet Regions where it cooperates with cities, municipalities and districts that are embracing the principles of One Planet Living.

Ambitious plan of action
In 2008 BioRegional endorsed Sutton as the first One Planet Region. Leading up to the decision was a new plan of action, drawn up in collaboration with BioRegional and based on the principles of One Planet Living. The Sutton Council is now working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 80% as early as 2025. Other targets include zero carbon for all municipal buildings by 2017, and zero carbon for the whole community “enabled” by 2025 (see also Adelaide, Sønderborg and Växjö). The inhabitants of Sutton have participated in the formulation of the plan, which aims at reducing the environmental impact of energy, water, and waste, and the utilisation of sustainable materials. Sutton Council and BioRegional are also encouraging and supporting continued participation of residents and local business. Annual assessments to ensure the achievement of targets are carried out.

The plan has been integrated with Sutton's earlier environmental projects and includes practical activities in all 10 principles of One Planet Living. This means energy efficiency programmes, transition to renewable energy consumption, public transport and cycling, local farming, biodiversity, fair trade, waste management, sustainable materials, sustainable water management, culture and health. Both the private and public sectors can participate in workshops with companies and organisations, accessible through the One Planet Sutton website. There is potential for dissemination through Sutton's collaborative efforts with neighbouring boroughs, for example in traffic planning and waste separation. Smarter Travel Sutton is UK's largest programme for altering travel habits.

Sustainable suburb
The suburb of Hackbridge has been selected by Sutton and BioRegional as a pilot project for the entire plan. Hackbridge is not only home to BedZED, but also to three of the poorest communities in Sutton. A new master plan for Hackbridge has been worked out in cooperation with the public. The objective of this is to transform Hackbridge into a sustainable suburb with a new town centre, job opportunities, sustainable transport, green areas, 1,500 new sustainable residencies, and supportive counselling for energy efficiency in existing housing. When the plan was approved in 2009 it had the support of more than 90% of the residents. Several projects are now being carried out in Hackbridge, including a campaign to make the district's businesses greener through energy efficiency measures and improved waste management.

Energy efficiency in homes
Sutton Council and BioRegional have several projects for improving energy efficiency in homes.
  • Residents in Hackbridge were offered some free basic measures, such as attic insulation and low-energy light bulbs, as well as instructions on how to save energy. This was part of a larger programme for 10 selected areas in London.
  • An experimental programme involves three nearly identical residences in Sutton. In house 1 a change in the behaviour of the residents is tested. House 2 receives some basic energy efficiency measures incorporated as well. House 3 receives an extensive One Planet Living makeover. Continued monitoring will allow BioRegional to compare cost and efficiency of the different measures.
  • In the Pay as You Save (PAYS) programme, Sutton Council, BioRegional, and B&Q, a home improvement retailer, tried a UK government scheme in Sutton. The project introduced an innovative method of financing: loans were to be paid back via the savings from energy efficiency, aiming for no overall increased costs for the residents of the house (see also Berlin, Houston and Stockholm). The test contributed to a bank of knowledge, assisting a projected large-scale launch of Pay as You Save. Over 67 households in Sutton took part testing 12 different measures.
  • Sutton and BioRegional are also active in RE:NEW, a major collaborative project to provide Londoners free, basic energy-saving measures. The future of RE:NEW is now uncertain however, due to the new government’s budget cuts.

“Sutton announced as UK’s most ambitious green borough”, BioRegional, December 3 2008,

London Borough of Sutton, One Planet Living,

One Planet Sutton,

London Development Agency, "We're making London's homes more energy efficient through RE:NEW"

One Planet Vision, “One Planet Living framework”,

Text by: Martin Jacobson

© Martin Jacobson
Map Sutton One Planet Living
Low Carbon Zone, Sutton
© Martin Jacobson