Bridget Jones generation will have 'serious impact on the environment'

The growing number of individuals choosing to live alone is putting increasing strain on land, water and energy resources and sending emissions and waste levels soaring.

This is the verdict of a paper published by Dr Jo Williams of the UCL Bartlett School of Planning this week, which also points to possible solutions to the impending crisis.

As might be expected, those living alone are statistically the biggest consumers of all manner of resources and the number of one person households is, through choice or circumstance, rapidly rising.

Historically most 'solo livers' have been pensioners, often widows, or young men often bridging the gap between leaving their family home and starting their own family.

Neither of these groups tended to have the wealth to be big consumers.

But the popularity of the 'Bridget Jones' lifestyle - affluent and single - is having an increasing impact on the environment.

But according to the report, Innovative solutions for averting a potential resource crisis - the case of one-person households in England and Wales changing trends have seen a large number of people, particularly men between 35 and 45, choose the singleton life and the joys of the bachelor pad, potentially putting a further strain on resources.

"Living alone is becoming a more permanent lifestyle option, particularly among men," said Dr Williams in her report.

"Current trends show that one-person households are growing more rapidly than other types of household.

"Previously, the typical one-person householder was the widow, often on a tight budget and thrifty. The rise in younger, wealthier one-person households is having an increasingly serious impact on the environment."

Innovative solutions are needed, she said, such as promoting more communal living and sharing of resources for those who find themselves forced to live alone and low impact housing for those who do so by choice.

"We have identified possible opportunities which arise out of the group's expansion and diversification," she said.

"For example, the rise in one-person households is expected to account for 72 per cent of annual household growth between 2003 and 2026 according to government statistics.

"This means that, as part of the planned housing programme for England and Wales, there is a real opportunity to house this group in ecological new builds that are prestigious, well-designed, state-of-the-art and environmentally sound.

"'Regretful loners', who are forced into living alone by circumstance, create demand for more collaborative lifestyles, such as more widespread co-housing schemes, where you have private space such as a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen but share some living and storage areas.

"It allows people to share household chores such as cooking, DIY and gardening, share goods such as tools and consume less energy."

The report also suggests an 'occupancy tax' which would introduce financial penalties for wasting space, relocation packages, educational programmes and publicity campaigns to highlight the environmental impact of living alone in an effort to reduce the numbers of people choosing to do so.

Sam Bond



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