Modelling Mata de Sesimbra’s Ecological Footprint

BioRegional is in the process of completing ecological footprint modelling for Portugal’s Mata de Sesimbra One Planet Community , and we are unearthing some very interesting results and challenges, such as – How many holidays would a sustainable resource budget allow a European resident?

Located just south of Lisbon, Mata de Sesimbra is a €1 billion integrated development from Greenwoods Ecoresorts, which brings together permanent and holiday accommodation, a nature conservation and forestation program and a sustainable transportation concept.

The findings

BioRegional has modelled the potential ecological footprint of three types of people:

The Ecological Footprint Breakdown for an Average Portuguese resident

-          a permanent family of 4

-           a ‘second home’ family travelling from a number of destinations;

-          a family coming for a short holiday.

For permanent residents, initial modelling suggests that it would be possible to live within a One Planet ecological footprint budget. One of the biggest challenges in achieving this surrounds the issue of food. In Portugal, food accounts for a very high percentage of the ecological footprint. As is often the case, it is a challenging area to make significant reductions in and actions are required in terms of both diet choices and product sourcing.

How visitors travel to the site lies outside the developer’s direct control and therefore they are unable to make firm commitments about footprint reductions, nonetheless this has been modelled due to its likely significant impact and to identify strategies to reduce it. This analysis shows that:

-          The transport impact of visitors will range widely depending on where they travel from and their mode of transport;

-          A holiday at Mata de Sesimbra can be part of an overall sustainable lifestyle for people living in Europe (assuming that they are living a One Planet Lifestyle at home). How frequently a ‘one planet’ budget allows an individual to visit varies from annual multi-trips to once every six years depending on how they travel and from where. For example:

  • a tourist travelling by train from Madrid could visit up to four times a year;
  • a UK holiday maker travelling by train can enjoy a one-week stay twice a year;
  • for Swedish tourists travelling by plane, their ‘budget’ could allow them to visit once every six years.

It should be noted that this figures are indicative and will depend entirely on the lifestyle of the tourist, both at home and when on holiday, but they are useful for giving an idea of target markets and potential promotions that could be used to encourage sustainable transport.

What this means for the development of Mata de Sesimbra

These findings will have an impact on two main issues:

-          the design of Mata de Sesimbra; and

-          the strategic market positioning of the development.

In terms of design, the analysis has raised issues around how to create a sense of community in a development with a large transitory population, and how to educate people (specifically tourists) about food and their diet.

The architects, Fosters + Partners, have responded to this by clustering residences, developing a strategy to integrate food growing into the site and creating a ‘food experience’.

Concerning the market positioning of the development, the analysis has supported a strategy to increase the number of permanent residents as well as encouraging local tourists – both will help to reduce long-haul flights. It has also opened up the discussion of how partnerships could be developed with rail providers to encourage the use of more sustainable modes of transport.

Elena Bertarelli at Fosters and Partners commented:”The Ecological Footprint analysis of residents really opened our eyes to the impact of lifestyles and specifically food. To respond to this we have sought opportunities to incorporate food growing into the design with productive landscape areas that can either be managed by local farmers or residents as well as proposing an array of spaces for food experience activities for residents and visitors e.g. growing food to cooking it and eating it. Similarly the site’s transport strategy and the car parking plan is driven by the twin aims of creating high quality external communal space and encouraging non-car means of travel”.

Read more about the project.