Happiness and Budgeting for Simple Living
Green consumption is an intelligent response to many of the problems caused by our affluent society. On one level it is a way of taking personal responsibility for our impact on the planet.
And more personally, ethical, intelligent consumption is a positive step towards our own happiness, offering a simpler, less stressful way of life and greater freedom.
Whether the primary motivation is personal responsibility, cutting greenhouse emissions, budgeting for simple living, or the pursuit of authentic happiness, green consumption can deliver!
Every Time You Open Your Wallet…
Every time you open your wallet to buy something you:
- Cast a vote for or against the environment
- Spend a part of your finite lifetime
Is Your Vote FOR or AGAINST the Environment?
Our personal impact on the planet is largely proportional to our overall level of consumption. Indeed, our ecological footprint is determined by how much (more than what) we consume and then dispose of.
Humanity is reaching the limits to the world’s finite resources.
Simply put, we are running out of stuff!
It amazes me that as a civilization we still aren’t questioning our fixation with economic growth and consumption!
Nevertheless, ravenous First World consumption (much of it afforded by exploitation of the Third World) IS the main issue confronting global sustainability.
The problem is NOT primarily over-population…
How can it be when the rich 20% minority of the world’s people consume more than half its resources and account for more than half of humanity’s collective planetary impact?
As Robert Muller, retired Assistant Secretary-General of the UN, said:
can make to the planet is a return to frugality.”
Though it accepted green consumption practice to replace your incandescent lights with compact fluorescents, with either option you are still consuming! Though a hybrid car is kinder to the planet than a SUV, its manufacture and running still exact a heavy toll on the earth and load up your ecological impact.
Though it might make you feel good, virtuous, positive… the sad truth is that actions short of frugal living such as changing light bulbs and refusing plastic shopping bags is just fiddling with the edges!
If you want to do something decisive about global warming, or indeed any global sustainability issue, slash your consumption!
You can learn straightaway how to cut your household energy consumption with our energy trimmer guide.
If You Must Consume, Do it Consciously…
Even so, conscious, green consumption is a start. Even more, where we spend is how we cast our vote to manufacturers and retailers to lift their game toward cleaner more eco-friendly products and production processes.
Money talks! What is yours saying about your values?
Principles of Eco-efficient, Green Consumption
• Buy local:
Transport uses fuel, causing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Whether you are buying food, appliances, materials or clothes, or want to go on a holiday somewhere, always give the locally derived versions higher preference.
>>> Buy locally produced food >>>
• Borrow, hire or buy second hand:
Does every home need a lawnmower, or every farm a tractor? A lot of our big ticket equipment sits idle in the shed most of the time and gets little use. Cooperation with neighbors, family and friends (or equipment hire firms) to share equipment reduces our ecological footprint.
If you must buy, at least buy second-hand and give an old item a new lease of useful life rather than relegate it to polluting trash and require the Earth to produce yet another one.
• Choose recycled, recyclable and renewable products:
In the energy and resources it uses, recycling has some impact on the earth. However, this is usually minimal compared to the impact of producing it again new. For example, recycling glass uses as little as a quarter of the energy of first-time glass and recycled aluminium can cut energy costs by up to 95 per cent.
Recycling also reduces the waste that would otherwise have to be disposed of by incineration or land fill.
In a world of dwindling resources, it is also wise to choose items produced from renewable resources. Plantation timber, for example, is renewable whereas natural forest timbers are not. Alternative energy is renewable, oil, coal, gas and nuclear power are not.
• Choose efficient products: green consumption green consumption
With any goods, the most efficient models can be a little more expensive to purchase. But have you thought about the “second price tag” of what it costs you to run the item over the years that you have it?
An energy efficient family refrigerator can save $600 in lower running costs over its 12 year lifetime (plus 4.6 tons less greenhouse gas emissions). If it costs $200 more to buy, is it really more expensive?
With cars the maths add up even faster. For example, a fuel efficient 2.0 litre family sedan can be $600 cheaper to run than a low efficiency model of the same size and appearance.
Imagine how much you’d save if everything you bought was the most efficient available?
• Choose less packaging:
Packaging itself takes energy and materials to make, and creates instant waste when disposed of. Buying whole foods in bulk, choosing brands that don’t over-package, and using your own re-usable bags when shopping all help here.
• Buy items designed to last and look after them:
When I was a child, if a shirt lost a button, then Granny dived into her button jar and found one to replace it. These days most people would throw the shirt out! Back then we didn’t have a lot of toys, but those we did have were strong and durable – not the plastic rubbish plaguing the market today that breaks and turns into landfill after a week or so.
Rather than following every fad that comes along, choose what you buy with a view to keeping it for a long time. Quality, well-made items may cost a bit more, but are a good investment if you take good care of them. Learn to maintain the stuff you have.
Is your sewing machine due for a drop of oil? Have you left your tools out in the rain? Looking after stuff with proper storage, use and maintenance extends its useful life, saves you money, and is kinder to the planet.
• Choose non-toxic products and methods:
It takes a fair degree of self-education to be able to assess and choose least toxic products and services. However, since your choices will often directly affect your personal health, it is a good investment!
Take paint for instance. The manufacture of the normal petrochemical-based paints is not only energy intensive, but also produces 10 to 30 times more toxic waste than paint. At the use stage, paint off-gases more toxins, and after use, disposing of leftovers adds further pollution to the environment. Non-toxic (e.g. lime washes) or lower toxicity (e.g. water soluble rather than oil based) paints are clearly a better choice.
Similarly, choose organic foods over non-organic, non-toxic beauty and personal care products (most of them are toxic!), green cleaning over chemical cleaning, and natural pest control over chemical pest control. Be thoughtful about the building and renovating materials you choose – many are highly toxic for years after installation, especially carpets, glues, pressed timbers, plastics and yes… paints.
• Buy only as much as you need to do the job:
Dust off your tape measure and calculator and do some sums before going out to buy materials. Only buy what you need to complete the job! Anything left over that is not reused is a waste of the world!
• Dispose of thoughtfully:
View all your throw-aways with a thought to the resources that had to be mobilized to produce them, and could profitably be recycled. Old batteries, mobile telephones, and oil are good examples. Divert such items to proper recycling stations.
Food wastes should never be put in the rubbish. In landfill they contribute around 9% to the average western person’s greenhouse gas emissions due to the production of methane by anaerobic decomposition. Instead they can be valuably used at home to feed pets, create compost, grow worm castings, or produce eggs.
HOW MUCH OF YOUR LIFE WILL YOU SPEND TODAY?
Like the Earth’s resources, the hours of our lives are finite. We trade much of that limited time to work so we can get money to buy things. Many get trapped in a cycle of high personal debt, financial stress, long working hours, little time with family and less for themselves.
The fact is, despite our affluence, we are no happier.
In their book “Your Money or Your Life”, Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin outline some steps for putting this important issue into perspective:
How Many Hours are You $pending?
To work this out you have to work out your real hourly wage by taking off all the costs and adding in the extra hours associated with earning it. Say your wage is $22 an hour, and after tax you get to take home $15/hour.
If you average that wage over the additional 15 hours a week taken up in preparing for work and commuting, then it drops to about $11 an hour.
If the costs you incurred in earning that wage (travel, clothes, bought lunches, that bottle of scotch you need for unwinding, and such) amount to $200, then this brings your real hourly wage close to $7 an hour.
So, in this scenario, every time you spend $7 you use up an hour of your precious life energy!
So, Before You Buy Ask Yourself… Is it worth it?
Will that item you are thinking of buying contribute enough to your quality of life to make up for the time you had to invest to earn the money to pay for it?
If you ask yourself:
Will it make me happier in the long run?
Is it taking me in the direction of my larger life purpose?
…every penny spent will make a positive contribution to your quality of life.
How Much is Enough?
Rational consumption starts with an understanding of the dynamics of material gratification.
Securing basic survival needs (food, clothing and shelter) and comforts (adequate education, health care, transportation and amenities) gives huge gratification.
But the further we go beyond aquiring basic necessities, the further the fulfillment we derive from each increment of consumption wanes.
While we might get a little (often short-lived) thrill when we buy or show-off those diamond earrings, the payoff of better quality of life, for life hours spent is not very high!
Long after the thrill is gone we are still paying for them. Not only that, we now have more to insure, store, protect, feel guilty over, clean, maintain, repair, and worry about! These are quality of life downers…
Somewhere past the point of having “enough”, having more actually lowers our personal well-being!
The Benefits of Finding Our “Enough” Point
Learning to limit your spending to your personal “enough” point yields a lot of benefits.
• Financial Security
Saving up and paying cash avoids debt and the interest charges associated with it. Building up savings creates a safety net for rainy days, and allows you to invest and put money to work for you. Once financially secure you are also free of financial stress and worry.
• Better Relationships
Less consumption allows shorter working hours, less family stress around money, and healthier families. Economizing by sharing skills and equipment resources with neighbors and friends builds community.
• A More Sustainable World
When we get out of debt, build financial security and rebalance our lives we consume less. By preserving our resources we demand less of the Earth’s resources.
By becoming good stewards of our personal life energy we are also saving the life energy of the earth, living within our own means and the means of the earth.
Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself…
Chief Seattle, 1854