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Only X More Shopping Days…

All human toil is for the mouth, yet the appetite is not satisfied. ~Ecclesiastes 6:7 NRSV Bible

The countdown to purchase is on. Only X more shopping days… Buy Now! Pay Later! Don’t be caught dead with yesterday’s fashion or gadget. The one who dies with the most toys wins! Sound familiar?

In last week’s blog I discussed the free ecosystem goods and services upon which our economies—and our lives—are totally dependent. Yet our constant demand for more “stuff” is straining ecosystems to the breaking point. Can we live well, and be happy, without breaking the bank or wrecking the planet? Studies increasingly show that we can.

First, we have to differentiate between money and happiness. Once we have achieved a certain level of material comfort, more money does not buy additional happiness. Or, as John Ruskin (1819–1900) so eloquently put it, “Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness.”

One important study shows a notable difference between extrinsic happiness (e.g., wealth, fame) and intrinsic happiness (e.g., meaningful relationships, personal growth). While achieving intrinsic goals led to higher self-esteem and a greater sense of well-being, adding extrinsic wealth and fame actually led to more unhappiness! A study co-author noted, “The more people achieve their extrinsic goals, the more ‘they tend to feel like pawns, like they're on a treadmill running forever and they’re not really in charge of themselves.’ They miss out on the things that are important.”[i]

So—if more money and more stuff fail to make us happier, what does? Sharing stuff![ii] Think about it: Sharing cars, tools, even our living and working spaces can hit all of those intrinsic happiness buttons like meaningful relationships and personal growth. Sharing stuff also means we need less stuff, which could give the planet a vitally important “breather,” given that we just topped seven billion consumers and could be headed toward 10 billion by 2050.

There you have it: Join a carpool.[iii] Start a neighborhood “tool library.”[iv] Consider sharing your job,[v] your home,[vi] even your life.[vii] Chances are, you’ll be happier for it, and you’ll be doing your part to save this great spaceship called Earth, your fellow astronauts, and yourself.

“A wise man does not accumulate for himself. The more he uses for others, the more he has himself. The more he gives to others, the more he possesses of his own. The way of heaven is to benefit others and not to injure.” ~Lao-Tzu (c. B.C. 550)

Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.