50 Shades of Green

There seems to be an incredibly broad spectrum of what people consider green.

 

Here are a few of my observations:

The yuppie greenie: $30k hybrids, $20k solar panels, $5 boxes of non-gmo, organic mac ‘n cheese.

The hippie greenie: Thrift stores, dumpster diving, veganism.

The homestead greenie: Self sufficiency, living off the grid, the ultimate DIY-ers.

The luddite greenie: Living off the natural ecosystem, lack of permanent residence, hunter/gatherer type.

The no impact greenie: Zero waste, plastic-free, carbon-neutral.

 

These are obviously over generalizations and over labeling, and most people, such as myself, are in a combination of categories. I personally can relate with the sentiments of each category, and all are noble, but are they sustainable? Can we ask that everyone shell out tens of thousands of dollars for solar panels? Don’t hybrids still promote obesity and sprawl? Can we suggest everyone risk rummaging through a dumpster? Is it likely or even healthy for the mass population to give up meat? Is it possible to have zero waste in a modern world? Can we expect the modern domesticated human to live off the land or isolate themselves in a homestead in the woods?

Most importantly, does the average greenie think about the tradeoffs of their choices?

 

Let’s look at a different category. A category which is much more doable and scalable by the mass population, as proven with the current popularity of blogs and books.

The simple living greenie: Work/life balance; early retirement; financial independence; part time work; sabbaticals; frugality, minimalism, slow food, slow travel; active transportation; muscle over motor.

 

What the simple living greenie is not:

The simple living greenie doesn’t make declarations that they can’t keep, such as zero or neutral. They don’t look for expensive alternative technologies and products, but rather reduce. They know they are not perfect. They know that putting too many restrictions on a modern lifestyle can be stressful, draining and sometimes unhealthy. They are not promoting a ‘one size fits all’ solution, because simple living and eco-friendly living looks different for everyone. These are the people who don’t like to label themselves  with any one particular trend or crowd, but rather they make a lifestyle that suits their values.

They care for the environment, but are not doom and gloom or judgmental to others.

 

What the simple living greenie is:

They know they need stuff in a modern world, and the amount of stuff differs from person to person, but they are designing a modern life to put people, time and experiences before stuff… even ‘green’ stuff. They know that meeting emotional and physiological needs are ultimately more important than either ‘being green’ or the mindless accumulation of consumer goods. They find enjoyment in solving problems by doing, rather than paying. They value purpose over a paycheck.

They know that many people really don’t want to be green, but want to save green and be happier and healthier.

 

In summary:

They don’t deprive or restrict themselves, but rather choose the simplest, lowest impact lifestyle to create freedom and maximum effect for themselves, not for societal conformity. This is sustainable.

 

What are your thoughts? Is simple the new green?

 

 

8 Ways I use the ‘F’ Word

No, I’m not talking about that F-word, but rather a different four letter word: FREE.

I’ve been told by many people that I am a free spirit. If you ever saw the movie Shawshank Redemption, you might remember when Red said that Andy is one of those birds that just aren’t meant to be caged.

That’s me. I can’t be caged. I used to be caged… caught up in the cycle of cubicle captivity and the commuter curse. Not anymore.

Gandhi was a big believer that simple living is the fastest way to freedom.

I agree. When I started living simply, I realized that I didn’t need a 6-figure salary, so I freed myself.

1. I’m free from the alarm clock. I don’t think it is natural to wake up to literally an ‘alarming noise’ while in a deep sleep. Additionally, waking up while it is still dark is not natural and to keep a good circadian rythm, we should get out into direct sunlight as soon as possible after waking. This is very hard to do with a full time office job. Now, I work on my terms.

2. I’m free from car ownership. When cars first came out and just a few people owned them, then yes, they could signify freedom. But with traffic and urban sprawl, they are now considered a nuisance to many people. Walking is a wonderful activity that, as humans, we need. This is not something that is just recommended, but there is an innate mind-body connection with our gaits and being aware of our surroundings that is important for deep, holistic health. Being free of a car means that I get more than ample time walking outdoors and contemplating. For longer treks, there are planes, trains and rental automobiles.

3. I’m free from the gripping hold of electronics. Yes, I use electronics, and probably too often. However, I try to look at electronics as just another tool for work and entertainment, and I actively try to avoid the plague of constant connectivity. Have you ever seen someone lose a phone? They have a panic stricken reaction like they lost their child. I don’t have a Smartphone and I am not on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. A couple of years ago when my contract ran out, I decided to go a year without any cell phone. If someone wanted to reach me, it could only be at home. If my computer needs repair, I go to the library to use the public computers instead of get anxious while it is being repaired. I sometimes write with just pen and paper to give my screentime a rest and simplify my routine. I rarely use my computer on the weekends. I read 2-4 books a week, always in their physical form.

4. I’m free from the gym. I used to be a gym rat for years and years. I would drive the measly mile to get to the gym to go on the treadmill and do weights on my ‘scheduled body parts’ for that day. Then I found authors like Mark Sisson and Katy Bowman. I have now switched over to performing full body functional movements outdoors instead of spending my time and money on equipment that puts our bodies in unnatural positions and isolates muscles. Additionally, movement should be done throughout the day instead of in a one hour power packed session. I may not have the sculpted physique of a bodybuilder, but I have more energy, more strength, more flexibility, more speed, more calmness and an overall feeling of better holistic health and wellness than when I was a gym rat.

5. I’m free from vacations. I can travel the world on my terms. Not, on a 3-week a year basis. I don’t have to ask for permission. I don’t even need “vacations” because I’m not stuck in a mind-numbing job trapped inside for 40+ hours a week. Plus, I get bored with luxury vacations. Instead, I travel for extended periods and plan to volunteer and work overseas for better cultural immersion.  I travel for experience, not to ‘get away from it all’ or to be pampered by the locals.

6. I’m free from stuff. Yes, I still have some stuff, but when I was married to my first husband, we had a lot of toys…. his and hers motorcycles, we each had a road bike and a mountain bike, hiking equipment, camping equipment, hang gliders, airplanes, hot tub, fancy sports cars, etc… I’m not joking. Guess what? I wasn’t happy and we are divorced. Now, I live simply and minimally with my current husband and I am much more content. I can rent or borrow anything I need to have any experience I want in almost any place on the planet.

7. I’m free from my coffee addiction. I used to be one of these people who couldn’t think about anything else but coffee the minute I woke up. It wasn’t even just the caffeine, it was the smell, the percolating sound, the robust flavor, the warmth. It was a habit that I wanted to break. Now, I enjoy myself a cup at a nice cafe, but I don’t need it for energy first thing in the morning. I don’t drink it every day and I don’t drink it at home. I feel much more in control of my consumption now and that is important to me. It is now a treat instead of a ‘need’.

8. I’m free from the (not so) great indoors. Since I work because I want to and not because I have to, I don’t need to be stuck in a cubicle all day. I can get my healthy dose of sun everyday and plenty of exercise outdoors. I have the time and lifestyle that allows me to acclimate to some pretty extreme temperature swings, so I’m not generally stuck indoors in the middle of a heat spell or a winter wonderland.

How anyone can be free: Live simply. Always know when you have enough.

Here is a story I found on the internet:

At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut tells his friend, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history.

Heller said, “Yes, but I have something he will never have: Enough.”

How about you? Are you free? Or does something, someone or a constant want have a hold on you?

Do You Have Presenteeism?

What is Presenteeism?

This is a term that is similar to absenteeism. Absenteeism is excessive time off work from being physically sick or needing mental health days. Presenteeism is when a person attends work, but is not physically, mentally or emotionally well. So, even though the individual doesn’t take time off, they are not very productive.

Presenteeism in this context is not typically acute, from say, a cancer patient, who is battling illness, but rather in a chronic sense from our modern over stressed lifestyles that drain our mind, body and spirit. Presenteeism can impact more than our work lives… it can infiltrate to our personal lives as well.

There are various reasons and reactions to presenteeism in different individuals:

From our work:
– long commutes
– uninspiring work places
– creativity killing jobs
– long work hours and sedentary living
– spending more time in an office rather than in nature

From our personal lives:
– family members spending time mostly in separate rooms
– mindless eating
– constant distraction from TV, internet and video games
– checking our smartphones instead of talking to our children
– more friends online than in real life
– isolation from our neighbors
– fear of the ‘what-ifs’
– consumer debt

From our environment:
– noise, air and water pollution
– chemicals in our food, personal care products and furnishings
– societal expectations that don’t favor individualism or non-conformity

I must admit that I am affected by more than one of these. But I have found that simple living is mindful living… being present… trying to make conscious choices that bring value to myself and others and improves my health, wealth and happiness instead of draining my energy, my bank account or my spirit.

There is no ‘one size fits all’, and we can’t control everything listed above, so everyone needs to find what works for them.

A simple exercise for me is to look at each category and see what brings me value and what drains me, while slowly making changes. For example…

– I love being car-free. I get exercise, sun and time in nature instead of road rage.

– I don’t use Facebook, but I love the online blogging community and I try to balance it with local in person communities of friends and family.

– I don’t have a smartphone because being constantly connected can be more of a distractor of mindful living than a value to me.

– I climbed down the corporate ladder, to have more control over my time and work.

And sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing. Einstein was a big believer of quiet time, contemplation and simple living. And look what he accomplished!

How about you? Are you living with Presenteeism? Or, are you living mindfully on your own terms?

Climbing Down the Corporate Ladder

I first heard the term “lattice” replacing “corporate ladder” through The Center for a New American Dream.

Here is what many people experience when they think they want to climb up the corporate ladder: fierce competition, working ungodly hours, office politics, soul sucking cubicles, creativity crushing rules and loss of interest in their work.

Here is what working on the lattice can bring: purpose, value to others, collaboration, working on one’s own terms and exploring talents, skills and creativity to the fullest.

Let me first say that the corporate rat race isn’t like that all the time to all people. And corporate jobs can provide a nice financial backing, but for many people, they want out sooner rather than later.

So, with a small amount of investing, a healthy emergency fund and simple living, people are learning to jump off the corporate ladder to pursue more meaningful work. You can call it early retirement, semi-retirement or financial independence, but the lattice has become my word of choice.

The beauty of the lattice is that it can help those in the corporate rat race jump off sooner, rather than waiting for complete financial independence… or a complete health breakdown.

The lattice can be working part time, freelancing, creative pursuits, working for a non-profit, investing, landlording, tutoring, working overseas, working seasonally, homesteading, fixing or building, coaching … or maybe it is just taking time off between jobs such as sabbaticals or mini-retirements.

The lattice can help us slow down, live more mindfully and reduce our collective environmental footprint.

Living simply can get us off the ladder and over to the lattice much sooner, while enjoying life more.

I do admit though that we have a challenge on our hands with our modern corporate workforce. Many companies want ‘loyal’ full time employees instead of freelancers or part time workers. Employers question gaps on resumes. They seem to want to hire competitive people who want to move up the ladder. I’m hoping the Millennial generation will change this!

What are your thoughts? Do you think the corporations will start to change to offer more flexible working terms?

Where are you at in life? Are you on the corporate ladder, the lattice or FIRE’d?

Is Self Worth the New Net Worth?

Many people like to track their net worth and their expenses on a regular basis. I personally think this is an excellent idea, however, while healthy finances are important, as humans, we generally long for more in life, such as healthy bodies, meaningful communities and a sense of purpose. Sometimes our pursuit of increasing net worth can interfere with these intrinsic values.

So, instead of just focusing on increasing net worth, how about we start by increasing self worth first and then integrate net worth?

Instead of focusing purely on a particular income and comparing ourselves to our peers, could our society value pursuing activities and businesses that bring more purpose to our lives and to the lives of others?

With simple (low cost) living, could we move to a workforce that values part time professionals who have time for healthy eating, exercise and meaningful relationships?

Can we value cooperation over competition?

Can we start to value sabbaticals for creative and meaningful pursuits, instead of worrying about a gap on our resumes?

Can we create “no-brainer” budgets by coveting people, time and creative pursuits over shopping?

Can we find more happiness in volunteering rather than keeping up with the Jones’?

Can we value the conservation of resources and eco-system services over mindless consumption?

Think of it this way: If you knew your time was limited on this planet, would you look back at your life and value the money sitting in your account, or would you value how you made a positive difference in the world? Well, all of our lives are limited, so while it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build up healthy finances, we need to take care of our intrinsic and physiological needs as well.

How about you? Does your self worth match your net worth?