From the Carbon Savvy newsletter – some pointers to how we can live a bit better:
Quality of Life
Doing more of the things you love reduces your carbon footprint
– Photo courtesy of @bejaminmanley, Unsplash
Happy New Year!
For many, this is a time for reflection and resolutions. Often these focus on doing good for others, but at Carbon Savvy we believe in being ‘wisely selfish’, as the Dalai Lama says. We think genuinely improving your own quality of life ends up benefiting others and the environment too.
Our society claims to be offering a high quality of life. But what is quality of life exactly? And are we successful in achieving it?
Is it a happy planet?
The Happy Planet index rates countries on how efficiently they provide a high quality of life. Their calculation is Well being multiplied by Lifespan divided by Ecological Footprint. Costa Rica is world no. 1, UK no. 14, USA no. 122, and Mexico no. 23.
Focussing on wellbeing, Costa Rica scores 7.00 on the ‘ladder of wellbeing’; the USA 6.94, and UK 7.15. But Costa Rica has half the carbon footprint! Why are we using so much more of the planet’s resources for so little gain? Maybe we need to look more closely at what delivers quality of life.
Comfort and pleasure
When Lord Byron said, “Comfort must not be expected by those who go a-pleasuring”, he made a clear distinction between comfort and pleasure. Standard of living discussions tend to be more connected with comfort, but quality of life is something deeper than this. It includes practicalities like the quality of our air, water, and food. It also includes the quality of our relationships and security. It is distinct from happiness, which is a mood that can fluctuate, but a high quality of life does support greater happiness more of the time.
What makes us happy?
Psychologists say that things which don’t make us happy include money, material possessions, intelligence, and education. Whereas the things that make us the happiest start with family and relationships, and include meaningful work, positive thinking, giving to others and good health. As it happens, many of the things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint also improve our health, relationships, and positivity.
Try this quick exercise about your quality of life: Think of three things you’d like to do to improve your quality of life: one tomorrow, one next week and one in the next year. They need to be achievable things that you might genuinely do (for example, go outside for five minutes before breakfast). Do this before reading further.
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Have you got your three things? Based on what you know, would you say these three things have a low or high carbon footprint?
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Usually, the only one that gets chosen that increases carbon footprints is flying abroad to travel in another country. But it is not the flight that will improve your quality of life, it is the travel experience, and there are often more low carbon ways to achieve that.
Activities that create the most CO2 are driving cars, heating homes, flying planes, manufacturing, and transport. So in a low carbon lifestyle, you live closer to work, insulate your home, take the train on holiday, buy quality products and eat local food. Exercise improves your mood, fresh food improves health, and quality products save time and money. Life in 2050 will be similar to today – but we’ll waste less energy and be healthier and happier!
We wish you a year full of things that improve your quality of life,
Mukti and the Carbon Savvy team