December 31, 2013

May 2014 Be A Wiser Year

"Our present behaviour not only diminishes the planet but it also diminishes us. As our tiny measure of time ticks off another year, we need to weigh our small gains and accomplishments against our great failings and losses. 

Maybe 2014 will be a wiser year."

December 30, 2013

Resolve To Do Less Monday

A New Year's resolution is a promise that you make to yourself, to do more of something good or less of  something bad, on the first day of the year (and often, for not much longer). One reason many fail to implement resolutions long term is because life is already so busy.

What a way to start a new year - by adding more to a busy schedule. So this year, resolve to do less.

Instead of adding things, resolve to take things off your lists. So much of what we do are furtive attempts to distract, or are attempts to live up to external, questionable expectations of society.

Stopping such things will enhance your new year instead of burdening it. Resolve to do less and end up living more.

December 27, 2013

To Live Is To Love

Me and the lovely Linda on a hike to a local beach.

"To live is to love. Everything else is just details."

- Paulo Coelho

I could declutter almost 100% of my stuff from my life. Everything, that is, except Linda. She's a keeper.

Linda is the best friend I have ever had. Since our fortunate meeting 27 years ago I have been enjoying her company and her love.

If you are lucky enough to have even one truly loving relationship in your life you have something precious. You have something that can not be found in any store or catalogue. Something  that can not be bought with any amount of money.

I suspect that the more love one has in one's life, the less inclined they would be to focus on material acquisitions. When I am with Linda it feels like I could live on nothing more than her company, her wit, and her love.

My wish is for everyone to experience an abundance of love in the new year. To get you started, Linda and I are sharing our love with all of you right now, for to live is to love, and to love is to live.

We love you. Yes, you.

December 24, 2013

Happy Ho! Ho! Ho!

This isn't your grandmother's Christmas - our traditions are changing in small ways all the time. Nothing is written in stone. They are more like etchings in ice.

People are altering their winter celebrations so they do less harm and honour their intended purpose, which is usually bringing us together as one human family.

Happy Green Christmas. LOL, LOL, LOL.

December 23, 2013

Putting The Planet First Monday

Good things happen when we put the planet at the centre of everything.
"We can pay the ecological debt by changing economic models, and by giving up luxury consumption, setting aside selfishness and individualism, and thinking about the people and the planet."

- Evo Morales
There is a new show in town that is re-establishing ancient, planet-based living. Fantastic things are happening as awareness grows and we leave old, outdated ways behind us.

The old hierarchy of what-is-important-in-life was all backwards. It put the least important thing at the centre, and the most important out in the periphery. This faulty world view enriched a small elite while creating great harm for the planet and all life on it.

Old Hierarchy
  1. Finance 
  2. Economy
  3. Society
  4. Planet
A new world view that turns the old hierarchy on its head has gained momentum as the drawbacks of the old order become clear. The new vision restores the planet to its rightful place at the centre of all that is important. 

With Mother Earth at the centre of everything, she is healed, and so are we.

New Hierarchy
  1. Planet
  2. Society
  3. Economy
  4. Finance
Welcome to the new order that puts the planet first and is restoring harmony and balance. This is the new show in town, and there is no audience - we are all actors.

Let's work together to give this play we call Life a happy ending.

Nature Is My Religion

Nature is my religion. The Earth is my temple.

December 20, 2013

Simplify The Holidays

“I was thinking recently about what I remember most about my grand-parents, and I realized that I don’t remember a single gift they gave me as a child. Instead, I remember the time that I spent with them.”      
— Erin Peters

Would you like your holiday season to be more about meaning and less about stuff? If so, you are in good company. A national survey showed that more than 75% of Americans wish the holiday season were less materialistic.

90% of the survey respondents reported feeling that family and helping others was more important than giving and receiving gifts. But what happens when our values are up against advertising and our own distorted expectations?

Of course the National Retail Federation is paying close attention to such things. They are like a Santa that charges lots of money for the gifts in the sack. The NRF do extensive research to keep a close eye on our holiday spending habits. Are consumers being spending-naughty? Or spending-nice?

I am sure they have been happy with the answers they are finding in their big, red data bag gleaned from Santa-like surveillance. They know when you are spending, and they know when you stop.

The Retail Federation's busy elves report that last year, holiday spending increased 3.5% to $579.5 billion. 2011’s grand total of $560.2 billion was a 5.1% increase over 2010. On average, annual holiday spending has increased 3.3% for the last 10 years.

I can remember a lot of great holiday celebrations, but can't remember many presents. Most people would agree that the best things about the holidays are spending time with friends and family, sharing good food, laughter and stories, and not what kind of loot you get.

We can opt out of the frenzy of shopping and gift-giving if it feels oppressive, and create better, more meaningful and simplified holiday alternatives.

December 19, 2013

Give A Child The Gift Of Nature

No child should have to suffer Nature Deficit Disorder - you can make a difference.

Is there a little person in your life that you would love to do something for? The best gift I can imagine would be to spend time with them in nature.

Kids need to "get their sillies out" as I said to my students in elementary school.

Recess provides much-needed space and time for students to blow off steam and behave like kids for a while. I know from experience that a few days of canceled recess in a cold winter can mean a potential breakdown of stressed psyches all the way around - students and teachers.

I became an amateur meteorologist during my years as a teacher due to this phenomena, because when the thermometer says minus 25 C during the day, the kids don't go out to play.

In natural settings, like during recess, children can not only get their sillies out, but they can also relax and be themselves naturally while immersed in a non-restricted environment.

Fight Nature Deficit Disorder - take a kid for a nature experience. It is the best gift ever (for the child, and for you).

December 18, 2013

Please, No Presents

Dear Santa (or NSA or whoever you are),

Assuming that we aren't on the "naughty" side of your little spy ledger, please do not bring any presents to our house. We have everything we need, and there is nothing more that we want that you can provide.


Two Simple Living People

Two decades ago when Linda and I announced that we were no longer participating in consumer Christmas gift giving, the people around us went through a few interesting and definable stages.

Stage One: Confusion 

Most people were initially thrown into a state of confusion. Who doesn't like giving and receiving stuff you don't really need?

Stage Two: Anger

Many people were offended that we were opting out of this manufactured consumer holiday and the sacred shopping rituals that go with it - like panic shopping late at night on December 24th, or figuring the amount of debt incurred as the first activity of the New Year. Perhaps they were angry because they never realized that you could opt out.

Stage 3: Curiosity

After a while people started asking questions about what motivated us to quit Christmas gifting. It was an opportunity to share our philosophy of a less materially-focused lifestyle.

Stage 4: Acceptance

Eventually those within our circles, including the person who first said, "Well how can I do anything for you if I can't buy you gifts?", came to accept our decision to go gift-less.

Stage 5: Relief

Some were even relieved that they could scratch us off their list, thus making their lives a little easier at a busy time of year. A few have even adopted some form of our Please, No Presents Policy in their own start-of-winter celebrations.

December 17, 2013

Use Only What You Need

What is the first thing you think when you see this billboard?

It is easy to fall prey to the "bigger is better" way of thinking. I found a pocket of it in my own thinking when I looked at the image above.

What was the first thing you thought about after looking at the billboard? Mine was that they should have used the whole billboard for their message. Then I thought about the message.

Although the sign refers to water usage, the idea conveyed can be applied to anything. Even here they used just the amount of billboard space for what they needed.

Would bigger have been more effective? No.

Think small and use only what you need.

December 16, 2013

Sub-Size Me Monday

Super-sized vs. Sub-sized - smaller is usually always better for the planet.

sub·size adjective \ˈsəb+¦-\

Definition of SUBSIZE

:  using less than a usual, standard, or normal size

Our lifestyles have become super-sized. Everything from burgers and fries to cars, houses, and vacations have been made larger under the consumer magnifying glass. Now that same glass is burning us like ants on the sidewalk.

We have come to love huge because we have been told our whole lives that "bigger is better".

The marketers that told us that, lied - smaller is usually always better. Better for the planet, and better for us as well. 

Super-sizing kills.
Just ask Morgan Spurlock who found out the hard way after eating super-sized fast food meals repeatedly, then documenting the pig-out on film.

The era of "Super-size Me" is over. It is time for the sequel "Sub-size Me". 

We need to sub-size our lifestyles and start using less of just about everything.

Sub-sizing things is less taxing on the environment. Super-sizing uses more resources and energy, and creates more waste during manufacture, use, and disposal.

Sub-sizing your life is almost always better for the planet and for you - it costs less for purchase and use, requires less maintenance, and is a more energy efficient and healthy way to live.

Super-sized Facts

- From 1970 to 2004 the average house size in North America increased more than 50% from 1,500 to 2,350 square feet. At the same time the number of people per household dropped 17%.
- 1 in 5 U.S. homes is larger than 3,000 sq. ft.
- A wide-screen TV can use more electricity than your fridge.
- If every American lost one pound it would save 39 million gallons of fuel per year.
- During Morgan Spurlock's 30 day fast food experiment for the documentary "Super-size Me" he gained 24½ lbs. (11.1 kg), a 13% body mass increase, a cholesterol level of 230, and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation in his liver.

December 13, 2013

Voluntary Simplicity - What Is It?

Voluntary simplicity is an ancient idea that has never gone away. Today it is a growing social trend that continues to gain steam. But what is it?

There are as many definitions as there are people choosing to live the simple life. A common thread runs through them all, however, and can be described by a common principle - 'All things being equal, everything in nature tends toward simplicity.'

In medieval times, Thomas Aquinas wrote:
"If a thing can be done adequately by means of one, it is superfluous to do it by means of several; for we observe that nature does not employ two instruments where one suffices."
Researchers found 12 dimensions in discussions from 1977 to 2001 that refer to voluntary simplicity. They can help us move toward a more complete understanding of what is involved.

12 Dimensions of Voluntary Simplicity
  1. The Good Life
  2. Life Purpose
  3. Personal Growth
  4. Chosen Life
  5. Self Determination
  6. Relationships
  7. Material Simplicity
  8. Minimal Consumption
  9. Role of Work
  10. Plain Living
  11. Ecological Awareness
  12. Human Scale
Some recent definitions randomly selected from the Internet help to identify other features common to voluntary simplicity.

Defining Voluntary Simplicity

  • A lifestyle that minimizes consumption and the pursuit of wealth and material goods.
  • A life that is less costly, so one can work less and have more time and freedom.
  • Living the way you want to live without having to compromise who you are or who you want to be.
  • A lifestyle that is less pressured due to a focus away from accumulation of goods and more toward non-material aspects of life.
  • A way of life in which one consumes responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life and promote social justice.
  • Dumping what doesn't make you happy in order to have some time for what does.

Since humans are part of nature, we have an (often hidden) urge to conduct our lives with simplicity and efficiency in mind.

Simple is Nature's way, and it is what we crave as Nature's children.

How do you define the natural expression of simplicity in your life?

December 11, 2013

You Say You Want A Revolution?

"You say you have a solution? We would love to see the plan."

You say you want a revolution?

Lots of people say they want to change the world, but what is the plan? I have a few solutions on which I am working.

1. Do something to make the world a better place.

2. Seek the truth and pursue it relentlessly.

3. Free your mind from consumer bondage.

4. Live simply, love unconditionally.

5. Help others do the same.

That is my plan for the revolution. 

Interested? We are here to help.

December 9, 2013

Mandela Was A Self-Actualized, Dancing Wu Wei Master

Nelson Mandela was a rare human being that left giant shoes to fill.
It would have been nice if poverty had died before Nelson Mandela did, but at least he nailed the issue before he left. The fight is up to us now, to follow his footsteps and commit to becoming fully functional human beings, and powerful agents of change.

Nelson Mandela was a rarity. Like other highly evolved humans such as Gandhi and Mother Theresa, some say Mandela achieved the pinnacle of human achievement. It has nothing to do with possessions or money.

Using humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow's term from the 1940s, Mandela was "self-actualized".

Qualities of The Self-Actualized

  • Secure at all lower level needs
  • Compassionate 
  • Creative
  • Controls impulses
  • Comfortable in solitude 
  • Socially harmonious
  • Naturally powerful
  • Beyond needing the approval of others
  • Highly aware of own thoughts and the world beyond
  • Find meaning and purpose in life regardless of the situation

Maslow himself theorized that only 2% of the population would ever attain self-actualization. However, engaging in the pursuit of self-actualization, even if not fully achieved, still makes us better, more effective human beings.

In the same vein, Mandela could be considered what I call a Dancing Wu Wei Master. He had the mental and physical movements of a wise, old Taoist teacher. His actions were spontaneously, effortlessly, and naturally of benefit to all he contacted.

Wu Wei is the Taoist principle of the action of non-action. It is going with the flow rather than following a premeditated course.

Qualities of The Wu Wei Masters

  • Act without a sense of self
  • Give without any conditions
  • See without a preference
  • Respond perfectly to situations which arise
  • Actions are in alignment with the cycles of the natural world
  • Has realized one's place in the web of life
  • Thoughts, words and actions do no harm, and are spontaneously virtuous

From everything I have heard, Nelson Mandela was a model human being. He practiced forgiveness and compassion, and through that changed the world. He left giant shoes to fill, but we can boldly step into them, honour his life, and work toward our own self-actualization and induction into the group of Dancing Wu Wei Masters.

Along the way we will transform ourselves and the world around us. Nelson would be pleased.

December 6, 2013

Wealth Means Waste

Municipal solid waste (MSW) production, kg per person per day, World Bank 2012.

Wealth is synonymous with waste. If you want to know how much waste a country produces, all you really need to know is how wealthy it is. In an emerging global phenomena, increasing wealth means increasing consumption and increasing waste production.

The affluent produce a lot of effluent. They produce a lot of solid waste, too.

Solid Waste Wisdom
  • Developed countries produce more waste per capita because they have higher levels of consumption. 
  • These countries consume more than 60% of the world industrial raw materials, but only comprise 22% of the world's population. 
  • Per capita waste generation in developed countries increased by 14% since 1990, and 35% since 1980.
  • USA, the wealthiest nation, unsurprisingly tops the list for the production of rubbish, with 4.5 pounds (2.04 kg) of MSW per person per day, fifty five percent of which is contributed as residential garbage. 
  • Urban residents produce twice as much waste as their rural counterparts.

"Income level and urbanization are highly correlated and as disposable incomes and living standards increase, consumption of goods and services correspondingly increases, as does the amount of waste generated."

Our flagrant waste goes against the basic laws of ecology. It is no surprise that humans are the only species on earth that produce toxic waste products that can not be used.

Basic Laws of Ecology
  1. Everything is connected to everything else.
  2. Everything must go somewhere.
  3. Nothing comes from nothing.
  4. Nature knows best (therefore mimic nature)
Barry Commoner, who wrote the four laws of ecology, warned that any major human-induced change in a natural system would likely be detrimental to that system, and ultimately to humans. He thought that following nature would lead us in the right direction.

In nature there is no final waste - the waste produced in one ecological process is recycled in another.  Any "waste" product from one thing is rebranded as a "resource" when it is used by something else.

To mimic nature we have to "close the loop" and develop cyclical manufacturing processes. This involves the redesign of resource life cycles so that 100% of materials in products can be recovered and reused. The process adopted is one similar to the way that waste products (resources) are reused in nature.

Another obvious and important way to approach zero waste is to reduce consumption. It does not matter how much money we have in the bank - we still can not afford to consume and waste like we have been.

"Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless." 
- Thomas A. Edison

December 4, 2013

The Evolution of Marketing: Fear Sells

"Fear of aging, fear of lonliness, fear of poverty, fear of failure.
Fear is the most basic emotion we have. Fear is primal. Fear sells."
- Max Brooks

Nothing can motivate people to buy crap like an appeal to fear. Marketing preys on our basic human fears, like fear of social isolation, while constantly creating new ones, like fear of non-white teeth or "skin tags".

When we sense fear the brain transmits signals to our nervous system causing our breathing to quicken, and heart race to increase. We become sweaty and go on autopilot, running on instinct. Hardly the best conditions in which to make decisions about spending money.

People with things to sell, hire other people with ideas to sell, who write ads that instill fear in the viewer, whether actual or fabricated. Then they offer you their product or service which (for a fee) promises to dispel that fear.

Most of the time they just want you to be afraid of not having what they have to sell.

The Evolution Of Marketing

Stage 1. Sell a product. For example, a hammer.
Stage 2. Don't sell a product, sell an entire experience. Remember the smell of wood in your grandfather's shop as you pounded nails into boards with his trusty hammer? Our Grandfather Line of hammers are a gateway to a world of possibility.
Stage 3. Don't sell an entire experience, sell fear. When civilization collapses you are going to need our hammer to build things.
Stage 4. When using fear, pile it on. Never mind building everything you need after the global transportation infrastructure totally breaks down, what about the zombie apocalypse? Our hammer neatly dispatches zombies. Better buy several.

We are currently in marketing Stage 4, and mainstream media everywhere are piling on the fear. Not so good for stress levels and bank balances, but great for business.

Fear works best as a way to get people to spend money when the fear is specific and widely recognized. Some common fears that marketers use against us are:

Fear of Loss - encompasses other fears, such as loss of life, youth, health, love, social standing, approval, and so forth.

Fear of Failure - closely related to fear of criticism and fear of rejection.

Fear can be a potent tool. We are more motivated to avoid pain and discomfort than we are to obtain pleasure.

But fear is only an effective way to get us to spend until we stop buying it. That is not to say there aren't legitimate things to fear.

Our biggest fear should be of corporate entities that are active in spreading their poisons in order to profit handsomely from the exploitation of the environment, the work force, and citizens everywhere.

Our fight against them should be fear-less.

December 2, 2013

Just Enough Is More Monday

Less isn't more. Just enough is more. More than just enough is less.

The not-so-secret secret to simple living is recognizing the optimal quantity of anything you need to realize your goals. It is finding the sweet spot of just enough.

As some point less leaves you longing. Your life's potential is not realized if you lack.

And if you always desire more, you will never know the life-affirming freedom of contentment. When you find your point of just enough, more is merely an expensive distraction from what is really important.

The best things in life aren’t things. A healthy person with very little is better off than one with great material wealth and a terminal disease. A person with a small income and few things can enjoy friendship, love, and the beauty of nature just as much as anyone.

Perhaps more so, since those seeking simplicity are less burdened.

What matters is the purpose that possessions play in our lives. Do we look to our things to provide us with meaning and security, or are we looking at them merely as tools that can help us fulfill our purpose?

Neither lack nor luxury will get us to where we need to be.

Just enough will.

November 29, 2013

Black Friday (Blue Pill) vs BND (Red Pill)

Blue Pill enjoy shopping and blissful ignorance. Red Pill stop shopping, start living, be free.
The Shoppingtrix

NBAeus: Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to Not Buying Anything. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Neo: Consumerism.

NBAeus: Yes. Consumerism is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

NBAeus: That you are more than a worker drone and consumer, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into wage slavery, consumer debt, and an endless shopping cycle. Into lifestyles that are excessive, unsustainable, and unlikely to bring happiness. The truth is out there, but it is your choice whether to accept it or not.

The Choice

Take the blue pill and you take the easy way out. You will ignore harsh realities and live in blissful ignorance.

You brave the elements and traffic jams to do your Black Friday shopping with thousands of other frantic bargain hunters. You continue consuming and do not notice that you are not happy. Ecological limits, notions of our fair share of the Earth's resources, and moderation don't exist for you. You desire more.

Take the red pill and you will have a free-thinking attitude. You will wake up from the "normal" lifestyle of work/shop/sleep/repeat. 

You will observe Buy Nothing Day and spend the day doing things that actually make you happy. You awake to the fact that the thing wrong with the world is conspicuous consumption and greed. You see the individuals and institutions that are destroying life and freedom, and you develop ways to distance yourself from them. You desire simplicity.

Go with the red pill and you prefer the truth, no matter how gritty and painful it may be, because you know it is the way to freedom.

An ancient Zen philosopher said something that relates to what happens if we choose the red pill. The philosopher talked about how he did not do what other people do, did not have what other people have, and did not think the way other people think.

He was talking about how he was different from those who choose the blue pill.

"Do not think the red pill is easy" the free-thinking philosopher warned, "because to take it is to walk through a pit of fire." I have found this to be true in my own life, and I have the burn marks on the soles of my feet to show for it.

It is hard going against the grain, but the rewards for doing so are ample and worthwhile. Don't listen to advertisers that are blue pill pushers. Listen to your soul. Answer its pleas and choose the red pill.

NBAeus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.

You take the red pill - you continue to visit Not Buying Anything and I show you how joyous simplicity can be.

November 28, 2013

Anti-Shopping Mantras - Part I

There it is - the most simple, most effective anti-shopping mantra there is. It is effective because the majority of the time it is absolutely true.

"You don't need it."

Here are some bonus mantras to chant to yourself (or a persistent sales clerk) if you ever find yourself in a mall by mistake, surrounded by that "new stuff smell" and the whiff of the potential of a fleeting happiness with each purchase.

Alternate Anti-Shopping Mantras

"That's crap."

"Probably toxic."

"Contributes to global climate change."

"Will probably kill me."

"Made by child slaves."

"Produced in a sweatshop."

"Promoted by a billionaire who does not need any more money."

These will take all the fun out of buying stuff, and that is, of course, the point.

November 27, 2013

Simple Pleasures: Going For A Bike Ride

My motto is "When the going gets tough, the tough go for a bike ride". Ever since elementary school it has worked wonders for me.

I learned very early that fun things happen when you are out riding a bicycle. You are in the environment rather than being in a climate-controlled enclosure of glass and steel. Riding my bicycle has always been one of my most cherished simple pleasures. It keeps me sane.

Linda and I used to go biking together fairly often, but no more. It has been a few years since she has been able to ride her bike - now she requires four wheels.

I thought about my sweety during my last ride. I was on my way home after witnessing a magical bit of the 2013 salmon spawn in a creek a few kilometres from home. I was motivated and inspired by what I saw.

As I pedalled along quiet back roads I thought of how I might share my ride with Linda. My old digital camera has a video setting, and in lieu of a helmet cam, I wondered if I could pull off a hand held short video of a favourite part of my ride (without wiping out).

I stopped, took the camera out of my pack, and proceeded to film 74 seconds of my wind-whipped blast through the landscape. My little cinematic adventure turned out to be some of the most fun I have had on a bike. Check it out.

Feel the wind in your hair, and the joy in your heart. But don't click play if you are looking for adrenalin junkie footage. This is more along the lines of a stress-free ride through the park, with a couple of hills thrown in to get the heart rate up.

Linda had fun sharing my ride via video, and I hope you will too.

"Those who wish to control their own lives and move beyond existence as mere clients and consumers - those people ride a bike." 
- Wolfgang Sachs, of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy

November 26, 2013

GrowthBusters: Hooked On Growth

Stop Shopping, Start Living, Buy Nothing

It is easy to despair the state of things in the world right now. It seems hopeless, no one is doing anything, no one is listening. Might as well give up and go shopping. But wait!

Chances are you will never hear about the current simple living movement which is growing, and is here to stay. But just because the mainstream media won't be covering this revolution, doesn't mean it isn't happening. 

We hear from people daily via comments and emails who have chosen to stop shopping, start living, and buy nothing. 

Some of the people who are doing that are Dave Gardner and the fine folks over at GrowthBusters. I was invited to collaborate with them in spreading the message about Black Friday and overconsumption, which I am more than happy to do.

Dave and crew will be sharing their documentary "GrowthBusters: Hooked On Growth" for free as an alternative activity to Black Friday for you and your family and friends. Rather than camping out overnight on a sidewalk, or battling for this year's fashionable crap, stay home and check out their film.

The following is from their website:
Shop Less; Live More 
A global movement to discourage shopping on Black Friday has long been building steam. Black Friday was dubbed “Buy Nothing Day” in 1992 by Adbusters Magazine, to draw attention to the issue of over-consumption. Campaigns like this encourage us to stay away from the malls on Black Friday (or Saturday in parts of the world where that kicks off the holiday shopping season).
Not Just a Day; A Way of Living 
It’s symbolic, for sure, but more and more of us are extending this notion of NOT shopping for holiday gifts deeper and deeper into our lives. After all, if in North America we’re currently consuming resources 5 times faster than Earth can replenish them, we need to do more than stay home on November 29. We need to be rethinking the cornucopian ideas we grew up with about nature’s abundance. 
Adbusters states that it “isn’t just about changing your habits for one day” but “about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste.” 
The North American habit of super-consumption dies hard. It’s all we’ve known. But if we wanted to live lives in which we could drive, fly and shop with complete abandon, we would need to have stabilized world population when we hit 2 billion in 1927. 
If we wanted to own islands, fly our ownLearjets, and own a trophy house for every season, we should have stopped at 1 billion in 1800. 
But we didn’t stop. We filled the world with 7 billion people (with no sign of stabilizing anytime soon), and we went on a binge of consumption that will forever be a milestone in the history of human civilization. Now that lack of attention to sustainability and limits is coming home to roost.  
- See more here

November 25, 2013

Black Madness Monday

Popularity of Black Friday Infographic

Unbelievable. Pre-plan your Black Friday and Cyber Monday strategy by refusing to participate in the Consumer Mania.

Have a Not Buying Anything White Friday instead.

November 24, 2013

Stay Calm... and Shop

Stay calm and shop.
Only 30 days left.

Time is running out. The effects of overconsumption and waste grow more evident by the day. How is a citizen to respond? The official message is: Stay calm and shop.

The only responsibility the average person has left is to continue to do their part and spend money on unnecessary things. Don't worry. Trust those that are profiting from everyone fulfilling their advertising-fueled desires.

An abundance of online propaganda will conveniently provide you with lists of things to want, like the list below which came from a website promoting Black Friday in both the US and Canada. Yes, we are entering prime consumer season.

There are even convenient online consumer countdown clocks to remind you that currently there are only 30 days left for you to do your part before Consumer Stuffmas arrives. If clicking on the link makes you nervous, consider having a low-key Buy Nothing Christmas this year.

If you are going shopping, here is that list that outlines a few items from the endless list of things you and your family are supposed to want.

Most Wanted Black Friday Deals For 2013
  1. iPad
  2. Computers/Laptops
  3. PS4
  4. Cameras
  5. Xbox 
  6. Furniture
  7. Golf Equipment
  8. Tires
  9. iPhone
  10. Snowboards
Doesn't anyone want food?

November 22, 2013

Economy OR Environment?

Ask a stupid question and you will get a stupid answer. The stupid question, and one that is being asked by the leading party of my country, is "Economy or Environment?". The stupid answer that many corporate CEO's and politicians are giving is "Economy".

The height of human hubris is displayed by those today who tell us we must choose between a strong economy OR a protected, functioning environment. It is beyond hubris - it is a form of collective insanity that now threatens our very existence. They say that the economy in trouble is more important than the environment in trouble.

Anyone with their integrity intact recognizes that there is nothing without a protected, functioning environment. I could live a month without oil, but try going that long without clean water. You must have a healthy environment to have a healthy economy.

Economic growth does not neatly translate into increased happiness of citizens. If all this economic activity is destroying our environment while not making us any happier, why participate in it at all?

Resource extraction and manufacturing for consumer markets has caused wanton destruction of the environment. They are finding this out in the Indian state of Goa where for the past year there has been a ban on all mining activity.

Economic activity is down in Goa, but by most other measures, the ban has been a net positive move. The environment in the state is rejuvenating, with people noticing cleaner air and water in their communities. Many people commented on reduced noise levels, and roadways are sustaining less damage with fewer traffic jams.

Doctors are reporting fewer cases of respiratory and skin problems, hypertension, anxiety and sleeplessness.

If you asked "Economy or Environment?"I would say that is a dumb and misleading question. Then I would respond that we should be realistic like the state of Goa and make the right and obvious choice - environment all the way.

Sacrifices (or what may feel like sacrifices at first) will need to be made, but overall we will end up with a better, more sustainable environment, economy, and quality of life. After all, what good is creating value for shareholders if they don't have a decent planet on which to spend it?

November 20, 2013

The Vicious Cycle Of Consumerism

Consumerism is the biggest scam in the history of scams. It is meant to keep us perpetually wanting more. More, more, more... always more.

Constant upgrades, planned obsolescence, and half a trillion dollars a year globally in pro-shopping brainwashing efforts keep us hooked and dependent. It's worse than crack, or cigarettes.

Breaking free of the vicious cycle of consumerism is liberating. It feels great to finally see the scam for what it is - a way to keep you unhappy and spending your money in a vain attempt to buy your way out.

But it is impossible to spend yourself out of a consumerism-induced funk. In order to beat this beast, all you have to do is quit spending. Spend less - be happier.

This is the secret they don't want you to know.

Get The Consumer Monkey Off Your Back

  • Treat advertising like the infectious disease that it is - avoid it at all costs.
  • The best things in life aren't things - cherish that which money can't buy.
  • You DON'T "deserve" it, I don't care how hard you work - no one deserves it.
  • Resistance is not futile - once you get practiced, you will be able to eliminate all unnecessary shopping with ease because doing so feels good.
  • Don't buy things on credit - if you must have something, delay instant gratification and save enough money to make the purchase. Chances are by the time you have enough money saved, you will no longer desire the item.
  • There are a million healthier ways to make yourself happy than going shopping - for example: go for a walk, watch nature, sing, give hugs, laugh, listen to or play music, climb a hill, dance, do nothing, help others, score a goal, run, play, make a cushion and sheet fort on the living room floor, crawl in and read a good book.

November 18, 2013

Micro Houses Monday

Hand built micro home made with repurposed materials.

There are tiny homes, and then there are micro homes. I have always been interested in small hand built dwellings just large enough to get the job done. Such structures provide a warm, dry micro footprint, and they are often appealing in their craftsmanship and utility.

Another micro home, stark in its simplicity.

The original guide to building anything from a micro to a tiny home is the 1914 book "Shacks, Shelters, and Shanties" by D.C. Beard. Although marketed as a guide for "boys of all ages", there is something in it for anyone that wishes to build their own shelter.

A nice mobile micro home.

The classic 'you can build it' book describes how to create over 50 dwellings from the most primitive lean to up to a fully equipped log cabin. All the structures can be built from local materials, and would degrade harmlessly back into the environment after their useful life.

Warm, dry, simple, cozy.

A micro home meets the basic shelter needs of the occupants just as well as considerably larger, less efficient dwellings. Now with the internet there are many resources available to make a tiny or micro home a real possibility.

A small home built from 3 shipping containers.

I think micro homes are elegant, adequate, and sensible in a time of expensive and depleted resources. They cost less, require less maintenance, and are easier to heat. And they are so darn cute.

A company in Vancouver BC is marketing their brand of tiny home for eco-conscious consumers.
At least one company is counting on consumers turning to tiny dwellings. The outfit is marketing a home that sits on a 10 X 10 footprint, considerably smaller than your average house size. It is attractive inside and out if you like a more modern industrial design, but is still expensive.

They are hoping to sell them for "less than $30,000" dollars, which is still a lot considering one could build a micro home from repurposed materials for considerably less.

If a micro home is "cute" - what is a giant home?

Plus there is something about building your own shelter with your own two hands.

November 15, 2013

Take Care Of The Crumbs

Slicing homemade bread. And look at all those yummy crumbs!

I try not to waste anything, right down to the last bread crumb. I figure that the more you waste, the more you have to spend. For most of us, spending more means working more. It's not efficient or natural.

I generally assume that most people are like me in that they would like to be in the work state less and be in their natural state more. Indeed, a recent survey provides global evidence for this.

In the survey, only 13% of people reported enjoying their work. That was an improvement over 2010 when a whopping 11% of workers reported being meaningfully involved in their activities on the job.

Congratulations if you are included in this exclusive and fortunate group of people that enjoys their paid labour. If you find yourself in the other group, I recommend you start saving bread crumbs.

I have a jar in my cupboard in which I save the crumbs that fall on the counter when I slice our loaves of homemade bread. They may just be crumbs, but they are still technically 'food'.

I have a hard time throwing away food. It's not efficient. People pay good money to buy bread crumbs at the grocery store, so obviously they are a valuable resource. Therefore, I will not waste them.

In the name of efficiency, waste should be eliminated from the kitchen and all other areas of life as much as possible. Nature wastes nothing, and neither should we.

"Take care of the bread crumbs," I say, "and the meals will take care of themselves."

November 13, 2013

The Half Life of Stuff

If I had a garage sale every item would have one of these tags. Take my clutter - please!

I can imagine a world with no possessions, but I think we are a long way from achieving that particular goal. In the meantime I recommend you get rid of 1/2 of your possessions as soon as possible. After a well deserved rest, start on getting rid of 1/2 again.

I call this the half life of stuff, and I learned of it through experimentation in the NBA research laboratory. This is what I have found.

Within a certain amount of time any item loses half of its initial appeal and/or usefulness. Over the next period of time it loses half of the appeal that is left, and so on. Eventually the item ceases to hold any appeal at all at which point it degrades into toxic waste. Now it is clutter, and it is harmful to your health.

Almost ten years ago Linda and I gave away half of our total possessions over a couple of days. Some was easy, like the massive desk that we did not feel like dealing with when we moved west. Other things, like our personal library, were harder to let go. But let go we did, and we never looked back.

When we drove away from our home for good to move to the coast we pulled a small trailer of possessions behind us. It wasn't even full. We felt like a basement full of burden had been lifted from us as we floated toward the Pacific.

Since arriving here we have added very little to our collection of things. Rather, we have exercised a constant cutting in order to make our 560 square foot beach home as minimal, efficient, and comfortable as possible.

There is nothing that we have given away that we miss now or regret tossing from our lives. Nothing.

Now we are feeling another half life of stuff coming up, which means that before long another 50% of our things are going to be removed from our lives. I can't wait, even though it will be a bit harder this time since we aren't starting with as much. It is getting down to the nitty gritty of possessions for us.

Not everyone is ready for a 50% cut overall, although I really do recommend you give it some serious thought. You could start with a smaller project to get a taste of the liberation that is possible with minimalizing more.

For example, pick a single closet and cut its contents by half. Or dig into that junk drawer and pull out 50% of what is in it. Same with the garage, or the storage locker, or medicine cabinet, or kids toy box. The result will be the same in every case - it feels great!

Imagine your home with 50% fewer possessions. Its easy if you try.

November 11, 2013

Time Poverty

How would you like to have to work only 15 hours a week to cover your basic expenses?

Sixty years ago economists were optimistically predicting that by this point in time we would all be enjoying the fruits of our labour and increased productivity. Everyone would have enough, and we would only be working a fraction of the 40-60 hours we do now.

The times in my life that I had the most money, I had the least amount of time to enjoy it. During these moments of time-poverty I felt trapped. It made the money feel less valuable, and the work I had to do to get it more futile.

Early on in my work life I decided I would rather work less, spend less, and become time-rich. I didn't want to miss any precious moments doing the things I love.

Time is what gives us the freedom to work at our priorities instead of someone else's. Our own agenda and space to manifest our dreams.

Money provides no freedom if you don't have the time to enjoy it.

Eliminating Time-Poverty

It is possible to eliminate time-poverty from your life.

  • Practice mindfulness. Nothing can turn ordinary moments into precious moments better than being present in whatever you are doing. Pay close attention to your perceptions and sensations as you do simple, every day activities. Go slowly, focus on each step.
  • Change your language. Think "choose to" instead of "have to" when faced with seemingly unpleasant yet necessary tasks.
  • Say no more often. I have found that "I don't think that is going to work for me" is better than an outright "NO".
  • Stay on task. When you have to work, really work. 
  • Plan some alone time. Schedule regular bits of time for yourself to do whatever you want. Even 30 minutes can make a difference.
  • Live more simply. Spend less, work less, have more time.
  • Try new things. Taking risks and trying new things makes us feel alive and vital.

November 10, 2013

100% Clean, Renewable Energy Possible Now

We need a 'Renewables First' energy policy, and a commitment to
achieving 100% clean energy production as soon as possible.

"A new study – co-authored by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson and UC-Davis researcher Mark A. Delucchi – analyzing what is needed to convert the world's energy supplies to clean and sustainable sources says that it can be done with today's technology at costs roughly comparable to conventional energy. 

But converting will be a massive undertaking on the scale of the moon landings. What is needed most is the societal and political will to make it happen."

Read more here.

November 8, 2013

Thriving During A Time Of Economic And Lifestyle Contraction

A smaller, more local life can be very rewarding.

Economic fertilizer spreaders started spewing talk of "green shoots" shortly after the beginning of the Great Recession of 2008. Five years later and most of us are getting horse manure rather than the green stuff.

I have stopped waiting for "the recovery". I don't think it is coming. Ever.

Economists fling about the term "jobless recovery", but what that really means is no recovery as far as the majority of people are concerned. This is likely to continue - we have entered the era of contraction.

Blame the end of cheap energy, climate change, government corruption, environmental collapse, our own ennui, market manipulation, or the downfall of capitalism, but the days of abundance are coming to an end, the victim of natural limits on growth and consumption.

In the years ahead economies will likely contract, meaning that lifestyles will as well. Ask the people of Greece about contraction - they are currently having an involuntary crash course. The Bank of Greece predicted a 4.6% economic contraction for this year.

For many, downsizing to smaller more local lifestyles will be a difficult adjustment to make. But it does not need to be a disaster if one is prepared. Depending on your perspective, it could be seen as an interesting challenge rather than a hardship.

Either way, preparation is the key to thriving while responding to shrinkage in our economies and our lives.

Thriving During Economic And Lifestyle Contraction

There are two major things that will help anyone thrive in tough times:

1. The first is the ability to do without as much as you can.

In order to be ready for anything you have to be able to cut your expenses, and expectations, to the bone at a moments notice. People that can adapt quickly and focus on meeting needs efficiently will be well suited for a downsized lifestyle.

Remember that one vision of Hell is of a place where you always get whatever you want. I saw that in a black and white Twilight Zone episode, and now we are living it in Technicolour.

While contraction is taking place slowly now, it is important to reduce our addiction to out of control consumer spending before contraction gains momentum. The sooner you cut spending, the more you can save and the better prepared you will be.

When I think about doing without as much as I can I think about camping. For me camping is all about stripping life to the basics, and I love it.

2. The second is to be able to provide for as many of your own needs as you can yourself. 

Spending less money means doing more things for yourself. I see this as a wonderful opportunity to learn new things and develop new skills. Lifelong learning, curiosity and ingenuity are major survival skills that allow one to change and grow successfully with the conditions.

Those who can do things like cook from scratch, bake, sew, cut hair, grow food, keep animals, and build and fix things are likely to do better than those who lack these skills. If you currently don't possess the skills required for increased self-reliance, now is a good time to learn.

There are probably community/adult education classes near you that you can take to learn valuable skills that will help increase self-sufficiency. Eventually these skills can become enjoyable pursuits that connect you to a more authentic and enjoyable life.

Of course no one can do everything, and this is where a strong community comes in handy. We can share our skills with others and create networks of trading and bartering for goods and services. We can pull together and take care of one another.

Stop waiting for a recovery that may never come. If you can manage doing without and take care of your own needs, you will adapt well to the new economic reality of contraction. In the process you may find that your new smaller, more local and more authentic lifestyle is more rewarding.