also published in the Z.O.Z. in 2019
Do green and happiness go together? Does being more sustainable make you happy? Linda and I both know from our own experience that we are happier living a sustainable life. But why actually? And more importantly, why isn't everyone doing it yet? We went looking for the answers, which we also give in our course sustainability.
When you think of happiness, you may first think of more money or more stuff. Large-scale research shows unanimously that this does not make us happier. We do become happier when we have people around us, who are healthy and who have a purpose in life. More sustainable living also contributes to happiness, based purely on the studies.
To show the latter to more people, there are still a few significant hurdles to overcome. For example, there is a social conviction in this consumer culture that sustainable means "sacrifice", and therefore: being less happy. But that belief (or: assumption) turns out to be scientifically incorrect based on psychological research into happiness.
Another branch of science -"climate psychology"- provides more insight into how and why people can ignore climate change. Simply put, humans are not built for it: we are genetically programmed to respond to acute and relatively short-term disasters, not to problems in such a long term.
In order to put sustainability in perspective, it can be important to know which solutions are useful and which are hardly. For example, it saves a little power to unplug the laptop charger when the laptop is full, only 95% of the impact of the entire laptop is in the production of the laptop itself, and only 5% of the total energy consumption in years of use of the laptop. So it is extremely more effective to use a laptop (or a second-hand one) for as long as possible than to regularly buy new gadgets and prevent stealth use of adapters.
Linda recently said "how can we entice people to live more sustainably?". That word “seduce” has stuck with me, because convincing people is actually what we want. Although sustainability nowadays has a hip character -especially in the business world- and has long since ceased to have the goat wool socks image, the large masses are still afraid that "change" immediately means "deterioration".
Much research has also been done from psychology into "behavioural change". What is needed for lasting change? Throwing numbers, facts and statistics about problems is (unconsciously) the favorite strategy of most climate knights, only that it is the least effective way. We try to do it differently, by looking at what makes you happy, and converting this into alternatives that make you happy.Behavioral changes in terms of sustainability do indeed make you happier: both large impactful and small changes can make a huge contribution to feeling meaningful yourself, contributing to future generations, to your health, simplicity, tranquility, and more.
Check out our popular course Selfsufficient Off-grid.