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Colin and Graham's Excellent No Impact Adventure

Posted: 10/15/09 04:42 AM ET

Human beings have left their traces on the earth from back in the days when huge mounds of mussel and clam shells and broken shards of pottery announced consumption patterns.

So it takes a bit of a mind stretch to imagine how billions of us can go "no impact."

Unless you look at it as an adventure.

Instead of edicts - depriving you of your car or forbidding drinking your latte from a paper cup - the No-Impact week brought to you by Colin Beavan and HuffPost is instead the opportunity to try out lifestyle strategies that just may be more fun than you thought.

With the shape of the earth and our complex society, we need lots of people coming up with lots of approaches.

I look at No Impact Week as carbon-cleansing experiment in which I get to see which of my lifestyle choices actually contribute to my happiness.

Because as a society, what we say we are doing it for - consuming, more and more - is to make us happy. Yet generally, societal happiness in the "west" has not increased since the 1950's.

In one survey of 900 working women in Texas, the activities most prized for their happiness factor - sex, socializing, and simply relaxing - didn't require carbon emissions at all!

In Richard Layard's book Happiness: Lessons From a New Science, the 7 factors found to effect happiness most were family relationships (#1), financial situation, work, community and friends, health, personal freedom, and personal values.

But when Layard look more closely at the effect of a change in the different factors, a change in financial situation, for example, mattered much less than a change in the fabric of one's close relationships.

What Layard argues, in a condensed form, is that we can measure happiness and as humans we are programmed to pursue it. In addition, the 'best' societies - those that think about how to organize societies for pursuing the qualities that lead to happiness and with a passionate commitment to the common good - are also the happiest.

As humans, Layard notes, we're deeply social beings that want to trust each other. We're also, he notes, very attached to the status quo. Yet at the same time, as Collin and his wife Michelle and their daughter demonstrate in slowing their lives way down amidst the backdrop of busy New York, we're also very adaptable.

So, if we decide together that we need a new status quo - one that touches more lightly on the earth and reduces mindless consumption, as well as thinks of the needs of future generations - and we pursue the goal together, happiness will be our likely result.

The week starts Sunday. Click here to read more. Or download (but don't print!) the day-to-day guide of suggestions for how to have your own No Impact experiment. Along with the rest of us.

To Sign Up For HuffPost's No Impact Week which starts October 18th, Click Here!

For more articles by Graham Hill click here.

Read more about happiness at TreeHugger, too:
Four Nations Happier Than the U.S. With Half the Carbon Emissions
Save Money at the Bank of Happiness
Conscious Designs: You + Design = Happiness
Asahi: What is Happiness? Where is Peace to Be Found?
Happy Kids Want Less Stuff

 

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