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‘Happiness and wellbeing’ should be our top priority, not economic growth

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March 20 is International Day of Happiness, which aims to shift attitudes away from a growing economy being considered as progress, and instead focus on increasing human happiness and wellbeing.

The annual celebration was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, when it adopted a resolution to better capture the importance of happiness and wellbeing in development in its public policies.

The UN invited member states to recognise “the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradiation, happiness and the well-being of all peoples”.

The weaknesses of using GDP as a sole measure of prosperity and success have long been debated. Many argue that a wide range of factors should be considered, from education and healthcare to poverty and happiness.

The Worldwatch Institute has previously described using GDP alone as “woefully inadequate. A report from the organisation in January argued that most approaches to global economic health fail to take into account the impact on the environment, natural resources and society.

Academic Victor Anderson published a book in 1991 in which he said GDP gave a misleading picture and did not take into account environmental or social circumstances. Despite his arguments, and that of other academics and researchers, GDP continues to be the most widely used economic indicator. Anderson’s book was reissued in 2013, which he described as “depressing” because it showed how little progress had been made in the last two decades.

There are a number of alternative indexes that have been developed to show how areas outside of the economy have progressed in different countries. The Human Development Index (HDI), from the UN, was designed to place a focus on people-centric polices over national income.

The organisation argues, “National wealth has the potential to expand people’s choices. However, it may not. The manner in which countries spend their wealth, not the wealth itself, is decisive.

“Moreover, an excessive obsession with the creation of material wealth can obscure the ultimate objective of enriching human lives.”

For example, despite the UK having the sixth largest economy in the world when measured by GDP, it ranks 26th on the latest HDI.

Another alternative, the Happy Planet Index (HPI), measures the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for their population. The 2012 HPI ranked countries based on the health and happiness they produce per unit of environmental output.

The UK was ranked 41st out of 151 countries, falling behind states that are not typically associated with wealth, such Costa Rica and Vietnam.

A poll commissioned by Action for Happiness for the International Day of Happiness found that 87% of UK adults said they would prefer the “greatest overall happiness and wellbeing” to the “greatest overall wealth” for the society they live in.

The findings were broadly consistent across all regions, age groups and social classes. They demonstrate that whilst economic growth often appears to be prioritised by governments this isn’t the top priority for the public.

Dr Mark Williamson, director at Action for Happiness, said, “The economy dominates our political and social discussions, but this survey shows that happiness is more important to people.

“The vast majority of people would prefer society to be happier rather than richer. So we need to spend less time focusing on the size of the economy and more time focusing on how to help people live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.”

When asked what changes they thought would most increase overall happiness and wellbeing in the UK, 45% of survey respondents said “more equality between rich and poor”. Reports published this week found that wealth inequality in Britain is continuing to widen and has an effect on the economy, costing the UK £39 billion a year.

Research from Oxfam found that the five richest families in the UK are wealthier than the bottom 20% of the population. The gap has widen in the last two decades with the wealthiest 0.1% seeing their income grow nearly four times faster than that of the poorer 90% of the population.

LSE economist and co-founder of Action for Happiness Lord Richard Layrad said, “Our national priorities are clearly out of touch with what really matters to people.

“Our top priority should be people’s overall happiness and wellbeing. Above all, we should give more attention to mental health, supporting positive family and community relationship and creating a more trusting society.”

Further reading:

Economic growth indicators to be debated by ICAEW

GDP ‘woefully inadequate’ as sole measure of economic health

Green economy ‘fragmented’ despite rising support

Reissue of 1991 book on economic growth indicators ‘depressing’, says author

Climate change threatens 31% of global economic output

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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