Solution statement – Individuals

Let’s get straight to the point: The fact is that the vast majority of the wealthiest 10% (who are responsible for 60% of planetary resource consumption) can slice their carbon and environmental footprints by a factor of 2-5 quite easily. If this happens, planetary resource consumption will literally be sliced in half and all of our global problems will simply evaporate. It really is that simple.

Unfortunately, this strategy is not being marketed at all and everyone is simply carrying on with business as usual while waiting for government action or some miracle technological breakthrough. Well, as described on the previous page, government action simply won’t happen and, based on close to four years of experience as a research scientist in carbon capture and storage, I can confidently tell you that technology is not coming to the rescue either. The short of the story is this: if we, the richest billion, do not change our lifestyles significantly, the 21st century will bring some serious pain and suffering. We really need to make these changes.

To make this happen, two primary points urgently need to enter the public consciousness: reducing resource consumption is very easy and reducing resource consumption brings with it enormous personal benefits.

Let’s first look at the ease with which consumption can be reduced by taking the example of the ecological footprint. The average American ecological footprint is roughly 8 global hectares – about five times greater than the global sustainable limit. So, let’s reduce it according to the breakdown given here:

The biggest portion (23%) of the average American footprint comes from their cars. A highly efficient car, greater use of public transport or, ideally, doing the majority of commuting by bicycle can eliminate most of this footprint.

Second is the food that Americans eat (22.9%). 10.4% of this comes from red meat (7%), poultry (1.5%) and dairy & eggs (1.9%). Another 4.8% comes from restaurants (4.2%) and alcohol (0.6%). Most of this 15.2% can be easily cut and replaced with much healthier and planet friendly alternatives.

Third is home energy usage (19.4%). Smaller homes, highly efficient appliances, better insulation, solar water heating, green electricity providers and even rooftop solar power offer opportunities to cut the majority of this footprint.

The ecological footprint related to the home itself comes in next (14.7%). This measure is mostly related to the size of the home and you have to admit that most of us can live very comfortably in a home or apartment half the size of our current home.

The remaining 20% is made up of all of our other often ridiculous consumption habits and can easily be sliced in half by a conscious consumer.

So, how are you feeling about these simple solutions? I bet a whole range of excuses for not taking action and justifications for maintaining your current lifestyle are running through your mind right now. But if you switch off your massive resistance to change just for a second, you will quickly see the second point made above: making these changes will bring you truly massive personal benefits.

Personally, I have a carbon footprint of only 1.8 tons of CO2-eq per year (which is sustainable and 5-10 times smaller than that of the average developed world citizen) and this low carbon lifestyle has enhanced my life tremendously. For example:

  • Because I eat nutrient-dense, environmentally friendly foods, I have not been sick for a single day in the last 5 years
  • Because I don’t own a car and cycle everywhere, I am in near-optimal shape and have a VO2max of 62 ml/min/kg which is about the average for a professional athlete
  • Because I consume sustainably, I could save enough money to buy and fully furnish my flat after only two years in the labor market and have no debt aside from my mortgage
  • Because I have gotten totally used to my low-maintenance lifestyle, I easily save 50% of my income and have accumulated sufficient wealth over the past 5 years (most of which was spent as a PhD student) to sustain my current lifestyle for a full 8 years
  • Because my mind is fully conditioned to take pleasure from production instead of consumption, my scientific outputs are 5-10 times higher than that which is expected of someone in my position
  • Because my mind seeks entertainment from creative expression rather than passive consumption, I naturally use my free time to write projects like this one, make/record music and play/coach sports instead of stagnating in front of the TV

Let me just establish right away that there is nothing special about me whatsoever. The points given above might seem impressive, but they really should not. The health, financial security, productivity and free creative expression that I have attained on my journey to sustainability really should be standard for all world citizens. It is not hard. The only thing standing in your way is our self-destructive cultural conditioning. 

It really is absolutely imperative that you get started on this journey ASAP. Yes, you will feel lots of resistance at the start. This is only human. However, always keep your eye on the enormous benefits to your planet, your fellow human beings and yourself that will result from such lifestyle changes. I am fully convinced that taking these actions is the single most important thing that any one of the richest billion individuals on planet Earth can be doing right now.

The good news is that the strategy for doing this in the most effective way possible is well established and should get you on the road to a happy, healthy, wealthy and sustainable life in no time. We will talk about this on the next (and final) page.

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A DIY guide to saving our world while building a happy, healthy and wealthy life

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