The Fulfillment Curve

November 25, 2014

It’s well documented that spending on basic necessities gives us lots of fulfillment, and spending on creature comforts gives us some added fulfillment.

But beyond that, the more we spend, the less fulfillment we get. In fact, we actually reach a point where our happiness peaks – and spending beyond that point clutters our lives and makes us less happy. That peak point is called ‘enough’ – check it out in this illustration:

Fulfillment Curve

Most subscribers to this newsletter are, like me, blessed to be living in a land of plenty – and are probably, like me, beyond ‘enough’ when it comes to stuff. Consumerism may be good for our economy, but it contributes to resource depletion, climate change and other environmental challenges. Perhaps worse, consumerism has led us to worship stuff: it seems the more we have, the better. The cost has been an erosion of our spirituality, our relationships and our sense of community.

Perhaps there is a better way – one that involves pondering our own interpretation of what’s ‘enough’.

A sustainability thought on the threshold of Black Friday and the coming Christmas shopping frenzy. (Check out Buy Nothing Day,, the countermovement now present in more than 65 countries.)

Thanks to for the illustration.


Small gadget, big savings

February 23, 2010

Toilets are a home’s biggest water users.  If you can’t change out your old toilet (which probably uses 13-20 litres per flush) for a new one that uses just 6 litres per flush, here’s a simple and inexpensive alternative.
It’s called a a toilet tank fill cycle diverter – a tiny device that installs in a toilet tank in seconds, and limits the amount of water that flows into the bowl during filling.  It saves water every time you flush – potentially saving over 10,000 litres per toilet per year!
Here’s a three-minute video showing what a diverter is, how it works and how to install it:
You can find plenty of models and suppliers by Googling toilet tank fill cycle diverter.
Two more strategies to save even more water:
– put a brick or bag of water in your toilet tank, so it uses less water every fill-up
– pour a few drops of food coloring into your toilet tank.  If any of the color seeps into the bowl before you next flush, your flapper probably needs to be replaced – a small cost for HUGE water savings.  Here’s a one-minute video showing you how to do it: .

Sometimes one IS enough

January 26, 2010

In public washrooms, soap and paper towels are available for free – so it’s easy to get into the habit of using lots of both.  Yet when it comes to clean hands, one pump of soap and one paper towel are usually enough to do the job.
I believe most people want to do the right thing – but often we need little reminders.  If every soap dispenser had a little sign next to it, “Please use just one pump” and if every paper towel dispenser had a little sign “Paper comes from trees – please use as little as possible”, I bet a lot less soap would get used and many trees (and dollars) could be saved.
Agree?  If so, check out attractive, free signs here.  Download them, print them and post them in washrooms at your school, office, business or other public place.  I’m betting you’ll see an instant difference!
(Please e-mail for information on mounted or laminated signs customized with your logo.)
In the News:
Even as climate change marches on (the latest news: 2009 was tied as the second warmest year on record ), there is no shortage of confusing and contradictory climate information in circulation.  For concise, science-based explanations of common denial arguments, check out the UK Royal Society’s simple guide (sourced from this page). 

If you’re among the many who heat with electric baseboards, you need to know about mini-splits: an easy retrofit that delivers big savings on heating. 
Hydro-Québec and Mitsubishi last week announced the largest electric vehicle trial in Canada.

Automatic door openers are in buildings everywhere these days, helping provide access to people with mobility challenges.  But their popularity has led to an unintended side effect: many people with no mobility issues have gotten into the comfortable habit of pressing the button too.

Automatic openers use electricity, and they often hold exterior doors open long enough for a lot of heat to escape.

So to save a bit of electricity and heat, why not leave automatic door openers for those who really need them, and , if you can, open doors the old-fashioned way.

In the News

What are the TOP 10 environmental moments of the past decade?  Here they are, according to CNN.  The last two sentences of number 8 will likely surprise you.

Who – or what – came out on top in Copenhagen last month, and who – or what – lost out?

In this season of leftovers, it’s worth being reminded of a common sense tip: you can save money and energy by opening your refrigerator as infrequently as possible and opening the door only as widely as necessary.
To help remember, imagine your fridge as being full of water.  It comes gushing out each time you open the door.  The more frequently and the wider you open the door, the more water that ends up on your floor.  
Cold air in your fridge is like that water: it’s heavier than warm air, so it comes tumbling out each time the fridge door opens.  And the more cold air that escapes, the more your fridge needs to work to replace it.  That costs energy and money.
So the next time you open your fridge, imagine that it’s full of water and act accordingly.  Your fridge will thank you by using less energy!
In the news:  
In a moving speech at the Copenhagen climate conference, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed declared, “There are those who tell us that solving climate change is impossible.  There are those who tell us taking radical action is too difficult.  There are those who tell us to give up hope.  Well, I am here to tell you that we refuse to give up hope.  We refuse to be quiet.  We refuse to believe that a better world isn’t possible.”
To all readers of Green Ideas, my greetings for a joyous holiday season and a successful, green 2010.  Please refuse to believe that a better world isn’t possible – and start by changing your corner of it! 
In the vast, bleak coldness of this universe, Earth, our home, is no more than a pale blue dot – something to contemplate as you mull over your resolutions for 2010

The clothes dryer is one of the biggest energy hogs in your home; clotheslines can save a heap of money and energy. But what about those cold winter days, when hanging clothes out isn’t very pleasant?

Consider portable or retractable clotheslines: lines that can be set up indoors or in porches when needed, and neatly put away when not in use. There are many models available, from single strands that can be strung above your bath tub to room-length multiple parallel lines that can hold a full load of laundry. (If you have wood heat and a ceiling fan, you’ll be amazed at how fast clothes dry indoors.)

You can see different models here or here (note: not an endorsement, just examples).

One important note: it’s good to dry clothes indoors, but beware that you’re not creating excess moisture in your home, because that can cause problems such as mold. In many homes, the natural air leakage is enough to remove moisture. In more air-tight homes, air exchangers usually prevent moisture problems. But take note!

In the news

Disappointingly, world leaders meeting in Singapore have given up on reaching a global climate agreement in Copenhagen next month,28804,1929071_1929070_1939676,00.html, and Prime Minister Harper’s office has indicated that the PM is not going to the summit–pm-to-skip-summit-on-climate-change?bn=1.

For a quick overview of the Copenhagen summit, click here:

Check out this YouTube video and get involved with a neat new project, Love Letters to the Future.

Greener parking

November 4, 2009

Even something as simple as the way you park your vehicle can have an impact on the environment. Here are small ways you can make a difference:

1. most important: pick the first available spot you come to instead of driving around looking for a closer spot.

2. choose a ‘drive-through’ parking spot if possible, so you can pull out without having to reverse

3. turn off your engine and coast those last few meters into your parking spot (easier with a standard than an automatic). For safety’s sake, be sure the area is clear first, keep your foot ready on the brake, and remember that the steering wheel can lock if you turn the key too far and then try to straighten out the wheel!!

In the news

A new study shows Canada CAN reduce emissions significantly while growing jobs and the economy.

Nepal’s Cabinet will hold a meeting on Mount Everest to highlight the threat from global warming, which is causing glaciers to melt in the Himalayas.

The world needs many voices to speak in the in the run-up to Copenhagen – are you ready to be the change on climate change?

Happy Green Halloween

October 21, 2009

If your household is like mine, the approach of Halloween is one of the most exciting times of the year. It also results in a pillowcase full of treats which tend to last into spring.
Even Halloween has a impact on the planet – mainly through treats, decorations and travel. If you’d like to reduce your family’s ‘Halloween carbon footprint’, here are a few ideas:
1. the biggest and best single action you can take is to leave the car home and walk around the neighbourhood. Bundle up, and for added safety consider flashlights, reflective tape, face paint instead of masks, and, if the kids allow it, adult accompaniment.
2. minimize the use of inflatable decorations (they use as much power as 4-6 CFLs or even more) and lights; use timers to turn them off automatically and save money
3. consider ‘greener’ treat options, food or otherwise. Check out for lots of information and suggestions.

In the news:
The President and cabinet of the Maldives, one of the places on Earth most threatened by rising sea levels, held an extraordinary underwater meeting Saturday, to raise awareness and sign a declaration calling for cuts in global emissions.
The CEO of Shell, one of the world’s largest oil companies, is urging the US Senate to act on climate change legislation.

…I said to some friends who commented over dinner that their July power bill was much higher than their June bill. And a quick test with a portable power meter showed that that was indeed the case.
Summer is the time of humidity. And while it’s very important to keep humidity at bay to prevent the growth of mould, dehumidifiers – especially older ones – can consume a lot of energy. My own dehumidifier (an oldie) uses nearly 500 watts, or as much power as three dozen CFL bulbs. Ouch!
So what can you do?
1. manage your dehumidifier use: instead of turning it on in June and turning it off in September (as many of us do), set it to operate at a level that keeps humidity levels reasonable. Trying to get humidity levels to zero is like swimming against a river: it takes a lot of energy, and the river always wins eventually.
2. when buying a new dehumidifier, look for the ENERGY STAR symbol, a sign of top efficiency.
3. install a Humidex or similar device

In the news
Wal-Mart, often a target of environmentalists, has announced plans to require all suppliers to assign green ratings to their products. The move will enable consumers to know the carbon footprint of products before they buy, and choose their purchases accordingly. With Wal-Mart’s global buying power, the new policy has the potential to revolutionize the sustainability of the retail industry. Bravo Wal-Mart!

Ever hear of bike sharing or car sharing programs? Neat ways to stretch your dollars and do a good thing!

It’s summer, but your electric baseboard heaters may still be consuming energy and running up your power bill.

Here’s why. First, in spite of our best intentions, thermostats are sometimes not turned down. We forget, especially in rooms we don’t often use, or they get turned up on a cool day and aren’t set back down later.

Secondly, thermostats often lose their accuracy – so even when you turn them down, they may still click the heat on during cooler periods. For example, a thermostat that’s off by 5 degrees may kick in when it’s 15 degrees, even if you have it set down to 10 degrees. That’s heat you don’t need and money you can save.

There’s a simple way to be sure your heat is not coming on behind your back this summer: go to your power panel and turn off the breaker for your heaters. Then just reset it in the fall when you want the heat. Simple savings!

In the news

Green power is taking root in China with massive investments in wind (6 huge projects are under construction, each with the output of 16 coal fired power plants). Britain has the potential to be a world leader in offshore wind and wave power in just over a decade. (It’s amazing how much change is possible in just ten years:

In the meantime, lamentably, Canada placed dead last in the World Wildlife Fund’s rating of G8 nations, “not even close” to meeting its Kyoto targets.