There is a growing buzz around the concept of ‘Smart Living’, and I believe ‘Smart’ is the new “Green”.
The older generation of environmentalists to whom I am indebted for almost all I know – like Jonathon Porritt, Satish Kumar and Alastair Sawday – operated under the ‘Green’ banner, with an emphasis on doing what’s good for the planet. I think Smart Living’ is the next step forward from ‘Green’ because it puts our own self-interests first. As the Dalai Lama says, “Be wisely selfish”. It’s about making choices that that come back to hug us rather than haunt us – choices that achieve everything we want at once – inner happiness, physical health, vibrant communities, happy cities and a happy planet.
But how can being selfish really work for the planet? Soon after writing my book The Guide to Low Carbon Lifestyles, I built and sailed a eco micro-yacht around Britain in 2007, spreading the message that “low-carbon living improves your quality of life”. After the tour, I gave workshops where we looked at the lifestyle activities that most improve our quality of life, and these led me to an important discovery. Filling in my questionnaires, all the activities people reported enjoying the most – like eating tasty organic food, getting out into nature and swimming in the ocean – all have a low carbon footprint. The results showed me that if we bring real intelligence to acting in our own self-interest and long-term happiness, the choices we make will automatically be good for our community and good for the planet as well. That’s why it is aptly called ‘Smart Living’!
And how would we spend our money if we bought what we truly wanted to? We so often make decisions based on what we think we “can’t afford”. But what would happen if we bought the things we really wanted, even if they were twice as expensive, and we accepted that we’d only have half the quantity of consumables?
If you bought what you really wanted – would you shop in a supermarket or at a local ethical food store? If money was no object, would you buy a train ticket to Madrid or would you truly prefer to fly? If you weren’t allowing your wallet to make your decisions, would you buy a handmade British toaster made by Dualit, or a cheap toaster from China? Hotels and B&Bs buy Dualit because they last for decades, save you a fortune, and have a fraction of the lifetime carbon footprint.
We live in one of richest nations in world. Most of us in the UK live like kings and queens compared to nine tenths of the world’s population. I like to think this wealth buys us freedom of choice. Yet so often we take orders from our wallet and allow it to make our purchasing decisions. And the wallet is not smart – it makes short term decisions that soon come back to haunt us – in the form of polluted air, low nutrition food and fast wearing products. I want us to re-establish our authority over our wallets and try purchasing the things we really want. Follow the chain of consequences and almost always what’s best for us and closest to our hearts, turns out to be what’s best for our community, our city and our planet.
I’m excited to be taking part in Big Green Week, 11th-19th June, joining fellow Bristolian entrepreneurs like Big Green Week’s founder Darren Hall and sustainable travel pioneer Ross Porter, to present an inspirational programme of ‘Smart Living’ events. Events I am involved in include a ‘Smart Homes’ event at Bristol’s Watershed on 13th June featuring Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud and other Smart Home experts. Here, as director of CosyHome Company – awarded for its energy saving insulation solutions for Britain’s old homes – I’ll explain ways to make beautiful old homes smart, retrofitting windows with advanced secondary glazing and other insulation initiatives that can halve the heat loss in traditional homes, saving money and energy, keeping you warm and protecting the environment.
And at a ‘Smart Living – In Your Home and on our Oceans’ event at the Architecture Centre on 15thJune, Ross Porter, founder of the new sustainable ferry service Voyage Vert, introduces this exciting, viable alternative to flight. Voyage Vert is developing a concept based on the latest yacht design technology that will enable large sailing ships to ferry 200 plus passengers across the Atlantic in under a week. Here, I’ll join a discussion about solutions needed to reduce the impact of flying and give a talk about the art of retrofitting old homes and the smart solutions CosyHome offers period home owners.
I would like to leave you with five top tips for Smart Spending:
- Purchase the things you really want – your heart is instinctively in tune with the planet.
- Purchase quality long-lasting products – they give you the most pleasure and are best for your health, home, community and environment.
- Spend your money in shops you’d like to work in, and in the kind of farms you’d like to visit when on holiday.
- Invest in making your home warm. Insulate your property fitting loft insulation, draft proofing, secondary or double glazing, and wall and floor insulation. You’ll save money, and it’s great for the planet (www.cosyhomecompany.co.uk for details)
- Buy organic, local food – it’s tastier, healthier, supports the local economy and has lower emissions.
Mukti Mitchell is Director of the award-winning CosyHome Company, which retrofits energy saving insulations for period properties, see www.cosyhomecompany.co.uk. The author of The Guide to Low Carbon Lifestyles (downloadable at www.lowcarbonlifestyle.org.uk) , Mukti has been leading a low carbon lifestyle for 15 years. A director of pioneering sustainable ferry service Voyage Vert, he sailed around Britain in a zero-emission micro yacht, and is an acclaimed writer and speaker on low carbon living.
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