Streetbank News

Happier people, healthier planet

It’s a cliché to say that the best things in life are free – love, friendship, nature. What is amazing to me and less commented is that the next best things are very cheap – a cup of tea, hot buttered toast, writing a journal or a reading a good book.

Teresa Belton, an academic from the University of East Anglia takes these thoughts one stage further to reflect on the environmental costs of consumption in her new book: Happier people, healthier planet. The core message is that the best things in life – chatting, cycling, gardening, getting lost in a book, helping out at a local charity don’t harm the environment -  they won’t cost the earth – literally and metaphorically.

She argues “happier people will, on the whole, be content to consume less. Why? Because what motivates much of our excess consumption is the desire to boost our image in the eyes of others. So huge quantities of clothes, household enhancements, gadgets, cosmetics and so on constantly fly off the shelves. This buying behaviour is much less likely by individuals who are comfortable with themselves as they are - and self-acceptance is a vital aspect of wellbeing.”

Excessive consumption is behaviour that is easier to spot in others than in ourselves – but Belton’s book provokes a question: Is this purchase to keep up with the Jones’s? For me the answer is rarely an outright yes but it can be part of the motivation! What about you…


Sam and the Streetbank Team