I have always believed you get more from an experience than you do from an object.  Turns out a study published in 2003 supports my theory.

Assistant professor of psychology Leaf Van Boven at the University of Colorado at Boulder concluded from a series of experiments and surveys over the course of several years that people receive more pleasure and satisfaction from an experience.  The researchers believe it is because people can internalize experience and their feelings during the experience.  For instance, my sister and I took our children camping.  Over the course of the trip and being novices, we didn’t sleep well due to the oppressive heat, had to swim across the lake to rescue our children and the canoe they were attempting to steer and had an encounter with a venomous snake and ax wielding neighbors determined to save the “little women next door.”  We ended up cutting the trip short and leaving after dinner on the second evening of our trip.   We all concluded, as we fell into our respective beds exhausted and disillusioned from the experience, that we were not cut out for camping.  However, we all look back on that trip now as a wonderful experience.  We overcame obstacles and realized we could do it all without the “men” and we have hilarious stories to tell especially the one of our kids sitting in the middle of the lake paddling in circles. 

The research suggests that perceptions of experiences change overtime making the memories more enjoyable.  According to Van Boven, the perceptions of an object never change, an object remains just an object. 

So when you write your wish list to Santa this year remember that you may get far enjoyment more from a pair tickets than a pair of shoes. 

Some experience ideas:

Arrange a family picnic

Attend a music concert

Take a trip you have been longing to take

Learn a musical instrument

Learn a foreign language

Visit a museum

Take a hike, literally, with your family through a nature preserve

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This should be obvious but I am going to mention it anyway – it fits green living, minimalist lifestyles and frugality.

One way to reduce resource waste is to visit your public library rather than purchasing books or videos.  Since the library is free, it is also a big money saver.  Most public libraries now have Internet search and reservation options in which you can search for and reserve a title.  Once the title has been secured, you will be notified of its reservation and location, as well as how long they will hold it in your name.   The Internet search and reserve function saves a great deal of time and resources in fewer trips to the library.

If your library does not have a title you are interested in you can usually search and reserve through the inter-library loan program.  Most libraries participate in this option in which you can borrow titles literally from libraries all over the United States.  Odds are if your local library doesn’t have a specific title, a library somewhere else does.  

Libraries don’t just stock books.   They subscribe to newspapers from across the globe, monthly magazines, and resource materials.  If you wish to learn a foreign language they often have language tapes or cds.  For the sight or reading challenged, they often stock books on tape/cd as well as large print additions.  Videos and music cds, including classics, new releases and how-to videos, are another big commodity.  Finally, they often host community programs including story times, book clubs, author lectures, and writing workshops.  Thanks to governmental grants, all libraries have high-speed Internet stations available to the general public.

All of these resources are available to you free because of your already contributed tax dollars.

Recycling Resources

October 25, 2008

Earth 911is an excellent Internet resource for finding recycling options.   Simply enter your zip code in the box indicated and it will list the recycling centers located in the surrounding area.

Living Cheaper

October 24, 2008

With talk of a global recession, everyone is understandably nervous and looking for opportunities to cut back on every day expenses.   Here is a tip.  Live lightly.  Be a conscientious consumer.  Don’t fall in the marketing trap.  

Making conscientious choices can lower your carbon footprint thereby helping the earth but also lessen the wallet squeeze, helping yourself. 

  1. Install a clothes line. Your clothes drier is the second largest energy consumer in your home.  
  2. Unplug unused appliances.   Appliances produce what is called a phantom load.  This is energy used while it is plugged in and idle waiting use.  Research shows that unplugging televisions and appliances when not in use will reduce energy bills by up to 40%.
  3. Invest in LED lights at Christmas.  To decorate for the holidays, use LEDs that consume up to 90% less energy that traditional Christmas lights.
  4. Invest in florescent. Florescent lights consume up to 80% less energy than their incandescent counterparts. 
  5. When you save energy you are shrinking your carbon foot print but also SAVING MONEY!
  6. Rethink conventional household cleaners.   Common house hold cleaners are full of synthetic and possibly toxic chemicals.  Switch to baking soda, vinegar and soap and water.   You will significantly reduce the amount of resources used in packaging by choosing not to consume these products in plastic bottles.  You will also keep far more money in your wallet as the cost of a few products is far cheaper than many separate cleaners.
  7. Switch from paper to cloth.  Invest in quality cloth napkins (preferably made with organic cotton).  These last far longer, use far fewer resources and are FAR CHEAPER than their paper counterparts when used over time.
  8. Don’t drive unless you need to and then combine errands for maximum fuel efficiency.  Not only will you reduce the amount of ozone depleting emissions you contribute to the environment, you will also reduce the amount of money depleting trips to the gas station.
  9. Ride your bike on errands within 2 miles of  your home.  Again saving emissions released into the environment but also saving money on gym membership fees and health care costs by being fit.
  10. Lower your thermostat in the winter and raise it in the summer.  Again you will save energy which will in turn save money on energy costs.
  11. Eat locally grown food whenever possible.  Locally produced, organic foods, contain more nutrients and are better for you than store bought foods that have to be shipped from long distances.  This results in saving money in health care costs.
  12. Exercise, play with your kids, and laugh….this all reduces stress which in turn will reduce your health care costs.  Happy, healthy people visit the doctor far less than overweight, unhappy people. 

I scoured the web to find ideas on what to do with my growing mound of newspaper – besides the obvious recycling.   Here are a few ideas, some useful, some fun. 

Fireplace logs – winter is coming and instead of buying pre-made fireplace logs, make your own from discarded newspaper (or I suppose any paper you have around the house – could be a good option for junk mail!).  http://familycrafts.about.com/cs/homecrafts/a/blhglogs.htm

Made beads for necklaces, bracelets, earrings or just for fun –  These beads have a very earthy quality. It looks like a great project for those long winter days with tween girls at home.  http://www.astorybooklife.com/how-to/paper-beads/

Newspaper structures – I just stumbled on this fun project, create structures out of newspapers. http://pepperpaints.com/2008/05/13/newspaper-hut/   I am going to enlist my husband, the structural engineer, and our son for a day of structure building!

Work-Life Balance

October 17, 2008

True freedom is waking up and deciding what you want to do with your day.  – The Color Purple.

Europeans, on average, live longer than Americans even though they smoke more, drink more and eat all the foods we can’t like real butter, rich and creamy sauces and white flour in their pasta, pastries and breads.   How do they do it?  They know a few things about balance.  

Europeans value time off so much that many countries have a mandatory five week paid vacation allotment for all workers.  In the US we are lucky if we get 2 weeks a year and most don’t even take it when it is offered.   Unlike the rest of the developed world, we call people that work less than 50 hours a week slackers – a negative connotation to be sure.  We feel guilty taking vacations and we carry our Blackberries and cell phones as if the entire free world rests upon our shoulders.  I have a secret…it does not. 

We pay a lot of lip service to family values, but what do we know about valuing families?  Yesterday I was fortunate to be a chaperon on my son’s fourth grade field trip.   At each station, as the kids were learning about pioneer life in our area, at least one parent was busy on their electronic appendage.  I don’t fault these parents, they are tied to their jobs by the electronic revolution.  Bosses provide these tools and expect them to be available and to keep their jobs, they are available…but meanwhile their kids are missing out; missing out on a parent that is fully there ‘in the moment’ just for them. 

Europeans know that families are important and family life is important (which is why they typically have shorter work weeks and longer maternity and paternity leaves).  They know that time off and relaxation are vital to healthy, happy workers.  They know that a long healthy life must have balance.   They know that workers shouldn’t have to choose between making a living and being with their families.   They support and pay higher taxes to ensure that no one has to work two weeks after having a baby, to provide paid vacation, paid maternity leaves, and basic health care for one and all. 

In other words, Europe works to live.  America lives to work.

Balance isn’t easy to achieve in this tumultuous time.  We are told that to keep our jobs we have to work more, be in the office more, stop working at home and generally sell our souls to the company just so we can keep our livelihood building other people’s riches.

October 24th is Take Back Your Time Day.   Visit www.timeday.org to find out what you can do to promote public policy that helps American workers find a reasonable work/life balance.

Borrow – Don’t Buy

October 13, 2008

Green resource: 

An excellent website that links people who have stuff with people who need stuff.


If you have something that you aren’t using regularly rent it to your neighbors who may need that particular item.  If you need something like a saw or a canoe or truck even…do a search on loanables to see if someone has one in your area that you can rent.