Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Green Term of the Week - Voluntary Simplicity

The existence of Thoreau's Walden somehow completely eluded me until I began my post-baccalaureate studies to get certified to teach English. There were some huge literary holes in my high school and under grad classes. When I finally got around to reading Walden, it impressed me greatly.

The well-known passage

"Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail."

from the wisdom laden "Where I Lived and What I Lived For" chapter has  always been in the back of my mind. 

If you are familiar with Thoreau at all, then you will know that he went to extreme measures to live a life of voluntary simplicity.

Voluntary Simplicity is a way of life where people choose to live with less so they can have a fuller life. The less is more approach to life. 

If you are choosing to cook more meals at home instead of running through the fast food drive through, you are practicing voluntary simplicity.

If you are giving up your expensive morning mocha, half-caf, skinny, blah, blah, blah in exchange for a good old cup of home brewed morning joe, you are practicing voluntary simplicity.

If you are purposely taking your kids to the park to play instead of heading to the video store to rent a movie to watch, you are practicing voluntary simplicity.

If you've taken yourself off of catalog mailing lists so you don't waste as many trees and you know if you don't know the stuff in the catalogs exists you won't want to buy it, you are practicing voluntary simplicity.

The list could go on and on. The benefits to the earth as people live lives of voluntary simplicity are many. I found this list over at the Great River Earth Institute's website:
  • Less pollution from transportation, and less traffic congestion, accidents and need for new roads.
  • Less environmental impact from resource extraction and manufacturing.
  • Less need for new power plants and new water treatment plants as people waste less electricity and water.
  • More community cohesiveness, resulting in less crime and more neighborliness, safer streets and better schools.
  • More grassroots democracy as people take more interest in how their communities operate.
  • More ecological restoration as people find simple pleasure in connecting with their local environment and seek to heal it.
  • A flowering of local culture--music, storytelling, drama, games, poetry.
I encourage you to click on the link for the Great River Earth Institute. They have a more in-depth discussion of voluntary simplicity.

Have you begun to practice voluntary simplicity in any ways recently (even if you didn't know that is what you were doing?)

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Janine said...

I think to an extent I have been practicing this. However, I'm not tooting my own horn but bragging on my parents. This is how they lived and so it is how I do. We make our coffee, go to the park, and cook meals at home. I find these things to be more rewarding and some nurture relationships. It's also just cheaper.

Allison said...

Thank you for mentioning Thoreau. I bought Walden many years ago and never read it. I think it will be my next book.
I wish I named my blog "Voluntary Simplicity", it is a great term. If most people lived that way so many more issues-social and environmental-would occur less.

Robin Shreeves said...

Janine - that's great. It's not very common for anyone raised in the past few decades (especially in our neck of the woods) to be raised that way.

Allison - It's too bad we don't live near each other - we could definitely be doing some book swaps.