Creating global prosperity without economic growth

Personal Steps

Instead of thinking in absolute terms, we prefer to think of transitioning to Post Growth Living as an ongoing process, and one which may look very different for each of us. We believe this process will become easier over time as more people and organizations move in Post Growth directions. But in order for that to happen, we’ve got to start sharing ideas about large and small possibilities.

Here are some of the things we at the Post Growth Institute have incorporated into our lives so far.  But we’d like to be clear up front: none of us are doing all of these things! This is a collective and ever-changing list.  You may even notice contradictions among some of the items in this list. That’s OK – there is no one way to work towards Post Growth Living.

Like others, we’re each trying to figure it out as we go along:

Financially Top ↑

  • I’ve consciously chosen life on a low income to reduce the amount of money in the system available for leveraging by lenders.
  • I’ve chosen to do my personal and work banking with Australia’s Bendigo Community Bank.
  • I’ve chosen to place my mandatory superannuation with Australian Ethical and no longer invest money on the sharemarket.
  • I have no plans to own a home. Although meager, I’ve increased my direct donations to people in need and a range of social causes.
  • I try to avoid buying unnecessarily, and often buy second-hand clothing, dishes, books, etc.
  • I do not have debt, and aim to eliminate the mortgage as soon as possible, and generally continue reducing our cost of living.
  • I do not invest money. I donate annually to Children’s Hope In Action, and periodically to other social causes.
  • We often trade with friends and neighbours for labour or home-produced goods.
  • I try to give gifts that will not end up in a landfill one day (such as tickets to a show, dinner, or something home-produced).
  • I support small local businesses when I can.
  • My small family is currently working its way out of the debt system as quickly as possible.
  • I use what small amount I have after living expenses to support causes and organizations that I love: non-profit radio (KEXP), Yes! Magazine, CASSE, Center for New American Dream, and the New Economic Foundation.
  • I do not invest, and though I have a work-sponsored retirement fund that I cannot change where it invests, I do usually take my money out every few years to put it elsewhere.
  • I bank through a local credit union.
  • My partner and I share finances.
  • I spend my money on things that bring joy to my family without bringing destruction to others – focusing on experiences over material objects.
  • I share money everytime someone asks and I’m practically able.
  • I have chosen to study and train for work roles where I can contribute to resource efficiency.
  • I have taken 12 months unpaid leave from my job in 2011 to work on Post Growth and allied projects, liquidating all my long service leave to provide me with a small income this year.
  • I’ve got savings invested in an ethical fund, and give the fund managers of another a hard time asking questions and making demands.
  • I started out working life in a bank, and have my savings account and credit card with them and transfer any savings to an account with a credit union!
  • In Australia, State government employees do not, unfortunately, have a say in where their superannuation/pension funds are invested, but I was involved in a effort to get a ‘green’ option made available – what was eventually offered was so light green I declined to take it up in protest.
  • I donate to a range of groups that work on environmental and social issues.
  • My wife and I worked out what we could live on, what would constitute ‘enough’ for us, and we’re not really interested in earning more than that.
  • I work three days a week, my wife is freelance, and we enjoy the freedom to pursue our interests. We still have enough to give away, or to make micro-loans through Kiva.
  • We didn’t want a mortgage to dictate our future choices, but when the financial crisis briefly brought house prices within our reach, we worked out an ideal monthly repayment that wouldn’t compromise our simple lifestyle. We did it almost out of curiosity, but then stumbled upon a perfect house two streets away from our rented property. It’s modest and it needed a lot of renovation, but it was cheap enough to negotiate a private mortgage amongst our extended family.
  • For our day to day banking, we use the Co-operative.
  • I have chosen work as a freelancer / small business owner, which means that I often have a fair amount of freedom over my time, and often not much money.
  • I try to live frugally.
  • I have no debt (I paid off the debt I had from school).
  • I don’t invest in the financial markets, but I have been thinking about what “investment” might mean in other contexts – for example, investing in building a small house on my mother’s property in order to spend more time living there, or investing in fruit trees in that neighborhood, or in a small library of books with practical knowledge about things like gardening and self-designed architecture.
  • I have never been in debt financially and plan to stay that way, no matter what my present income may be.
  • I want to get myself out of the 9 to 5 office based work routine.
  • I’d like to trade the excess money I save from my reasonably well-paying job into more time.
  • Knowing that productivity increases mean each one of us does the work of a 1950s work week in 11 hours does seem absurd that I still work about 40 – 50 a week.

Consumption-wise Top ↑

  • I’ve become a member of my local exchange trading system.
  • I’ve continued to purchase and donate things second hand as much as possible and use the brilliant Australian Ethical Consumer Guide.
  • I try to avoid wearing clothing with visible logos (of any sort).
  • I’m carbon-offsetting my soon-to-be-released book from the royalties (the publisher wouldn’t let me open access it!
  • I became a vegetarian at the beginning of 2010 and I try to eat organic produce as much as possible. I’ve been experimenting with a modest veggie patch and composting every second day.
  • I’ve consciously decided not to own an iPhone.
  • I turn off my Internet at night or other long periods without use.
  • I switched to partial green energy with Origin in 2008.
  • I recycle as much as possible, including e-Waste.
  • I’ve partitioned my hard drive to run Linux (although I’ve barely used it because of synchronicity challenges).
  • I love using the local library (great collection of DVDs)!
  • I’m working on a services directory for my local community.
  • I keep an eye out for unused electricity sockets I can switch off.
  • My partner and I choose to use birth control.
  • I buy second-hand and I donate things when I can.
  • When I buy new things, I try to buy good quality items that last a long time.
  • I recycle and compost regularly.
  • I have a vegetable garden, various fruit trees, and am getting nut trees this year.
  • I avoid packaging as much as possible (by refilling shampoos, dish soap, laundry soap, etc. with eco-friendly bulk products; making my own almond milk, pickles, tomato sauce, etc. in reusable glass bottles).
  • I store and preserve vegetables to eat throughout the non-growing season, and pick enough berries in the summer to last all year.
  • We’ve replaced large sections of what was once lawn with low, native groundcover (but still have a way to go).
  • I buy most of my dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese) and eggs from a local farmer in reusable glass containers.
  • I buy local seafood, in season, to last the year.
  • I haven’t eaten meat for 15 years, my husband buys his meat from local organic farmers, and we support the local farmer’s market.
  • We live on a rural piece of land, our house is heated by wood, and our hot water is heated by a solar panel during the non-freezing months.
  • We are trying to reduce the amount of plastic in our house, and avoid disposable products when possible.
  • We make cider from our apples, wine from our plums, and grape wine – all of which are made at home with no chemicals and in reused bottles.
  • Our social life generally revolves around meals and gatherings at people’s homes or outside on the water.
  • I do not have a cell phone/ iphone/ kindle/ blackberry/ ipad/ ipod/ etc!
  • We have significantly reduced the frequency with which we eat in restaurants.
  • I do not often purchase new items and do my best to maintain or reuse things that I have. When things do break down or must be thrown out, I recycle everything I can – including ewaste (though I have successfully kept my laptop running well for nearly 6 years by use of elbow grease and smart computing).
  • We buy second hand for just about everything. I am borderline raw-vegan, though the raw part comes and goes and I am working on phasing out eggs.
  • I eat quinoa over rice, spelt over wheat, and make similar choices with most foods to buy as much local, organic as possible and foods that are low-energy intensive to produce.
  • I eat fruits like apples right to the core and eat the skin on the Kiwi fruit (Chinese Goosberry)!
  • I support local businesses when we do eat out or shop, and I actively support local breweries ;-)
  • I compost every food scrap through our local pick-up system or my worm bin, and I have a vegetable garden that I am trying to maximize.
  • We have gone back and forth with our son’s diapers between cloth and the dye-free, chlorine-free, post-consumer recycled disposables.
  • The lack of funds this year has radically sharpened my ability to resist impulse buying. It is very easy to hemorrhage money when you work in the city business district.
  • My family and I are giving each other experiences, more than stuff, for gifts.
  • I cook a special dinner for Mother’s or Father’s Day instead of physical gifts.
  • I made my old Mac laptop last for seven years! In computer years, it’s practically an antique.
  • My family recycles all its cans, cardboard, paper, cartons, bottles, green waste.
  • My work was involved in helping set up the first of a city-wide roll-out of food waste collections, which go to a commercial composting facility, meaning we can also put stuff in like citrus, garlic and meat, that might not work so well in worm farms or backyard compost.
  • My work is also instrumental in arranging take-back systems/days for e-waste, so anything that is not working is responsibly recovered/recycled.
  • I try to purchase mindfully and locally as much as possible, thinking about potential impacts.
  • I donate things to charity that I no longer use.
  • We buy second-hand as much as possible, and our house is full of borrowed, donated, and Freecycled furniture. Even the kitchen came off Ebay.
  • I made a decision not to buy clothes or shoes made in sweatshops, which means a secondhand wardrobe for the most part.
  • I married a vegetarian, and while I haven’t taken that on wholesale, we eat meat less than once a week.
  • We eat seasonally, and grow a lot of our own food in the back garden and on abandoned patches of land nearby. I also help to run a community allotment, teaching teenagers to grow their own food.
  • I monitor our energy use, and last year we cut our electricity and gas consumption by around 40%.
  • I actively try to participate in the re-circulation of objects, rather than the creation of new ones. This means, for example, that most of the clothes I buy are second-hand, and that I typically give away or trade old clothes of mine.
  • I love browsing thrift stores as one can find beautiful, unique surprises and very good quality clothing. I also try to buy second hand books over new ones, as well as borrow books from the library.
  • I buy milk, eggs, and meat from (relatively) local farms, at the farmer’s market, and from a knowledgeable butcher that cares about where its meat comes from and how it was raised.
  • I try to avoid using plastic bags, and succeed in doing so about 80% of the time.
  • I have had the same cell phone (a flip phone) for the last three years.
  • We turn on the heat for hot water once a day and I wash my clothes in cold water.
  • We have a garden where, last year, for the first time, we grew masses of potatoes, and also carrots, spinach, and various herbs for cooking. We’re planning to expand the garden this year.
  • We harvest wild strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, and apples which we use to make fruit-preserves to eat throughout the summer and fall.
  • I have also been experimenting with collecting and drying wild plants for tea, as well as learning about the traditional medicinal uses of plants.
  • Most of my clothes are second hand shop finds or giveaways from friends.
  • I don’t own much stuff, as I’ve found I’ve always been able to share that of housemates, or obtain secondhand things very cheaply that then get put back into a ‘pool’ of circulation when I need to move.
  • I try and multi-use everything I have – for example, my laptop is my PhD office, my long distance telephone, my music player and my DVD player all in one. My bike replaces gym membership and car usage and meditation for de-stressing after work!
  • I eat mostly kangaroo meat, which is far better environmentally than other forms of meat in Australia.
  • I live in a 2 bedroom apartment within a compound of about 50 apartments – highly space/energy/water efficient, and it’s ex-housing commission so the walls are really thick, and the apartment stays relatively cool without much energy.
  • I don’t own a pet (the average Australian dog has the same carbon footprint as the average Vietnamese human) or have children at this stage.
  • I reject the push for new technologies for as long as possible (I always get sucked in in the end, however, as I realize I’m no longer getting invited to things because I don’t use the form of technology that everyone else relies upon!).
  • Cycling has taught me to only eat/consume what I can carry on my back, and because of that habit I waste very little food.
  • If I take up a new past time that I’m not sure I will continue with (such as surfing) I try to borrow the required items until I’ve proved to myself that I will make regular use of the equipment if I buy it.

Travel-wise Top ↑

  • I don’t own a vehicle and am trying to fly less (and carbon offset flights when I can afford it).
  • I work from home and use Skype to replace many previously face-to-face meetings.
  • My husband and I have one vehicle and try to be deliberate about using it (by planning our drives to town so we can serve multiple purposes with one trip).
  • We host visitors via Couchsurfing and use the service when we visit places.
  • We live in a place with no bus service (other than twice a week) but we share rides sometimes.
  • I rode my bike more last summer and will strive to do that even more this year.
  • When possible I use Skype to communicate with my colleagues instead of making trips to meet them.
  • I have a bicycle as my main method of transportation.
  • Our family of three does own one car, but we try to limit our use of it. My wife usually commutes to school via public transport and our son goes to part-time childcare one block from our house.
  • We’ve chosen to live within 2 miles of my work, less than a mile to the closest grocer, and along bus lines to campus, all to limit our fossil fuel consuming transportation means.
  • I refrain from flying as much as possible.
  • Despite living about a mile from Luton airport, my wife and I agreed that we wouldn’t fly any more, and we’ve explored Britain or taken the train on holiday instead.
  • I don’t drive, and I walk everywhere locally.
  • I can do most of our shopping at local businesses, with a big monthly order to top up the basics.
  • I take the train to work in London twice a week, which is my biggest travel commitment.
  • Generally I travel by public transit – subway, train, bus.
  • My dream is to live with all the people I love within walking or easy commuting distance: phone, email, etc. is just not the same!
  • We do have a car, but we use it mostly to pick up groceries (about a 10 min drive, round-trip, once a week), and otherwise take public transit.
  • I bought my first car a few months ago mainly so I can ‘go bush’ most weekends, nearly always via car-pooling – does amazingly good things for my mental health.
  • From 2004 – 2008 I did not take any long haul flights, until finally I took a business trip to Silicon Valley. I also took one to Europe last year.
  • I still take one or two domestic flights a year to visit my family.
  • From 2007 – 2008 I did not own a car and use the car sharing service “Go Get” instead. I found this very manageable because I cycle and live in an inner city suburb.
  • After living in a rural area without a car for several months, I now have a much better understanding of why people living in rural areas need their cars; the level of isolation and lack of autonomy would be unacceptable to most.
  • I cycle almost every single day. Not only is it good for my health, it is quicker door-to-door than car for most of the trips I make.

Psychologically Top ↑

  • I’m wearing a lot more colourful clothing these days and make a point to greet people with a smile or g’day as regularly as I can in the street.
  • I no longer own a suit!
  • I avoid referring to things as ‘solutions’ and incessantly ask questions.
  • I actively seek an asset-based approach in all that I do.
  • I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the histories and ways of life for First Nation peoples.
  • I’m learning how to be a better man through the Mankind Project.
  • I run regularly, often in trails.
  • I spend a lot of time outdoors.
  • I surround myself with compassionate people of all ages.
  • I enjoy going to shows and events, taking in art and music.
  • I am involved in a lot of exciting community-based initiatives.
  • I look back on the political and economic system that my Grandparents helped to create and think in my actions what my grandchildren would think of the one I am creating.
  • I try to ‘interrupt’ the kinds of popular signals I encounter that are being sent to society about what one should do, be or have.
  • When I’m mentally overloaded about all that is wrong in the world, I get myself into the Botanic Gardens or down to the beautiful beach I am fortunate to live five minutes’ walk from.
  • I say hello to passers-by in the street.
  • I use nature as a ‘gym’.
  • I try to avoid job ‘titles’, but use lower case when I have refer to them in written documents (e.g. founder, director)
  • I aim to be mindful about what I am doing – savoring what I am eating, being ‘present’ when with family, making time for all the day-to-day things that bring enjoyment to my life, especially playing with my dog.
  • At heart, I am content, and that’s a great inoculation against consumerism.
  • I’m inspired by the way that nature just ‘works’.
  • I believe in doing things together as much as possible, and in the power of community.
  • I love working with my hands, using the grounded realities of wood and soil as an antidote to the artificial immediacy of the online world.
  • I see endless connections between my Christian faith and post-growth futures – for me, ‘the kingdom of heaven’ is more visible in Permaculture, Transition Townsnew economics or the human rights movement than it is in any old stone building.
  • I try to think of the world that I’d like to see 200 years from now, and ask myself, “what can I do in my lifetime, that may help bring that into being?”
  • I have been actively working to be more conscious about how I spend my time and why I’m doing that – for example, how much time do I spend with my computer vs. with friends and family or just in quiet?
  • Over the past six months I have been reaching out to find people who are concerned about the world in a similar way as I am to begin exploring how we might work together.
  • I make efforts to arrange engagements as if I don’t own a mobile phone (i.e., careful scheduling).
  • I want to find ways in which I can speak my heart more strongly, and more people who I can speak it to.
  • I reject the sort of ‘fear mongering’ that places barriers between myself and others and replaces it with the ‘safety’ of consumption – e.g. I walk around at night/travel solo/hitch/do a lot of bushwalking in remote places.
  • Knowing the realities of growth I realize that I am rich beyond belief.
  • Knowing that I am materially better off than leaders of nations of by-gone eras and just how many “energy slaves” I have at my command makes me an incredibly grateful person.
  • We leave our house unlocked when at home and away.
  • I try to convince almost everyone I know that wealth in a ‘first world’ society is entirely relative and that in absolute terms there is nothing to complain about.
  • I think about everything I buy. I am keenly aware that stuff has the potential to burden us as much as it allows us to do new things.
  • Currently I am caught up the immediacy of the online world, but I take steps to “unplug” whenever I feel it detracting from my quality of life.
  • I see that globally we are running head long into a disaster yet am keenly aware that it’s just a giant tragedy of the commons and that each individual thinks they’re behaving in their best interests.

Room for Improvement Top ↑

We aren’t perfect, but we’re trying to improve our lives. Here are some places we see could use some work still:

  • Whilst I don’t have a dishwasher, I could probably use less water when washing up and could cut out that occasional bath.
  • I often unnecessarily purchase plastic drink bottles.
  • I need to look after my mental health a bit better and connect with friends more regularly.
  • I would like to be more skilled at mending clothes by hand.
  • Travel is definitely the area in which I need to do the most changing. My family lives far away, so I fly to visit them once a year, and I do fly for other reasons.
  • Transport is certainly the area of my life that needs the most improvement, as I live rurally and drive regularly.
  • There are ways my household energy consumption can be reduced, and getting a rain cistern will significantly help with this (currently our water is pumped from a well).
  • I could also be more economical about laundry – its frequency and ensuring I always hang clothes to dry.
  • I am really enjoying gardening, but would like to learn more about winter crops and about harvesting wild plants and mushrooms.
  • There are things I still consume regularly (such as bananas and avocados) that travel a long distance to reach my table.
  • With our busy schedules we still ‘order in’ more than I would prefer.
  • It always seems that our recycling bin between us and our neighbors is full – it’s great that we’re recycling, but I’d really like to reduce that waste in general.
  • For our son’s diapers we’ve done cloth but found it too time intensive to be even remotely practical, so now we use dye-free, chlorine-free, post-consumer recycled disposables – I don’t like that they’re disposable, but at least the front-end production isn’t as bad.
  • Even with all my awareness and commitment, I’ve found it hard to shake the compulsion to not give gifts.
  • It is not always easy to purchase mindfully, and sometimes even for people like me who have a high level of literacy in this area, it’s difficult to know what to trade off.
  • I am trying to convince my family that we do not need to eat meat (red or white) with EVERY evening meal.
  • I’ve decided to hijack the cooking so I can help my parents, who grew up in the immediate post-Depression/War era where the dismal selection of available vegetables had the life and taste boiled out of them, discover the wonderful world of vegetarian food!
  • I need to get better at not buying gadgets that don’t get used.
  • Our household carbon footprint is less than half the UK average, but it’s still a long way from one-planet living. I want to cut our energy use further.
  • My wife uses her car for work as a radio journalist, and we’re trying to work out how to do without it.
  • At a 70 mile round trip, I’m aware that my commute is not sustainable.
  • I would like to keep chickens.
  • I have been thinking about taking a vow not to use disposable plastics (what got me thinking about this was actually this short video, and some of the websites I looked at after seeing it).
  • As a media maker, I have been pondering the environmental impact of media-making – all the technology it takes to make films, to travel, constant equipment upgrades, etc, and, the fact that the final product of this work, a film or other images, means that I’m asking people to spend even more time in front of a screen than they already do.
  • I have been asking myself: what it is that I find most satisfying about media-making, and is this some thing (or action, or feeling) that is dependent on technology to achieve?
  • Owning a car still bothers me and I have to be vigilant against slipping into excuses as to why I use it – Now I have it, I need to capitalize on it by buying more things in bulk.
  • I fly too much, and am making a conscious effort to resolve this (e.g. my trip in Argentina was supposed to include a three-flight trip to the Galapagos, which I instead turned into a hitch/bus overland trip around the country).
  • Gadgets are where I do the worst: I had my last laptop for four years before it succumbed to wear and tear, and I own an iPhone, an iPad, two monitors, a MacBook Pro, a PS3 and a TV.
  • The most important thing for me to do is constantly challenge my cynicism. Once I have successfully done that I need to plant some veggies and find more ways to collaboratively consume.
  • I cycle, but for those longer trips I’m considering learning to ride a motorcycle. It does have a smaller carbon footprint after all.

Plans for the coming year Top ↑

Even though we may not be able to change everything at once, we’ve got some solid intentions over the coming year…

  • Learn more about survival.
  • Learn how to repair basic household and electronic items.
  • Install some kind of squat structure for my toilet.
  • Install a large cistern to collect rainwater.
  • Collect mushrooms in the fall to dry and use throughout the year.
  • Plant nut trees.
  • Drive less.
  • My wife is finishing up school and we’ll be freeing up more time and money to create sustainability in our daily living.
  • Talk to as many people as possible about post growth; this is where change will begin.
  • Slow down, mentally – one of the traps of a growth society is that it speeds everything up – more choice, more stuff, yet we still only have 24 hours – I don’t want working for a world beyond growth to be as stressful as working IN it!
  • We’re expecting our first child this year, and that’s the new priority – we’ve managed to source almost all the baby stuff we need through donations – diapers will be the new challenge.
  • We’re hoping to plant a bigger garden with more herbs for fresh & dried teas, greens like kale and chard, and root vegetables.
  • We’re hoping to get better at understanding how to store or preserve fruit and vegetables over the winter.
  • We are thinking of building a chicken coop with the intention of getting a few chickens.

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