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Posts Tagged ‘Graham Hill

Weekday vegetarian? Why Not weekday carnivorous?

We all know the arguments that being vegetarian is better for the environment and for the animals — but in a carnivorous culture, it can be hard to make the change.

Graham Hill has a powerful, pragmatic suggestion: Be a weekday veg.

Graham Hill. Journalist. Founder of TreeHugger.com and LifeEdited; he travels the world to tell stories of sustainability and minimalism. He tweets at @GHill. Full bio

About a year ago, I asked myself a question: “Knowing what I know, why am I not a vegetarian?”
After all, I’m one of the green guys: I grew up with hippie parents in a log cabin. I started a site called TreeHugger — I care about this stuff. I knew that eating a mere hamburger a day can increase my risk of dying by a third.
Cruelty: I knew that the 10 billion animals we raise each year for meat are raised in factory farm conditions that we, hypocritically, wouldn’t even consider for our own cats, dogs and other pets.
Environmentally, meat, amazingly, causes more emissions than all of transportation combined: cars, trains, planes, buses, boats, all of it. And beef production uses 100 times the water that most vegetables do.
TED
t.ted.com|By Graham Hill

1:16 I also knew that I’m not alone. As a society we are eating twice as much meat as we did in the 50s. So what was once the special little side treat now is the main, much more regular. Any of these angles should have been enough to convince me to go vegetarian. Yet, there I was — chk, chk, chk — tucking into a big old steak.

So why was I stalling? I realized that what I was being pitched was a binary solution. It was either you’re a meat eater or you’re a vegetarian, and I guess I just wasn’t quite ready.

Imagine your last hamburger. So my common sense, my good intentions, were in conflict with my taste buds. And I’d commit to doing it later, and not surprisingly, later never came. Sound familiar?

I wondered, might there be a third solution? (How about half a dozen alternatives?)

And I thought about it, and I came up with one.

I’ve been doing it for the last year, and it’s great. It’s called weekday veg. The name says it all: Nothing with a face Monday through Friday. On the weekend, your choice. Simple.

If you want to take it to the next level, remember, the major culprits in terms of environmental damage and health are red and processed meats. So you want to swap those out with some good, sustainably harvested fish.

It’s structured, so it ends up being simple to remember, and it’s okay to break it here and there. After all, cutting five days a week is cutting 70 percent of your meat intake. (Actually, most of the 7 billion population cannot afford to eat meat)

The program has been great, weekday veg. My footprint’s smaller, I’m lessening pollution, I feel better about the animals, I’m even saving money. Best of all, I’m healthier, I know that I’m going to live longer, and I’ve even lost a little weight.

3:28 Ask yourselves, for your health, for your pocketbook, for the environment, for the animals: What’s stopping you from giving weekday veg a shot? After all, if all of us ate half as much meat, it would be like half of us were vegetarians.

 

Much better off Spending On Experiences

Most people are in the pursuit of happiness (a new concept created in the 20th century: The short life expectancy didn’t leave much room to be picky, and the family word even harder to eek a living to the dozen offspring…).

There are economists who think happiness is the best indicator of the health of a society.

We know that money can make you happier, though after your basic needs are met, it doesn’t make you that much happier.

But one of the biggest questions is how to allocate our money, which is (for most of us) a limited resource.

There’s a very logical assumption that most people make when spending their money on objects: a physical object will last longer, it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation.

According to recent research, it turns out that assumption is completely wrong.

One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades.

“We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.” (Is that why companies have to produce new products?)

German skydiver via Shutterstock

So rather than buying the latest iPhone or a new BMW, Gilovich suggests you’ll get more happiness spending money on experiences like going to art exhibits (not free?), doing outdoor activities (not free?), learning a new skill, or traveling.

Gilovich’s findings are the synthesis of psychological studies conducted by him and others into the Easterlin paradox, which found that money buys happiness, but only up to a point.

How adaptation affects happiness, for instance, was measured in a study that asked people to self-report their happiness with major material and experiential purchases.

Initially, their happiness with those purchases was ranked about the same. But over time, people’s satisfaction with the things they bought went down, whereas their satisfaction with experiences they spent money on went up.

It’s counterintuitive that something like a physical object that you can keep for a long time doesn’t keep you as happy as long as a once-and-done experience does. (Does that include mobile phones?)

Ironically, the fact that a material thing is ever present works against it, making it easier to adapt to. It fades into the background and becomes part of the new normal. (Isn’t going back to normal one of the definition of happiness and contentment?)

But while the happiness from material purchases diminishes over time, experiences become an ingrained part of our identity. (Thus, the longer the list of adventures the more complex a personality you are?)

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich.

“You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.” (Too general a statement to be convincing)

One study conducted by Gilovich even showed that if people have an experience they say negatively impacted their happiness, once they have the chance to talk about it, their assessment of that experience goes up.

Gilovich attributes this to the fact that something that might have been stressful or scary in the past can become a funny story to tell at a party or be looked back on as an invaluable character-building experience. (The more personal stories you accumulate in order to share, the happier you are?)

Another reason is that shared experiences connect us more to other people than shared consumption. (Shared consumption or sharing objects?)

You’re much more likely to feel connected to someone you took a vacation with in Bogotá than someone who also happens to have bought a 4K TV.

Greg Brave via Shutterstock

“We consume experiences directly with other people,” says Gilovich. “And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.”

And even if someone wasn’t with you when you had a particular experience, you’re much more likely to bond over both having hiked the Appalachian Trail or seeing the same show than you are over both owning Fitbits.

You’re also much less prone to negatively compare your own experiences to someone else’s than you would with material purchases.

One study conducted by researchers Ryan Howell and Graham Hill found that it’s easier to feature-compare material goods (how many carats is your ring? how fast is your laptop’s CPU?) than experiences. And since it’s easier to compare, people do so.

“The tendency of keeping up with the Joneses tends to be more pronounced for material goods than for experiential purchases,” says Gilovich.

“It certainly bothers us if we’re on a vacation and see people staying in a better hotel or flying first class. But it doesn’t produce as much envy as when we’re outgunned on material goods.” (The lower the envy quality the happier?)

Gilovich’s research has implications for individuals who want to maximize their happiness return on their financial investments, for employers who want to have a happier workforce, and policy-makers who want to have a happy citizenry.

“By shifting the investments that societies make and the policies they pursue, they can steer large populations to the kinds of experiential pursuits that promote greater happiness,” write Gilovich and his coauthor, Amit Kumar, in their recent article in the academic journal Experimental Social Psychology. (Are we promoting tourism?)

If society takes their research to heart, it should mean not only a shift in how individuals spend their discretionary income, but also place an emphasis on employers giving paid vacation and governments taking care of recreational spaces.

“As a society, shouldn’t we be making experiences easier for people to have?” asks Gilovich.

[Top Photo: Justin Lewis/Getty Images]

You don’t have infinite money. Spend it on stuff that research says makes you happy.
fastcoexist.com

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