Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese

Steps to Happiness: Environmental Quality

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SeattleSkyline_300Media and research often talks about how people affect the environment, but few are concerned about how the environment affects people. Issues like greenhouse emissions, waste management, and air quality actually influence our levels of happiness and satisfaction in life.Though we have posted about environmental awareness before, this post primarily concerns how environment directly affects your happiness.

A community’s environmental patterns strongly affects the quality of life of its individuals. The Happy Planet Index measures a society’s overall quality of life by weighing three major qualities:median life expectancy, experienced well-being, and ecological footprint. This index sees resource consumption as an important factor in one’s general welfare.

This makes sense, for part of an individual’s needs stems from their community’s ecological practices. If an area of land cannot support the populace living on it, then everyone’s quality of life would be quite low there. Regarding happiness’ relationship to environmental sustainability, Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of The Happiness Initiative says,”We can’t have ecological sustainability without human’s being able to meet their needs.”

When The Happiness Initiative measures Seattle’s environmental happiness, they focus on citizens’ perceptions about the quality of their water, air, soil, forest cover, biodiversity, etc. The environmental happiness indicators include access to green areas and system of waste management and transportation.

Unfortunately, Seattle scored low in “Ecological Vitality” in the 2011 Happiness Report Card. Though interviewed Seattle-dwellers claim an overall appreciation for their opportunities to engage with nature, they also expressed a lot of pessimism about conservation efforts and the future state our environment. This suggests that our mindset about the environment may be just as powerful as the actual state of it.

But we should keep in mind that while ecological sustainability is important, the term “environment” incorporates every aspect of our surroundings: social support, available resources, even weather. It is more than the view outside the window; it is you home, your work, your community. If you are satisfied with these, then you are doing quite well. But if you still fear Seattle’s ecological footprint, there are steps you can take.

Tips from The Happiness Initiative for improving your environment (and boost optimism about the earth’s future):sunflowers 2

  • Eat local and organic
  • Work with neighbors to turn an ugly communal place into a beautiful area
  • Avoid pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in your home garden

Comment with your opinions on the matter.

Next: The Pursuit of Happyness: A Mock-Case Study Starring Will Smith

Author: Sara Kenning

Sustainability Assistant at Seattle Pacific University's Office of Facility and Project Management

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