It is amazing the amount of ‘green’ stuff you find once you start looking. Going through some old mail I came across a link to ‘The Happy Planet Index’. Initially I thought it sounded like some hippie kind of thing – ‘lets all have a group hug and be a happy planet’, but it turned out that it was in fact a new way of calculating the state of the nation as opposed to the GDP figures normally used. www.happyplanetindex.org
As we know the GDP gives an indication of the economic growth, but the Happy Planet Index takes in all sorts of other factors and rates the sustainability of the situation as well – so theoretically speaking it should give a much broader and accurate picture. A worthy cause I think, a GDP figure that measures purely growth doesn’t really encourage sustainability, but it is likely to be many years before the powers that run the country will change the tune.
However on the same website you can also calculate your own happy index rating, and of course I had to give it a go. My overall score was 42, pretty close to the UK average of 40.3(So you can be green and pretty normal!), but a bit behind the general average of 53.3 (Maybe we are just a miserable lot on this island???)All in all nothing too exciting.
The overall score is however just one part of it, you also get scores on individual sections, such as life expectancy, wellbeing and ecological footprint.
Life expectancy was interesting. For some reason my life expectancy was higher than average. The average is 86, my life expectancy supposedly is 87.4, but I have no idea why. Despite good intentions I still don’t really exercise a lot and I don’t have the best diet in the world, but hey it is good news. (maybe that should be my next challenge to try out all the ways that supposedly helps you live longer…)
The well being part looked slightly less optimistic, but maybe that did have something to do with the fact that we had a rare night out yesterday and the lack of sleep combined with a particularly stubborn 2 year old this morning probably didn’t put too positive a spin on my answers.
Anyway the ecological footprint was my true test. If my rating here was bad, I would have to admit failing my green challenge. Apparently the UK average is 5.4 global hectares, the general average is 4.1 and mine was (drum roll…) 2.92. Yipee, I am doing OK. Apparently I am using one and half to two times my share of the Earth’s resources, which is obviously not sustainable, but definitely the right side of average. Even the comments section of the happy index admitted that this was pretty good. (This is the part where I avoid going into details about how the figure is calculated. Some of the questions were very subjective, bordering on silly, e.g. is your energy consumption higher, the same or lower than your neighbour’s? – How would I know, I don’t discuss energy bills with the lovely elderly lady next door)
The comments sections also highlighted one of my big dilemmas – flying. The advice suggested that it was a good idea to think about other options and maybe rather than going away for 2 long weekends to have one longer holiday and thereby reducing the number of flights. It is very complicated though when your family lives in a different country. We don’t actually fly that often, we can’t really afford to go to Denmark more than once a year, maybe twice at a push, and we certainly don’t go on long weekends to European capitals, but I struggle to see how I would give up flying completely.
We have just booked tickets to go to Denmark for Easter, and the fact is I did look at alternatives. We talked about going down to Harwich and get the ferry across to Denmark, but it turns out that for the price of the crossing we could probably fly to Denmark at least twice and that is even before calculating the cost of getting to Harwich. It would also have meant taking the kids on a rather long journey, which would not only be a serious test on everybody’s patience, but would also take up a fair part of the holiday time – time the kids would rather spend being spoilt by their grandparents than with two stressed out adults trying to beat the traffic. So I am afraid the planet on this occasion became the looser, flying was cheaper and quicker and allow us to spend more time with the Danish part of the family – that is hard to argue against.
Of course this might all change in the future, oil prices might just go so high that flying becomes a privilege only for the rich and famous, but until then I don’t see us cutting out flying altogether – I love the planet, but I also love my family and I need to see them from time to time.
At least I can always point to the Happy Planet Index – even with flying I secured a pretty good score – so beat that anybody calling me a hypocrite!