Stuff or happiness - does shopping make us happy?

“Although we have more clothes, bigger cars, and more bathrooms, we are no happier today than we were 50 years ago” Dr Roz Sunley told over 40 people at the Winchester Action on Climate Change and Friends of the Earth Winchester meeting on Stuff or Happiness? last Tuesday 8 July 2014.

Dr Sunley’s interactive workshop looked at how we would make ourselves happier if we reduced all the stuff in our lives.

She told the tale of when moths infested her house, breeding in carpets, soft furnishings and clothes. She got rid of everything that could feed them. “It made me look at all the accumulated material baggage I was carrying around and ask myself what value it had in my life. I did a major life laundry. It was no small decision – but it liberated me from the tyranny of stuff!” She found that she could manage with only six knives and forks. Friends didn’t stop seeing her because there was only one small sofa to sit on. Well-being didn’t lie in the false security of things. 

Dr Sunley emphasized the importance of personal values and responsibility. “We need to value the things that really matter, and stop believing that retail therapy is the answer to everything”.

The need for something new can be addictive. Advertisers encourage us to spend more by feeding this addiction, she said, giving the example of children’s birthday parties. 

As leader of the MBA programme at University of Winchester and specialist in responsible management and business ethics, Dr Sunley emphasizes to her students that it is not business at any price. The professional decisions they make will affect people and the planet, not just their profit.

WinACC invited Dr Sunley because the more things we buy, the more greenhouse gases are released in the manufacturing. "We use precious resources on things that we buy today and send to landfill tomorrow"  said Susie Phillips, Climate Action Coordinator from WinACC. “We want to get people thinking about ways they can live more simply and have a happier life, as well as saving resources for our children and grandchildren’s futures.” 

In tune with this theme, WinACC asked people to say how they would help to make sure we in Winchester District do our share to meeting national and international targets on climate change. Their pledges, from writing to the MP to changing to LED light bulbs, were added to the 300 pledges made at the Hat Fair. 

To join the discussion about Our World, Our Share or about reducing the stuff in our lives, visit the winacc.org.uk website or contact WinACC on 01962 827083

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