“The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things,” reads a common bumper sticker in my home town of Hanover, NH, a semi-rural college town at the foot of the White Mountains. From the saddle of my commuting bike my response is always, “Amen to that.”

The first time I saw one of these bumper stickers was five years ago. At that time the phrase seemed sort of catchy and it sort of made sense. Today nothing rings truer to me than these basic words and like the sticker, the idea of simplicity appears to be spreading.

People are finding a way to live life by not always wanting and using more. And while this idea may seem strange to an American’s ears, the concept is far from new and has far-reaching effects for the salvation of a degenerating planet and to your personal well-being.

Consider this. Many people may see the quantity of waste being produced as a large problem. It is, but the fact that landfills are being filled faster than they can be dug is not the root of the issue. The root of the problem is consumption and this is where we need to focus our energies. The responsibility to make use of what we now know about environmental issues, and it really is a responsibility, lies on every one of us.

Mr. George W. wants us to consume more. Well he ought to be glad that we don’t because even his own governmental agencies recognize that the world is consuming far more resources than can be sustained.

According to the Indiana Department of Commerce Energy Policy Division, the United States consumes one fourth the world’s energy in supporting only 5 percent of the world’s population. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency the U.S. consumes more petroleum than Europe and the former U.S.S.R. combined and almost as much as all of Asia and Oceania.

It has always been difficult for the environmentally concerned to remain optimistic when their efforts are confronted with opposition from so many people.

It’s difficult to persevere when past legal victories, that required so much effort and research, are overturned by the prospect of businesses getting a bit richer.

Well, money doesn’t grow on trees. Or does it? My Law of Conservation of Wealth ? wealth is neither created nor destroyed, it simply changes form. It is the biological wealth of the planet that is being pillaged by human consumption and converted to monetary wealth.

Every transfer of wealth presents some losses. One hundred species become extinct every day by one estimate. The Earth can only sustain 1.5 billion people living an American lifestyle..

I’m proud to say that you can still find orientation material at the bottom of the little trash can in my room. I haven’t even filled it yet.

That’s because I have the things I need, I take care of them, and I don’t buy one time use items. I don’t mean to be self-righteous, but only to point out that it is not only possible to consume little but to enjoy the process.

Thinking about the consequences of my actions brings me peace of mind. That may sound lame, but isn’t the ultimate goal in life contentment and isn’t thinking about your actions the only sign you’re alive and not an automaton of society?

Consuming less provides me with contentment. When I’m hungry, I eat at Danforth because they don’t use disposable tableware. When I need clothes, I go to the thrift shops because last years pants are still pants. When I need transportation, I go to the dump and find a bike because twenty years ago a bike could still take you through traffic faster than any modified car.

So next time you “need” those new basketball shoes that are going to make you jump higher, think about how much higher you could jump if you spent the ten hours it took to afford them working out.

Or next time you spend a day buying cosmetics and clothing to impress the opposite sex, think about how much more impressive it would be to spend the time actually getting to know someone.

And those times when you buy something you know you can use your entire life, know that you’re buying yourself peace of mind. And isn’t that the most valuable thing of all?

Hall is a freshman and can be reached at ahall@campustimes.org

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