Tuesday, 26 April 2016

How living moneyless can save the planet (TEDxTrondheim Open Mic Script)

Below is a slightly longer version of the script for my TEDxTrondheim Open Mic pitch - with links to corresponding blog posts with more information.


When I started my PhD in environmental psychology, I decided that just doing research was not enough. So I started a challenge: to live without spending any money (and without leeching off others). The idea was to find society’s leftovers – things that were no longer wanted or needed. Initially I wanted to try it for a year, because I didn’t even know if it was possible. But as I got started and got creative, it turned out that it was not only possible but also easy, because we live in quite a wasteful society. And it’s been so rewarding that I’ll definitely keep going.

So, how is it possible to live without money?
It's impossible to explain all the details of moneyless living in a short talk, but there is a lot of information about that on the blog. However, it is also impossible to give an exact recipe for moneyless living, because every place and situation is different and may require different solutions.
But I can give some general guidelines and share what worked for me. The most important thing is to be flexible and get creative in finding alternative ways to do things. That requires thinking outside the box (or outside the norm) and it often involves going back to basics; seeing how humanity used to do things, before we invented money. And also we can learn a lot from other animals, and nature in general.
Another important factor is that I always try to focus as much as I can on giving and contribution, and that becomes very easy - even second nature - when everything is free. I think humans are naturally giving, but it is our worries about the future and the money mindset of calculated exchange that restrict our generosity.
I have noticed that after living the moneyless life for a while, I am now less concerned with direct/conscious exchange, because I find there is something wrong with that kind of mindset. And that’s because it tends to get people to focus heavily on what they can get instead of what they can give. It gets you to focus on just doing enough instead of all the ways in which you can help others.
At the start of the challenge I got some barter deals where I did a direct exchange of goods or services, and my whole mind was focused on: If they do this for me, then what can I offer of equal value? It is exchange-thinking. This is what we are taught by using money. But if we get rid of that mindset, then all is left is we get offered something (or not), and we are always ready to serve and help. We can do more than required, because we are here and we are available to help. And if we see that our help is needed or desirable, then nothing stops us. We don’t need to measure our actions against what we are getting. We don’t need to worry about who is doing more. We simply help out where we can.

You may wonder how living moneyless helps the environment.
The biggest benefit to the earth is that I do not finance any corporations that contribute to the destruction of our planet. With every penny you spend you support more than just a product; you may support air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, climate change, and so on. And sometimes it is very difficult to know what you are supporting through purchases, because corporations are not exactly advertising the harm they are doing.
Another benefit for the earth is that I am producing zero waste. I even get to reduce waste by using some of it for myself, donating some to others and sorting out and recycling the rest. I also noticed I use far less resources such as water and electricity now that I am living in a tiny home.

But I have also benefited personally from the challenge, in many different ways.
For example, I realized that I really don’t need that much, and the less I have, the happier I am. Stuff complicates life. And all of the things I really need are freely available.
Also, when I started I got instantly more connected to the resources I use and what the earth is providing. Money can create the illusion that these things are not given. That we have to earn them somehow. That we even need to have a job to be able to fulfill some of our most basic needs. But this is not true! The sun shines for everyone. The trees provide fresh and clean air for everyone. Plants and food grow for everyone. We have invented a system that uses money, and it has removed us from the very obvious fact that everything we need is already given.
I also experienced how we are all connected. None of us lives in a bubble, so independence from others is an illusion and humans are also not separate from other beings. We are all part of the ecosystem. We are all affecting each other’s existence. And so each of us plays an important role in maintaining the balance. We can all choose to contribute to life and creation or death and destruction. And right now with the way our society is organized, most of us are contributing mostly to destruction. Instead I think our focus should be in helping each other thrive, because that is what makes us thrive. So I am here to support Life. And not just human life, but all life on earth.

Change starts with you
The final point I want to make is that change always needs to start with you. It cannot start with anyone else. So if you feel the world needs changing, then make the change.
It is easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed at this point in time, because the destruction of the earth is happening at such a fast rate and we are with so many people contributing to it. It might make you feel like your efforts don’t really matter, but I am here to tell you that it does matter. We can all make a big difference by doing our part.
You may not want to give up money to save the planet. But giving up money is just one of many ways in which you can help the earth and support life. So find a way that works for you and take steps to create a better world today. We have been waiting long enough. The time for action is now.

Thank you.

The Moneyless Mindset

I regularly get the comment that my moneyless lifestyle is not technically "moneyless", because I am still depending on money via other people. While I understand the logic and reason behind this to some degree (especially from the perspective of what is accepted in society), I also see another side to it. Here are some of my concerns with this interpretation of reality, and with the use of money in general.
NB: Some of these ideas might seem controversial, but try to read them with an open mind and see what comes up for you.

Money is invented
Money is a construct. It is something that we have invented. It has no value in itself. The value is determined by what you get for it, and in the end all real value is provided by the earth and /or the inhabitants of the earth. So it may be that you pay for things that were created by other people, but in the end we can only use what is already here. If things you buy were created by man, then the fact remains that someone chose to bring it into the world and made it with the resources that are freely provided by the earth. And hopefully they did not just create it with the intention to make money, but to make the world a better place and to help others. In the absence of money, this is the only motivation to do things at all.

Money is not a tool for survival
Many people mistakenly believe that money is a tool for survival, because with the way things are right now everything we need can be acquired through money. So it can also create a false sense of independence, because if you have enough money, there is really nothing else you need to get everything and anything done. But money is only an indirect way to fulfill basic needs, and there are direct means available to get those needs met. So how about we teach ourselves to fulfill our needs directly?
If the monetary system would ever fall away, would you be able to sustain yourself? If that system was all you knew, then there is no way you could survive. At least not on your own. I think this is why some people get so defensive of the monetary system: they have invested all their life into it and put in a lot of effort to be a good player of the game, and their very survival depends on keeping the system in place.In a way, money has made us complacent, and it has detached us from our real survival skills. Acquiring money has become our main strategy for survival. Of course this is completely unnatural: no other creature on earth puts value on an inherently meaningless object and depends on it for survival. Only humans.

Money forces us on a detour
Some people argue that money makes things easier, as it represents a value and makes it easier to compare and exchange things. But does it really make things easier? It actually seems to make things more complicated. Instead of growing my own food or finding it in nature, I have to get a job that has nothing to do with getting what I really want and need, save money and then get what I need after. To buy myself a place to live, I need to save money for many, many years. This means I probably need to work for the rest of my life. I also get persuaded to buy many other things I don't need, so that I can support other people's jobs, so that they can get their basic needs met. And meanwhile we destroy our only home, the earth, because all the stuff we consume has to come from somewhere, and all the trash we create has to go somewhere. 

The issue of entitlement and obligation
Money creates an attitude of entitlement with the person who pays and a sense of obligation in the person who is being paid. This greatly diminishes our general experience of freedom, or at the very least creates a huge degree of inequality. It can also lead to people doing things that go against their values; just because they are 'doing their job'. And it can lead to people doing a lot of damage to the earth because they 'own' it and think that therefore they can do whatever they want. And if anyone complains, they are told to 'mind their own business'. So for some people it can create the illusion that they live in a bubble. They have forgotten that we are all affecting each other, because we are all part of the same ecosystem. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. So my decisions about 'my' land do have an impact on you and everyone else. What happens to our ecosystem is therefore everyone's business.

Money gives the illusion of ownership
What makes people think they can sell everything and charge money for it? It is a false sense of ownership. We take things that nature provides and sell them for profit, while slowly destroying our own ecosystem and depleting our resources. How is that acceptable? In reality we don't own anything. We are born with nothing and die with nothing. And yet everything we need is freely available. So everything that is made, invented, used and sold belongs to the earth. Everything. How can that be sold? How can we charge money for something that is not even ours to sell? If it helps others, we can give it away and share it, but why would we need anything else?
You may say: well, people want to get credit for things they invent. They want to be recognized. But recognition can come in many different forms. Gratitude is a form of recognition. If people use what you offer them, then that is a form of recognition. What does money have to do with it? The consequence of bringing money into it, is that we create a mindset of conditionality.

"You depend on people who have and use money"
Let's go back to this statement and take another look.
Of course we all depend on one another, because we are all part of one world. That in itself creates a certain level of interdependence. There is no question about that, and I wouldn't want it any other way. But the question is, do I necessarily depend on people with money, and do I therefore depend on money? I think that people who are used to using money depend on money, but I don't necessarily depend on it.
For the past year and a half (and in the years before to a lesser degree), I have been focusing my efforts on learning survival skills and increasing my independence (independence from the system; not necessarily from other people). How? By learning more about plants, sourcing and finding drinking water, building shelters, and so on. Most people who live the money-lifestyle know how to make money and how to buy food in the store. But how is that going to help you in a survival situation? How is that skill in any way related to your survival? And most importantly: can you see how having and using only your money-skills inevitably makes you dependent on others for your survival? It makes you dependent on people who know how to grow food (farmers) and people who know how to build homes and shelters.
So when I use the term independence I am not saying I want to be independent from other beings on earth, but mostly independent from the way society is currently organized. That is the goal of my independence. Not independent from other beings, because that is not possible and it is also not desirable. We share this world and we are all connected.

The Money=Contribution Myth
Obviously that doesn't mean we should allow some people to get lazy and leech off others. But again, without money this naturally balances out. People will eventually stop helping others who are not contributing anything beyond themselves; simply because we all have to make choices where we place our efforts to help others and it is much more rewarding to give to someone who is appreciative and who has a positive impact on the world around them. So there is a natural flow of giving and receiving that rewards giving and contribution. But money tends to disrupt this natural flow. It can even reward and reinforce greed and egotism to some degree.
A spider that lives in your home also contributes: he is a natural pest control guard on your mutual territory, because he eats other tiny creatures (and some of them may be harmful to your health). Does that give him the right to live with you? No, because his right to live stands on its own. It doesn't depend on any kind of contribution. But he does contribute. He can't not contribute. It's his nature to do so.
Many people confuse parasites with symbiosis / mutualism. If you aim to live symbiotically then you will always contribute something valuable. As outlined above, money can hinder this natural flow of contribution. It is not valuable in itself and creates a conditional, calculated mindset. In fact, many people who value money live like environmental parasites. It is just the way the economic system is structured, because it is mostly aimed at consumption and expansion at the expense of our ecosystem.
So I would argue that whether someone contributes to the world or not has nothing to do with money.
(Read more about this here.)

Money teaches conditionality
No creature on earth pays rent... so why would you?
Let's look at the phenomenon of paying rent as an example. Which other creature on earth has to pay rent just because they exist? None of them. Does that spider that lives with you pay rent? Does he "depend on people with money" because he is living under your roof? Of course not. But what is the consequence of our sense of ownership and conditional mindset? We think we have more right to live in the house than the spider. Some people even kill the spider, because it is "their" home. But in fact that spider has as much right to be there as you do. And it definitely has the same right to live. We share this planet with all other creatures.

So the consequence of this conditional mindset is that we think we somehow have more right to be here than other species. And that we can use other animals for our own purposes. They have to earn a living too. They have to help us make money. There is no room for equal partnership because we have paid for them which makes us seem more powerful. We "own" them. With the money-mindset, this is a common trap. If we do things free of charge for others, it often creates an expectation of some kind of reciprocity."You owe me" quickly turns into "I own you". There is little difference in the conditional mindset, but a huge difference when you let go of that mindset.

Question the Status Quo

I encourage people to question everything, so that's not limited to things that are different from the norm. Let's not forget to question the status quo, and let's do it often. Why are we doing the things we do in the way we are currently doing them? Does it make sense or is there another way that makes more sense?

Don't just take my word for it. Put these ideas into practice and experience them for yourself. Go moneyless and see what it does for you. Experience is the best (and only) teacher.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Tips For Supermarkets To Prevent Food Waste!

Here are some tips for food stores from other food stores to prevent food waste. Most of these ideas were spotted at HiSbe (short for How It Should Be) in Brighton. They put "happiness before profits" and they are "on a mission to break the mould, by putting customers, suppliers and employees first".

1. Give older vegetables away as pet food
Are fruits and vegetables not so fresh anymore? Then give them away as 'pet food'!

2. Discount
If products have come close to or have gone past the expiry date (or no longer look their best), they are usually still quite tasty and safe for consumption. So you could inform your customers and sell them with a discount in a separate section.

3. Give away healthy snacks for kids!
Do you want to inspire younger generations to buy healthy food and care about the environment and each other? Give away free fruit to kids so that they can get a healthy snack while their parents stock up on local, organic, healthy foods. Bananas are great giveaways because they often end up being thrown out when they get (overly) ripe. But this is also when they are most tasty! So that is when they would be perfect as a healthy eat-while-you-shop snack.

4. Donate
What if you don't have time to come up with all these ideas? Or if there is just too much food that still goes to waste, even after implementing all these ideas? What if you simply don't have the resources to sort out all the stuff? Then it may be easier to get rid of everything in one go. So another option then is to donate to organizations who are willing to sort out edible foods and re-distribute it to people and/or animals in need.
Here in Trondheim we have several organizations that accept food donations: Salvation Army / Hveita Dagsenter, Folkekjøkken, Gryta aktivitetssenter, Brygga, Vår Frue Kirke, Birgitta Klosteret, Trondheim Frikirke, Veiskillet Treffsted and Stavne Dagsverk. All it requires is some committed and reliable volunteers who can help distribute the food. Wait for them to show up or recruit them from a volunteer database, university campus (especially if their topic is related to the environment) or through related pages on social media. Large farms are also usually happy to receive food donations, as they can use most of it to feed the animals.
Donating food is the easiest and most efficient way to deal with food waste! It saves time, it saves money (as there is less waste to be collected), it benefits the environment and it benefits many people and/or animals.

Monday, 4 April 2016

What It Takes To Live Moneyless

With this post I would like to debunk the myth that jobless or moneyless living equals lazy, or that it mostly involves sitting around all day and profiting from other people's hard work. I will outline here what it takes to live and maintain the moneyless lifestyle, so that you can check for yourself whether you could fit the bill.

Characteristics, qualities and skills required to live the moneyless lifestyle

I call it a lifestyle for a reason: to be successful living moneyless, you need to develop certain qualities. This is the main reason the experience has been so valuable to me; it has encouraged me to be the best version of myself that I can be, and I am still learning and evolving. No personal development course or training could ever have given me the skills and experience I gained so far from living this way. Here are some things I have found to be of paramount importance in this way of living:

1. Contribution (Unconditional giving)
Contribution is the cornerstone of the moneyless lifestyle. This means contributing in some way to anything beyond yourself (other people, animals, plants, the earth, etc). It helps if you also have a vision; some theme to work on that guides and shapes your actions. For me, it is the environment: supporting the earth and all of life on earth. I did not have a clear vision when I started my challenge, but I developed one quite quickly and naturally into the process, because my experiences broadened and refined my perspective on life. Living moneyless I experienced very clearly that none of us can live in a bubble: every being on earth depends on many other beings in some way.  This is why we need to collaborate and look after each other (not just humans, but all parts of the ecosystem). Life supporting life.
When you have a cause you support that goes beyond yourself, it also makes it easier for others to get to know you and understand what you are about, because you have a story that explains instantly who you are and what is important to you. You may even restore others' faith in humanity by sharing -and demonstrating- that you care about something other than just personal gain. The demonstrating part is obviously very important: actions speak louder than words.
After living moneyless for a while, you will notice that contribution starts to become second nature. It is no longer about getting something in return (like it is with money). Step by step you will move away from the exchange mindset. Exchange can be useful, but in many cases it tends to detract from the experience of giving and can make the receiver feel uncomfortable. Unconditionality also helps you to live in the moment and thus enjoy life more.
(Read more about my thoughts on contribution here.)

2. Being a reliable, trustworthy person
It doesn't matter how much fun you are to be around, or how much you give to other people on certain occasions: if you break promises for no good reason or miss appointments, then people are not going to want to collaborate with you. And collaboration is key to success with this way of life. So it is important that you do what you say and say what you do. I try to communicate as clearly and truthfully as possible and always stick to my word to the best of my ability.
Another aspect of being a reliable person is having principles (integrity). This requires being aware of all the consequences of what you do and having strong moral guidelines to steer your actions. Some of the most important guidelines I live by are: 1. Always support life/creation over death/destruction (on a global scale and across all species). 2. It is okay to harm the (societal) system, but never the individual. 3. Loyalty is the basis of friendship that is present at all times: not just when you need them and also in the person's absence.
When people say they trust me, or when I notice that an animal trusts me, to me that is the biggest compliment in the world. Trustworthiness, loyalty and integrity are not just a very important focus in my relationships with others, but also essential aspects I look for in other people. It is far more important than being beautiful, popular, rich, smart or anything else.

3. Being attentive/ Thoughtfulness
When you live moneyless, you will soon discover you have much more to give than you ever thought. This is why you will quickly learn to be more attentive to others' wants and needs. You will develop a natural interest in others and remember their likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, wishes and desires. This is because giving is your new purpose.
If you know what people need, want and like, then you can give them exactly that when the opportunity presents itself. You can create ripples of joy and it won't cost you anything other than paying attention to what people say and do, and perhaps investing some time. Life is just much more worthwhile when you have others around you with whom to share your blessings.

4. Resourcefulness / Creativity
Along with a belief in yourself and a belief that it is possible for you to make your dreams come true, you need to develop your resourcefulness so that you can in fact make them happen. There is always a way; you just have to find it. You will not survive if you refuse to think outside the box. You won't even be able to get started. So question everything and try to think outside the norm at all times. It is a skill all of us can learn. Most of us rely too much on assumptions and presuppositions. There is so much more to explore!

5. Patience and perseverance
When making things happen, you also often need patience and perseverance. Things do not always work out instantly. It may take a couple of tries. When I was searching for my first free home, I sent out approximately 60-100 emails to homeowners before getting a positive response. Some things take time, so give it time. And over time you will learn to trust that all will work out, because it always does.
When things do not work out instantly, that also provides a wonderful opportunity for you to contemplate alternative ways to do things and thus practice resourcefulness. The best ideas usually appear in the quiet times when nothing seems to be happening. Brainstorming and thinking outside the box are just about sitting comfortably in the space of "not knowing". So having a way to make everything happen in an easy and straightforward way (e.g. money) actually robs us of the opportunity to practice resourcefulness and learn to think outside the box.

6. Gratitude
Gratitude is not really a requirement to live moneyless, but it is rather a natural consequence of moneyless living. This lifestyle teaches gratitude because you learn to take nothing for granted. Everything is given and yet you never know whether it will be there again tomorrow, or how or where it will show up. Of course this is always the case in life, but it is easier to forget when you use money on a daily basis, because it gives us the illusion of security, stability, continuity and control.
Gratitude is also a consequence of living life according to your highest principles and living life with integrity. You get the opportunity to give as much as you can (and you get a lot back in return, but that is just a bonus at that point). Life becomes a flow of give and take - not in the sense of exchange, but as a blended concept. It is impossible to live life without receiving and it is also impossible to live without giving. You can only shape the form it takes to some degree. So purposeful exchange  (especially involving money) seems pointless and artificial, as giving and receiving are essential elements of each moment of existence. It is what life is made of.

It is difficult to put all the changes and qualities you will develop into words because it is hard to understand for those who have not experienced it. But these changes will come naturally and automatically as you gradually change your perspective on life and stop relying on money.

Are you aware of all you are giving and all you are given in each moment?
I invite you to notice.