Do you Live to Work? Ecopreneurs Use their Green Business to Make a Life.

Life offers more than a paycheck, corner office and promotional title.

In fact, many of us are working ourselves to death. Less than 40 percent of working Americans actually take all the vacation time that they’re offered, and many who do have a hard time disconnecting from the office, voicemail and e-mail. Added to this are the hours each week we spend commuting, wasting time and polluting the environment unless you’re fortunate to be able to walk or bike to work.

For many years, I let myself be defined by what I owned and the company I worked for (at a big advertising agency, of all places). For many people, their identity is so closely associated with their job that when they stop working, they end up passing away not long afterwards, lacking hobbies, social connections or life purpose. But what it says on a business card says nothing about our passions, interests, talents or aspirations.

A shift in perspective is underway, from desiring a standard of living defined by possessions and financial wealth to a quality of life defined by experiences and genuine well-being. For many people, maintaining their high standard of living contributes to their poor quality of life, not to mention often contributing to the destruction of the planet.

True, we must earn enough money each year to afford some of the products or services we need or to meet certain obligations we might have in our society. But some ecopreneurs do so in the context of living below our means. My family’s annual income ebbs and flows from peaks to valleys, like the changes of the seasons. Throughout the journey, we never lose sight of the real bottom line: our quality of life. Our health, our happiness, our deep connection to thenatural world and to our local community are far more important than helping support the continued — and unsustainable — increase in spending and consumption.

We have no intention of being the richest person in the cemetery.

We place more value on the quality of our work and the types of projects and their ability to serve our Earth Mission than the size of the advance or magnitude of the fee we could extract from clients. We’re not extrinsically motivated by money, status or power. Never setting sales goals for our business (not uncommon for many ecopreneurs), we’ve also never calculated what our hourly wage would have been, for example, working on a book or growing organic tomatoes. We do, however, operate a diversified portfolio of income producing enterprises.

The Gross National Product (GNP) is the total value of the free market economy’s output of goods and services, measured in money. We’d argue that it’s measuring a false sense of prosperity. In fact, such atrocities as the September 11 terrorist acts, the Exxon Valdez disaster, violent crimes, divorces, the wars on drugs or terror, and the expanding prison network all contribute to the GNP; however, these hardly add to the well-being of Americans. Not accounted for within GNP is the loss of natural capital: soil, forests, water and wildlife. Nor are the ecological services rendered by the biological processes of nature: the cleansing of water, wetlands buffering coastal areas from storms, sequestering carbon dioxide taken in by trees — all of which foster climate stability.

I’m both optimistic and hopeful, in part, because I’ve seen ways humankind has demonstrated an outpouring of compassion, creativity and cooperation to solve seemingly insurmountable problems, especially if we can adopt ECOnomics where preserving the life support systems on the Earth matter. What matters most to us is what has always mattered — love for all life, meaningful social relationships, good health and peace — meaningless when calculating GNP.

Do you live to work? Or do you make a life?

Photo Credit: Jeff Standen at Flickr (under a Creative Commons license)

  1. leslie @ the oko box

    I think when you are running an eco friendly company, that your job was born of your lifestyle… rather then the job defining your lifestyle later on. This post really rang true to me. Although I would say that I do overwork, I never take a vacation or day off – but then I own my business and can set all my hours. I can go for a bike ride at any point in the day if I need a break.

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