Holiday Reflections On Living Smaller, Living Lighter

Christmas TreeObserving the obsessions of most people during this season that seems to revolve almost exclusively around consumption, the simple ideas of living smaller and living lighter on our environment might appear almost sacrilegious.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit a local big-box retailer to pick up a couple of modest items. This is one of those super-superstores with everything from groceries to pets, to electronics, to hardware. As I searched for the makings for humus to go along with the bag of carrots I had in hand (no kidding, that’s what I was there for) I found myself amazed at the show around me.

Throngs of my fellow shoppers certainly appeared to be hell-bent on anything but modest consumption. Cart after cart shoved past, each full to the brim with new plastic doodads, electronics of the latest craze, and enough processed boxed food and red meat to choke any artery.

Everyone was friendly enough, in their harried way–this is not one of those tales of rudeness and lack of Christmas spirit. I was just taken aback at the frantic pace of buying that is ubiquitous with this holiday season in the western hemisphere.

Rethinking The Consumer-centric Life: A Video

Strawbale HomeLast summer my family and I had the opportunity to join Andrew Morrison for a week of camping in the central Oregon and building a strawbale home. Andrew is a talented builder and even more talented instructor of strawbale building methods.

We were attending one of Andrew’s strawbale construction workshops, during which students actually build a strawbale home.

Over the course of the week, Andrew relayed the story of how he and his wife, along with their twelve year old daughter moved into a 125 square foot popup tent trailer in Baja Mexico.

Andrew’s tales of his experience in that trailer, along with the lessons those months taught him about family, what’s important in life, appreciation of nature, and our consuming ways as a society, made for a meaningful dialogue after each hard day of work.

Below is a simple video Andrew recorded about some of these experiences. Call it an antidote to the seasonal consuming craziness.

I have to admit, these stories were better delivered while sitting around a campfire on a summer night with the gentle roll of thunder in the distance. Still, watch. I think you will come away with something meaningful.

Clicking on the image below will take you to Andrew’s video page:

About the Author:

David Arthur is a LEED-AP and contributor to

About the Author

David holds a Masters of Science degree, is a USGBC LEED-AP, Green Building Consultant, and Energy Auditor. In addition, David holds professional certifications in green building and construction management.
  • I have to be blunt in my input without offending the author of this article – a not-so-simple balancing act. Where has the author been all of his adult life? He’s just now “awakening” to the zero sum game, crassness and futility of our consumption-based economy?

    My generation – baby boomer/counterculture valenced – was not only keenly aware of this ultimately destructive (to the planet and all species on it) socio/political/economic/military paradigm, we were raging against it with indefatigable persistence and conviction.

    The Occupy Movement (where did it go?) was a rather feeble, albeit sincere, attempt to rekindle the activism of the Counterculture that started in the late ’50’s and was gone by the mid ’80’s.

    Like old soldiers, social upheavals never die, they just fade away, or, more descriptively accurate of the fate of the Counterculture, “The Movement” was sucked up by a ginormous sponge known as the Plutocracy.

    I don’t question the author’s sincerity, however, I’m quite taken aback at his (and Green Building Elements’) apparent total lack of awareness that the point of the article is painfully cliched/unoriginal.

    I began wonder if somehow I had been sucked into a worm hole and moved backwards in time about 45 years. I sincerely believe that it would behoove the author and his generation to research in detail the history of the Counterculture Movement that was fueled and inflamed by the Viet Nam War.

    Then, after some intense research, to reflect upon and come to some common sense conclusions regarding the power of the 1% and where the 1% continues to lead humankind.

  • And Happy Holidays to you as well.

    The intent was to introduce a very good interview on living a simpler life, which is a message that has seasonal significance. Yes, unoriginal, but cliches are with us because they resonate in our culture at some level.

  • Thanks for your words, David!
    Glenn Meyers