Terrible Names for Good Ideas

I’m listening to the audiobook version of How to be Alive by Colin Beavan. So far it has been enjoyable with lots of interesting perspectives and insights. And the book is read by the author, which I definitely prefer.

[Side note – the audio is free through hoopladigital.com in partnership with my local library, and it does NOT include all the “enhanced digital content” that would have been on the actual disks if I had purchased them in the store.]

Anyway, while I like a lot of Mr. Beavan’s ideas, I find his names for them, um, less than inspiring. Take for example, the “Ukulele Approach”. This is his term for small, easy actions that one can take to help bring your life more in line with your values. Even if you can’t solve big issues like world hunger or universal clean drinking water, anyone can smile more, help an elderly person carry their groceries, etc. He provides a list of 19 examples and they are all great suggestions. Just … the name for them … hmmmmm …

[Side note 2 – I finally know how to spell ukulele after writing this post.]

But the point is, Mr. Beavan’s list inspired me to compose my own. Some of the items are on his list as well, because I liked them so much. Without further ado, my own list of 19 easy small steps I can take to live a life better aligned to my values:

  1. Pick up litter while walking
  2. Eat a more plant-based diet
  3. Feed my family more locally sourced food
  4. Forage more to learn about my local ecology
  5. Drink less booze
  6. Eat less sugar
  7. Eat more fermented / cultured foods
  8. Buy more clothes used
  9. Shift what clothing I do buy to be more natural fibers rather than synthetic
  10. Improve the energy efficiency of my home through insulation foam, caulking and weather stripping
  11. Watch TV less
  12. Buy less stuff, especially things which are ‘labor saving’ gadgets or ‘convenience’ devices, or only serve one highly specialized purpose
  13. Spend my dollars at local and / or ethically and socially conscious businesses
  14. Give more complements
  15. Smile more
  16. Support my daughters’ unique personalities and individual traits and empower them to be strong women
  17. Buy seeds evolved for my climate so the garden needs less energy to support
  18. Participate in seed exchanges
  19. If given the choice, use and buy things that can be ‘returned to the soil’ at the end of their functional life

How will it go? Only time will tell, BUT I can definitely say, it has been a while since I last composed a list that made me feel excited, rather than anxious!


  1. Why prefer the author? Professional readers make a book come alive, especially for fiction. I admit I don’t recall ever listening to an author… I suppose some of them must have decent voices.
    “Drink less booze”???
    #16: Truly a worthy goal, but definitely not an “easy small step”. How will you know you’ve made any progress? I’m 49, and I still haven’t untangled the ways my parents shaped me; sometimes I lay awake at night thinking about how I shaped my kids.
    What would my list look like? Play music. Read books. Write better code. Relax. When dining out – more local restaurants, less chains. Buy local where possible, Amazon as a last resort.

    • I prefer the author because they often bring their own emotion to the words. Their passion makes up for any lack of polish. Also, I really like your idea about eating at fewer chain restaurants – I may adopt that one myself!

  2. […] I believe people can live in a fashion that is both leaner – less waste, less noise, less damage to our world – and better at the same time. I believe people can both be kinder to the environment and the world in which we all live, and live well at the same time. I am continuing to explore ways to bring this belief into practice in my daily life, and I’ve blogged previously on small changes that can added up to a real difference (You can read those here and here.) […]

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