New Zealand climate change campaign calls for less

Less is more
© Gen Less

Finally, talking about lifestyle changes and using less instead of buying more green stuff.

We have long argued that Sufficiency is more important than Efficiency – the question of what is enough, how much do you really need. We have banged on for years that people should live in smaller spaces, in walkable neighborhoods where you can bike instead of drive, that upgrading to a more fuel efficient car doesn't make sense if a bike is sufficient. We never got much traction; our posts on Teslas were a lot more popular. Lifestyle changes are hard.

The idea, however, has legs in New Zealand. We learn from tipster Elrond Burrell about Gen Less, where they encourage citizens to "embrace a lifestyle that uses less energy, to help halt climate change."

It starts off with an over-the-top video mashing together everyone from Gandhi to Einstein to Kennedy to Churchill, and graphically (and cleverly) uses the < less symbol.

Gen Less is a lifestyle choice. A decision to start getting more out of life by using less energy. It's the first generation anyone can join, regardless of age.

It's set up by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) of the New Zealand government, and it doesn't just call for the usual efficiency stuff that we see in North America, but is more radical. "It’s a shift in mindset. A new way of thinking about how we live our lives." The communications and engagement manager of EECA, Jane O'Loughlin, tells Campaign Brief:

“We set out to make action on climate change something people will want to do, not just be obliged to do. Gen Less is a challenge to New Zealanders to scrutinise our decisions as individuals, and as a society, to rethink our collective approach to energy – from the smaller steps in our daily lives, to the larger systemic shifts we need to make together.”

Less waste© Gen Less

It's pretty common for government agencies to call for small steps, but pushing for larger systemic shifts is rare.

So if you go to the Start living a Gen Less lifestyle section on transportation, they start with commuting without a car, walking (or biking, busing or scootering) your kids to school, and using public transit, before they suggest getting an EV or hybrid car.

In your home, it is all about reducing waste, buying more consciously, using a clothesline, and, my favorite, Buy things that last: "Enjoy more quality, and create less rubbish, by buying goods that are made to last." The sheep people must have got to them, because there is no call to eat less meat.

Their house renovation section has the usual suspects (LEDs and insulation) and should have also suggested a look at how much space one needs or whether one should live in a single family dwelling; this is where Living with Less could have been a theme.

The business section also could also be a lot stronger; instead of "replace one vehicle with an EV", they could recommend e-cargo bikes. They do suggest that businesses could "promote a healthier workforce, with staff that use less fossil fuel, by encouraging them to walk, run, bike or scoot to work."

Notwithstanding these few quibbles, this is finally a campaign that recognizes that dealing with carbon really does mean lifestyle changes are required. It lists the usual small steps, but does push beyond them.

say yes to less© Gen Less

Mies van der Rohe is famous for saying Less is More. Robert Venturi thought Less is a Bore. Morris Lapidus got the tenor of the times with his motto, Too Much is Never Enough. We need more Mies and, as this campaign notes, Say Yes to Less.

New Zealand climate change campaign calls for less
Finally, talking about lifestyle changes and using less instead of buying more green stuff.

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