Living well and sustainabe - how does that actually work, Martin Herrndorf?

Responsibility & dedication, 28.01.2020

Martin Herrndorf is an economist and sociologist. He works on sustainable transformation and lifestyles. He lives in Cologne, where he founded the „Colabor – room for sustainability“. At the ERGO Office in Cologne he lectured employees on what sustainability can mean for their individual lives.

Martin Herrndorf 

For years, you have been organizing the „Day of the Good Life“", a car-free Sunday in Cologne. But just giving up the car in a big city does not automatically lead to Living a good life. How do you define the „good life”?

There can't be a general definition that applies to everyone, it is something everyone has to find out for themselves. For us, however, a good life at the expense of other people cannot be a good life. It has to preserve the chances of the following generations to lead a good life as well, which is also a request of the Fridays for Future movement. Every one of us is responsible for what we do – or don't do. There are many decisions we can make in this context: bicycle instead of car, unpacked goods instead of plastic wrapping, vegan lifestyle or meat consumption. Each of us can contribute something and take responsibility for the world. Those who change their own lifestyle can inspire and motivate others.

It can also have something to with making sacrifices: I am convinced that we have to proportionate in many aspects and that also means not doing some things.

That seeems quite difficult to coney. Sacrificing something should make you happy?

You have to approach it properly and change your perspective. We usually give up on extreme self-denial anyway. It's like training at the gym. If you really suffer, you won’t continue for a long time. Same as many others who have good intentions at the beginning of the year and sign up for sports. And to go from renunciation to the good life: The good life starts when what you feel is a sacrifice today, will be one day come over as fun. When „less“ consumption means „more“ happiness.

And how does that work, more happiness due to less consumption?

Happiness and satisfaction research has some very good tips on this. I would like to name four key aspects. First: experiencing and learning makes you happier than buying and owning. What did you buy in the past that meanwhile lays in a cupboard or storage space that you no longer need? And how happy do you feel about experiences that you can repeat over and over again and that you remember? Second: challenging activities that require effort make you happier in the end than effortless ones. Get started! Learn Italian and go to Italy instead of lying down by the pool somewhere. Third: being in a community makes you happier than being isolated.  It makes us happy to do nice things with other people, share good experiences and face challenges together. And fourth: Get active, get involved! Those who actively shape their environment together with others will be happier than those who bear it quietly and silently. Get started. Change your perspective. Then, it will be possible to live the good and sustainable life.

Interview by Monika Stobrawe

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