Past Sustainable Money Topics

Sustainable Finance - Sustainable Life Discussion Group


Do you want to live more frugally, consciously and sustainably?
Do you want to transform your relationship with money while investing in the economy of the future?

Learn, share and find support in making the changes you’d like to make in your life, your home and your community. Participants will explore ways to bring their use of money and time in line with their values, how to save energy, minimize waste, build social capital, cultivate gratitude and increase happiness.

In the first half of this program, participants will do specific exercises to understand their carbon footprint and how their money and time is spent. They will work to bring that spending in line with their values. The second half of the program looks at how we can use our time and money to change the current economy by investing in a steady-state future that values people, local communities and environmental resources.

You do not need to attend each session to come to the group, though the exercises and discussion build upon each other so ongoing participation will yield the greatest results. The group will not back-track to bring new people up to speed, but we can provide you with hand outs and exercises from sessions you missed.

This space is not wheelchair accessible. If that is needed for you to participate, we can switch rooms. We do not currently offer child care but we can discuss this need at the first session. If you have questions, contact the discussion facilitator Leslie MacKenzie, 612-810-3216.


"The sustainable finance meetings were helpful in helping me see what actions I may need to take to reorganize my life better around time use and vocation. The vocabulary term "re-tool" was quite helpful. Thanks for offering the class and all the hard work and time you've given, freely."  -- Ethan, past participant in the finance group


January 2014: Overview and the steady state economy:  We’ll discuss the goals and topics for the year and make decisions about how the group will operate. We’ll also look at the idea of a steady-state (sustainable) economy - one that does not consume more resources than exist or can be created.


February 2014: Money and Your Life Energy: What is your real hourly wage (actual cost in time and money required to maintain your job)? What are you actually getting for that life energy? Track expenses on a Daily Money Log.


March 2014: The Metabolism of Your Household: How many planets do you need to maintain your lifestyle? Prepare to measure the resources you are using so you really understand your impact. We'll be providing you with links to a number of different measurement tools.  Under homework you will also find links to basic excel spreadsheets for utilities, water, garbage and transit. 


April 2014: Values identification and the Genuine Happiness Index: In the consumer culture, "more" seems to be the overarching value. But more is not always better. Does your spending reflect your values? Does the way you choose to use your time reflective of your values? We’ll do a values identification exercise so we can see whether our spending is supporting or sabotaging those values. We'll talk about GDP as an expression of value in a consumer culture and at alternatives to that measure -- the Genuine Progress Indicator and Gross National Happiness measure.


May 2014: Countering the Culture of Consumerism: Conscious Spending. In March, we looked at how many planets it would take to maintain our existing lifestyle. Given that we have only one, we need to "degrow" our personal and our national consumption. We'll talk about the degrowth movement, how degrowth differs from recession, and how our consumer culture makes it difficult for us to make the kinds of changes we need to make.


June 2014: Waste Wise: Step back for a month and carefully watch - and measure - what leaves your house or business. If you had a goal of producing zero waste, how would your buying habits change? Check out the various videos available from the folks at The Story of Stuff.  This month we watched The Story of Electronics.


July 2014: Spending Wise & Voluntary Simplicity: Last month we looked at our waste stream. One way to reduce our personal waste stream is with the practice of voluntary simplicity. What is the voluntary simplicity movement? What does it look like in daily life? How might it affect our larger society and economy?  (no homework this month).


August 2014: Moving Toward Resonance: We’ve been tracking money, energy and waste and working to bring our consumption in line with our values. This month, let’s take a look at how we’re doing. What have you learned? What challenges have you faced? Share your knowledge, get new ideas. 

September 2014: The Slow Movement: It’s back to school time and everyone is speeding up, but we’re going to consider what can be gained by slowing down. How will our use of time change if we're living with less fossil fuel? We'll also look at the slow money movement. How have the demands of growth impacted our economy and our society? What is a reasonable rate of return in a slow-growth, no-growth economy?


October 2014: The Sharing Economy: Sharing sidesteps consumer culture while building community. What are some of the ways we are already seeing a sharing economy? What more can we do? How can you get more involved?


November 2014: Practices of Attentiveness & Health: A great deal of what we’re trying to do this year requires conscious decision making and a different state of mind. What actions or habits encourage attentiveness? What do you find pulls you away from living a conscious life? How do we make time for our mental and physical health?


December 2014: Checking in on Happiness: As we approach the end of the year, how have your habits changed? How has your spending changed? How has your impact in your family and your community changed? Are you happier? 


January 2015: OVERVIEW Rethinking Investment: In our current economy, a good “investment” yields 5%, 7%, even 10 or 20% interest. That’s how the economy grows - or does it? Much of what economists define as growth is really a form of borrowing from the future. In a steady-state economy, how can we invest our resources to build for, rather than borrow from our children?


February 2015:  Where to Get a Real Investment for Our Dollars: How can we disconnect from the boom and bust of the stock market and use our assets to build great stability and resilience within our own community? Especially if we are lower or middle income, what can we do with our retirement funds?


March 2015: Growing the Commons: We've looked at person-to-person sharing; The Commons (or public spaces) are where everyone shares in the benefits of natural and built resources. In what ways are The Commons being rebuilt – or further damaged? How can we participate in the rebuilding and reclaiming of public space?


April 2015: Growing Social Capital: Research shows that social cohesion is critical for societies to prosper economically and for development to be sustainable. What institutions in our neighborhood create and promote social interaction? What can we do individually and as a neighborhood to promote stronger relationships among neighbors?


September 2015: Growing a Safe, Local Food System: How can we contribute to the creation of a sustainable, local food system? We'll learn about Slow Money North Carolina, about the work of the Land Stewardship Project, and we'll review the book "Financing Our Foodshed."