7 Ways to Sample Living With Less




“There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.” —Jackie French Koller

From the moment we’re born, we’re told to pursue more. Advertisements from every television, radio, newspaper, magazine, billboard, and website scream to us on a daily basis that more is better. As a result, we work hard hours so that we can spend countless dollars purchasing the biggest homes, fanciest cars, trendiest fashions, most popular toys, and coolest technologies.

But we all know it’s not true. We all know, deep-down, that happiness can not be bought at a department store—more is not necessarily better. We’ve just been told the lie so many times we begin to believe it.

But what if, in reality, there is actually more joy in owning less? 

That truth would change almost everything about us. It would change the way we spend our hours, our energy, and our money. It would change where we focus our attention and our minds. It would change the very foundation of our lives. And if it were true, it would free us up to pursue the things in life that we most value. In other words, it would be a life-changing and life-giving realization.

Unfortunately, for some, the idea of intentionally living life with fewer possessions is just too counter-intuitive. It’s an approach to life they have never been introduced to or have never been invited to explore. The benefits have never been articulated. As a result, it’s too far a leap… too long a stretch… and jumping in with both feet is just not going to happen.

But maybe there’s an easier way than jumping in with both feet.. maybe the lifestyle can just be sampled for a bit. Oh, one may not experience all the benefits that are afforded to those who jump in with both feet, but they just may taste enough to continue along the journey.

To that end, allow me to offer 7 areas of life where living with less can be sampled. They are designed to be picked one-by-one, risk-free. Conducting each experiment for 3-4 weeks will give a good feel for the practical benefits, but hey, it’s your experiment. You decide the length.

7 Ways to Sample Living With Less

1. Clothes. According to statistics, we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. That means that many of us have closets full of clothes that we no longer like or no longer fit us correctly. They are just taking up space. The simple exercise of going through your closet and removing all unused clothing leaves your closet lighter, your mornings less stressful, and your wardrobe full of things you love. Give your lighter wardrobe 30 days to work its magic… you’ll never miss those unused clothes.

2. Decorations. Many of the decorations in our homes hold no personal value to our lives. They just simply happened to match the color of the carpet or be on sale when we walked into the store. Unfortunately, they are distracting you and your guests from the decorations in your home that share your story and highlight your values. Take a moment to walk through your home with a discerning eye. Leave only the decorations that are the most meaningful and the most beautiful. Your home will begin to share your story in a beautiful way. And your old decorations will likely end up on sale at your next garage sale.

3. Toys. Too often, we fall into the line of thinking that says more is better… and so do our kids. We begin to purchase and collect far too many toys for our children. As a result, our children have no need to learn how to be creative, helpful, careful, or sharing. In that regard, fewer toys may benefit your kids in numerous ways. Although you may want to consult your children before you relocate their unused toys, there’s a pretty good chance that after only a few weeks the old, unused toys will be forgotten (except by whomever used to pick them all up).

4. Cooking Utensils. There never seems to be enough storage space in our kitchens. Yet most of our grandmothers cooked far more often, far more elaborately, and far better than many of us today… in much smaller kitchens. The truth is that when it comes to cooking, simple is almost always better. We need far less cooking utensils than we currently own. As a result, our drawers, cabinets, and countertops can be far better organized and useful if we simply owned less. To give this experiment a shot, check out this article from the New York Times: A No Frills Kitchen Still Cooks. Then, store all your unnecessary utensils in a plastic bin, put them away out of sight, and see if you just enjoy cooking a little bit more in your new, clutter-free environment.

5.  Televisions. According to Nielsen, the average person watches 4 hours, 35 minutes of television each day. And the average American home now has more television sets than people. That threshold was crossed within the past two years. There are 2.73 TV sets in the typical home and 2.55 people. In the average American home, a television set is turned on for more than a third of the day — 8 hours, 14 minutes to be exact. We are literally sitting on the couch while life passes us by. Experiment with owning less televisions. As a result, you will watch less. And when you do, you will be more apt to do it together as a family.

6. Counter-tops. Clutter is a form of distraction. It pulls at our attention and redirects our thoughts – even for just an instant. Everything sitting out on your countertops competes for your attention. Unfortunately, we have become so accustomed to these distractions that we don’t even notice them anymore… until they are removed. Experiment, even for just 7 days, with keeping your countertops completely clear. Store things in drawers, cabinets, pantries, or temporary storage boxes. After one week, you’ll likely return some of it for the sake of convenience, but I’d bet my bottom dollar that you won’t return all of it.

7. Furniture. It may require some heavy-lifting, but if you’re up for the challenge, removing excess furniture from your rooms will immediately open up significant space and airflow in your home. The rarely-used pieces of furniture in your home are quickly recognizable and taking up more space than you realize. Oh sure, this experiment requires a place to store your furniture during the trial period, but it’s a quick and easy way to remove some of the largest clutter from your home.

Do we have enough? Too much? What is enough?

How much is enough?  Author and Psychologist Barry Schwartz addresses this topic head on.  What are your thoughts?  What is enough for you?  What can you eliminate to have more?

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by on the TED home page.  https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice


Do children benefit educationally from being outside?

Caroline Carr, founder of the Outdoor Learning Consultancy will be visiting the AAS this week. She and Clare Ward will be leading a parent forest walk and talk on Friday April 21st. She spoke to the Eco Green Committee about her work bringing children closer to the environment, and the educational and behavioral results this brings.

Why do we need outdoor learning consultants for our children?

Caroline Carr: My degree is a combined teacher training with outdoor education. A lot of the activities we did were about taking children outside and connecting with nature and the environment. After my degree, I went to work in South America for a company that had a big focus on educating people on caring for the environment. Then, I taught in a primary school for 15 years. I just found we weren’t taking the children outside enough and getting them connected with the environment. When I left, I thought about how I could make learning more interactive and practical, more hands-on and link it to the environment. That’s where the Outdoor Learning Consultancy came from. Ideas like taking literacy outside; being inspired by real trees, nature and the environment. Rather than just looking at pictures in a book or on a whiteboard. Through that, I am interested in how children engage more with learning and how they are more interested in learning because being outside makes you feel better than being inside.


What are the skills that children can learn while outdoors? Or is it more about the benefits of experiencing nature and being outside?

Caroline Carr: One of the things we do in the outdoor learning school is understanding how children feel about things and their understanding about the world around them. The idea is to learn about others and how to work with one another, through working outdoors. It might be about building a fire together, about team work and just interacting in a different way to what you would do in a classroom.

In England, the focus is on testing and grammar and punctuation – in other words lots of individual skills. We have lost some of the teamwork skills. Even with the smaller children, it’s about choosing what clothes to wear when they go out. Or making the decision about taking your jacket off when you are too hot – very personal decisions about themselves that are linked to the environment they are in. This also links to creating sparks of interest so that children can go out and find out more about things they are interested in. Whether it’s about nature or different things they can use for making a fire or whether it’s being creative.

Some six-year-olds wrote amazing poems after being outside as they had real life experiences they could connect to. That links to better quality writing and better quality language. They have experienced something real, rather than looking at a book or hearing a description. The final thing is learning and understanding more about the environment.

Do you have research to back up the idea that spending time outdoors benefits students in terms of school results and behavior?

Caroline Carr: Yes, certainly for behavior and attitudes to learning there is research in the forest schools where they have worked with target groups that were struggling with either behavior or learning in school. Through being outside, they have become more engaged with the learning and have built better connections with teachers and staff and with each other. The other thing is that there is a lot of research about health and well-being and mental health and the links to how being outside helps.

I was working with six-year-olds and we made an outside classroom where we did math and writing. The sun was out. One little girl gave a sigh and remarked on how lovely it was. You could see that she felt better about herself for being outside. Of course, she got on with doing her work. It was just a different feeling to being inside.

What is your view on children and electronics?  What is the right age, if any, for children to start using computers/iPad/iPhone?

Caroline Carr: There is a lot of research about screen time taking over children’s lives. I am going to be discussing this in my talk. We are very much a technological society now. With the outdoors, it’s about how you can work alongside each other. I had a seven-year-old doing a floating and sinking experiment outside and they recorded the results using an iPad. There is a place to meld technology and the outside. In addition, technology is useful for researching and finding out information. There is so much information at their fingertips these days. I do think there must be a balance between using electronics and the outside. I don’t know how we manage that.

What are the essential things that children should be doing outside on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?

Caroline Carr: Playing. Again, different countries have different cultures as to being out and playing. Where we are in England, there are a lot of children who don’t get to go out and play in the trees or even in the garden. The key is having the opportunity to be outside: playing by yourself or with others, having interactions with families. The important thing is being outside, in the fresh air – whether you are involved in an organized game, free flowing on the beach, or making up your own game.

‘Art can come from anywhere’ – Recycling goes wild and beautiful

img_0326Megan Pendleton, MS Art Teacher, is originally from Boston, Massachusetts, and joined AAS this year after living in Seoul, South Korea, where, she says, ‘recycling was a huge deal.’


Ms. Pendleton has brought her passion for recycling to her MS Art students, saying that recycled materials were a key component of the latest MS Art project, which was based around the work of Louise Nevelson, a recycled sculpture artist who worked in New York City in the 1930s and 40s.

‘The recycling at the back of my building in Seoul had over 18 options for distribution, including cooked and uncooked compost and we had to sort every piece of paper and glass. I’ve loved Moscow, but that was one of the major shockers, it hurts my heart to know all this is going into a landfill.’


‘Louise Nevelson would go trash to trash and pick up old pieces of wood to create gorgeous, huge sculptures taking up entire walls. The kids could see there were many different pieces, almost little worlds within a big world. As a result, I wanted them to understand how to use recycled materials, put them together, and how to create as part of a whole their individual little cosmos and create a work that they compiled as one, as a class,’ she says.

‘I also wanted them to understand that art can come from anywhere. Sometimes you can come up with things you would never dream of unless you had these recyclable materials.’


She says it was not hard inspiring students to create art with reused materials. ‘I keep a recycled sculpture shelf where there are all kinds of things I collect, and others bring me, that could be useful. In general, we were talking about the principles of art; we were talking about balance, symmetry, emphasis, movement, rhythm, and as a result they were able to use the shapes in their piece to abstractly understand how works of art are put together,’ she says.

‘The way they placed objects in the box determined whether it was a symmetrical or asymmetrical sculpture. They had to balance using their repeated shapes over and over, bottle caps for instance,’ she added.

Does she plan to use recycled materials again in future MS Art projects?

‘I’m a huge fan of recycling. It really hurts that I can’t do it personally here. What I do is bring in things from home – plastics, glass, aluminum – all my recycling from home is brought in here to be used or I distribute it to be used by other classrooms for other uses.’

‘We are about to launch our “fantastical beasts” project and students will again be using recycled materials as the basis of their sculptures. It’s something that seems to work hand-in-hand, automatically, in the MS Art Room. When you’re unsure how to put something together, using a massive water bottle or an aluminum can is a really great starting point.’


The MS Art project is currently exhibited in the MS hallway.


A Beautiful Planet: explore the Earth in a film showing in Moscow

For a information on film showtimes in Moscow click here.

A Beautiful Planet
US | 2016 | Cert. U | 43 mins
Director: Toni Myers
Jennifer Lawrence narrates this
documentary which looks at life on the
International Space Station (ISS) as well
as exploring our ever-changing planet
from a remarkable distance. Onboard
the ISS, we observe a number of teams
of astronauts embarking on missions.
This footage is intercut with spectacular
views of Earth as we bear witness to the
extraordinary effects the environment
has on our planet.

Discussion prompts

Talk about it
What do you imagine life as an astronaut to be like?
There are seven continents of the world. How many can you name?
How many countries do you think exist on planet Earth?
Discussion points
• What did you think of the visuals in A Beautiful Planet? Have
you seen images like this in a film previously? How would you
describe how Earth looked from this distance?
• What impact did the inside and outside scenes have on you as a
viewer? How do you think the filmmakers wanted the audience
to feel?
• Make a list of the different skills required to be an astronaut
based on the range of activities that they undertook in the film.
• The documentary doesn’t follow any particular story – what
did you make of this approach? Is there any element which you
would have liked to see more of?
• What’s the difference between natural and man-made
environmental events? Consider moments in the film such as
thunderstorms, droughts and light pollution. What category
would these fall into?
• What is global warming? Can you think of examples of global
warming in everyday life?
Write about it
Bring your ideas together in a review and share it on our Into Film
clubs’ website. You could include a summary of the story, mention
other films that it’s similar to, describe what you particularly liked or
disliked and give it your star rating.
Extension Activities
Discuss in groups what actions we can all take, as individuals and
communities, in order to better care for the environment. What
obstacles are there? How can these be overcome?

Cut Palm Oil, Not Rainforests

Palm fruit ready to be taken to the mill.

Palm fruit ready to be taken to the mill.

What is palm oil?

Grown only in the tropics, the oil palm tree produces high-quality oil used primarily for cooking in developing countries. It is also used in food products, detergents, cosmetics and, to a small extent, biofuel. Palm oil is a small ingredient in the U.S. diet, but more than half of all packaged products Americans consume contain palm oil—it’s found in lipstick, soaps, detergents and even ice cream.

Palm oil is a very productive crop. It offers a far greater yield at a lower cost of production than other vegetable oils. Global production of and demand for palm oil is increasing rapidly. Plantations are spreading across Asia, Africa and Latin America. But such expansion comes at the expense of tropical forests—which form critical habitats for many endangered species and a lifeline for some human communities.

For more info from WWF click here.

Are Your Cookies Causing Orangutan Extinction?

Large areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems with high conservation values have been cleared to make room for vast monoculture oil palm plantations. This clearing has destroyed critical habitat for many endangered species—including rhinos, elephants and tigers.

Scientists warn that orangutans, gentle and intelligent animals among humankind’s closest kin, could become extinct within our lifetime if their rainforest homes continue to be destroyed for palm oil plantations. But the primary threat pushing them toward extinction lies much closer to home than you may think: you’ll find it hidden in the snack food aisle of your local grocery store, and likely in your own shopping cart.

When you eat food that comes out of a bag, a box, or a package of any kind, chances are you are eating palm oil. It is added to chocolate, turned into fry oil, and snuck into snacks of all sorts—in fact, it can now be found in roughly half the packaged food products sold in grocery stores. This palm oil comes at a terrible human and environmental cost. Skyrocketing demand has driven massive, industrial palm oil plantations into millions of acres of formerly lush rainforest habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia, worsening climate change and causing widespread human rights violations.

For more information from Rainforest Action Network click here.

What can you do to make a difference?

Become aware of palm oil. Read the ingredients lists of the foods you buy.

Watch this video and send it to your friends to watch


The Rainforest Action Network has a Palm Oil Action Team. Find out more information here.

Meet Wendall – AAS’s Adopted Whale Shark


As a result of the AAS Eco Green Committee’s #LoveNotesForWhaleSharks Auction, we  raised enough funds for the adoption of a whale shark, who has been nicknamed “Wendall”.

Wendall is likely a pregnant female whale shark, and she may live 60-120 years. First sighted in 2014, Wendall has been sighted eight times in the Philippines and is likely to be a regular visitor there in the future. Anyone going to the Philippines this summer, be on the lookout for Wendall!

Wendall is an ambassador for the species, and our support of over 100 researchers and volunteers across the globe collaborating through Wildbook for Whale Sharks will help us learn more about the lifecycle of this rare species and find ways to better protect them. For example, birth and mating have never been witnessed. Data from pregnant females like Wendall may help identify critical whale shark nurseries for protection.

You can always see everything we know about Wendall by clicking here.

Whale sharks are the world’s biggest fish! Whale sharks are currently listed as a vulnerable species; however, they continue to be hunted in some parts of the world for fin soup!
The Wildbook for Whale Sharks is a photo-identification database of whale sharks. The Wildbook uses cutting-edge software and photographs of the skin patterning behind the gills of each shark, and any scars, to distinguish between individual animals.

The Eco Green Committee will receive updates whenever Wendall is resighted in the future.

What birds tell us about threats from climate change….

World Birds Day is approaching! With April 2nd around the corner, here is a bit of information on the state of the world’s birds, the threats they face, and what we can do to become more aware and help. Click on this link to see how birds are being affected by climate change.

Across species and habitats, birds show us climate change is already a threat.

Emperor Penguins struggling as sea ice disappears; Keel-billed Toucans moving farther up mountain slopes towards suitable climate; Worthen’s Sparrows plummeting in abundance due to warming temperatures. Research on birds’ response to climate change emphasizes the impact of distribution and range shifts to date, and that taken together, climate change poses more dangers than it provides benefits.

To read more about threats to bird species click here.

Despite the significant ways climate change will threaten birds and people, there is hope.

BirdLife International is at the forefront of efforts to implement interventions that safeguard healthy ecosystems and mitigate further warming. The benefits extend beyond birds; the nature-based solutions BirdLife Partners implement worldwide deliver benefits for communities.

To read more about solutions for nature and people click here.