13 Apr, 2020 4:56 AM / by Quek Leng Chuang
Generally, we all wish for longevity, prosperity and abundance, particularly for the Lunar New Year. While the common greeting used to be 新年快乐 or “xin nian kuai le” which means “Happy New Year”, in the recent century, 恭喜发财 or “gong xi fa cai” which means “I wish you Abundance & Prosperity” has become more popular, almost a default. The season of Lunar New Year also celebrated with huge family gatherings and excessive meals. No doubt, this abundance belongs to this celebration as it does with many other festive periods like Christmas. However, where did this come from? At Environmental Solutions (Asia), we decided to incorporate an opposite value, frugality, into our business philosophy. Here is why.
The Desire for Abundance
No matter which culture we look at, in earlier times, life was harder. On average, people died earlier, had less food, access to poorer healthcare and worked hard all day. In earlier times also in Singapore, only a few rich people could afford to live an abundant lifestyle. This made it desirable for the whole population to earn more money in order to climb up the hierarchy and lead a more luxurious life. These days, in Singapore as well as in most developed countries, a great share of people enjoy a relatively high quality of life. Even though, most of them have the desire to achieve more in order to to live more abundant. Probably, we all possess the desire to have “more”, whether it is passed on from former generations or just embedded in human nature.
This is especially so when it comes to prosperity. However, abundance is a dangerous goal. Firstly, money by itself cannot make people happy as it is just a means to acquire goods or services that may lead to more temporary happiness. The desire for more and more stuff, for the bigger car, the swimming pool in front of the house and branded luxury handbags leads to the desire for more and more money, influenced largely by the advertising industry. In the long run, the run for higher and higher material standards will not make people happy as they can never reach this goal.
The Connection to Sustainability
However, this results in an ongoing desire for material growth, eventually leading to depletion of the own resources, a stressed life, health problems such as burnout and a lack of time for family and friends. On an economy wide level, this relates to the growth paradigm: As countries aim for continuous economic growth of the GDP every year, this has detrimental backlashes on sustainability in economic and social terms. In the long run, this growth is even unsustainable in financial terms as we can observe financial crises and bursting bubbles more regularly. Also, if we do not solve environmental problems like the climate crisis now, they will cause much higher costs in the future.
In the long run, ongoing desire for “more” is therefore unsustainable. Certainly, some people are crazy rich and seem to have an abundant life in monetary terms. However, this also creates a lot of people who have not. Large income gaps between rich and poor people lead to an imbalanced social world and gated communities. In this world, people lose contact with each other, rich people fear the poor ones, poor people the rich ones.
The Values of Frugality
Frugality builds on a different mindset. Instead of thinking “I need … “ in a first step you aim to be happy with all you have in your life at the present. This relieves you from the pressure to always have “more”.
Indeed, there is nothing wrong with having personal goals and pursuing them. The purpose of frugality is rather not to strive for growth all the time. Also, seeing yourself and one another as people and not judging others looking at their monetary or career achievements belongs to this lifestyle. It is connected with living more minimalist, being modest and kind to others, too. Material values are thus replaced by ethical ones, “to be” counts more than “to have”.
So, how can this be valuable for a business? In our context, frugality as an embedded principle helps us to work more efficiently and using less resources, not just in our business operations but for our customers as well. This also creates financial savings and supports a gentle use of the resources of the company and our whole world.
If you share the same values and wish to manage your waste with the utmost frugality, and turn waste into treasure, get in touch and let’s work together in a way that is sustainable for both of us.
Written by Quek Leng Chuang
LengChuang is a chemical engineer and an expert in carbonomics. He is the founder and owner of Environmental Solutions (Asia) Pte Ltd.