Gross National Happiness — Bhutan

Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a method for evaluating the wellbeing of a country versus using Gross Domestic Product (GDP), stock indices, or trade data. Apparently it all started in Bhutan, so let’s begin there.

Bhutan Map - Encyclopaedia BritannicaThe Kingdom of Bhutan is a small mountain country in South Asia with a population of around 720,000. It is located in the Himalayas, bordered by People’s Republic of China and Republic of India.

The term “gross national happiness” was coined in 1972 by Bhutan’s former King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Gross national happiness (GNH) became a framework for assessing the wellbeing of the country and began being used as a decision making matrix for economic development. Ideas, projects, plans, developments and the like were evaluated based on the impact to GNH.

During a speech, the current King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, shared his vision of GNH in the 21st century. It is the duty of every generation to find new ways of achieving the goals of GNH, which is based on the fundamental values of kindness, equality, and humanity, while pursuing the necessity of economic growth.

Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness

While there is no single official definition of GNH, the following description is widely used:

“Gross National Happiness (GNH) measures the quality of a country in more holistic way [than GNP] and believes that the beneficial development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occurs side by side to complement and reinforce each other.”

Four Pillars of Gross National Happiness

The Bhutanese view economic development as a means of alleviating poverty, malnutrition, and disease and believe it must be accomplished in a way that sustains livelihoods and the environment. This philosophy is encompassed by the four pillars of GNH which are:

  • Sustainable and equitable socioeconomic development
  • Conservation of the environment
  • Preservation and promotion of culture
  • Promotion of good governance

Bhutan Gross National Happiness Wheel with 9 DomainsNine Domains of Gross National Happiness

The contributors to gross national happiness have been grouped into 9 domains which are further broken down into 33 indicators to facilitate understanding and measuring GNH.

  1. Psychological Wellbeing – individual life satisfaction, emotional balance, and spirituality.
  2. Time Use – balance between paid work, unpaid work and leisure, non-work time is valued.
  3. Community Vitality – social support, trust, safety, balance between economic advancement and community.
  4. Cultural Diversity and Resilience – preserving cultural traditions, native language, artisan skills, socio-cultural participation, and DriglamNamzha (related to formal occasions).
  5. Health – physical and mental health status and health knowledge of the people, as well as any barriers to accessing health services.
  6. Education – literacy, schooling, knowledge, values, and competencies.
  7. Ecological Diversity and Resilience – environmental responsibility, pollution, diverse flora and fauna, forest cover, natural resources, domestic supply and demand on eco-systems, and urban issues.
  8. Living Standard – the economic status of people, financial security, food security, house ownership, and hardships.
  9. Good Governance – how people perceive the government in terms of efficiency, quality, and honesty, reducing inequality and promoting balanced development, political participation, and political freedom.

Gross National Happiness Index

Bhutanese Children - Gross National HappinessIn 2010, Bhutan conducted a Gross National Happiness survey administered via a GNH questionnaire that covered the 33 indicators categorized under the nine GNH domains. One result of the survey was the Gross National Happiness Index which indicated what percentage of Bhutanese people were considered happy.

The Bhutanese approach to economic development and the wellbeing of its people and environment is refreshing and relevant for today’s global society. It has captured the interest and imagination of people and governments all around the world. Gross national happiness initiatives are appearing in other countries including the USA…and that is a topic for another post.

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ENERGY STAR — 20 Years Helping People Save Energy and Money

ENERGY STAR Logo2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the ENERGY STAR program launched in 1992. “American families and businesses have saved a total of nearly $230 billion on utility bills and prevented more than 1.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions with help from ENERGY STAR.”

About ENERGY STAR

ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help Americans save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products, buildings, and practices.

Home

Household products like refrigerators and televisions that bear the ENERGY STAR label meet energy efficiency guidelines, without sacrificing features, style, or comfort.

Energy efficient new homes may earn the ENERGY STAR label.

ENERGY STAR tools and resources help homeowners plan energy efficient improvements, reduce energy bills, and save money.

Business

ENERGY STAR offers proven energy management strategies and measurement tools to help businesses reduce, monitor, and manage energy use, and save money.

The ENERGY STAR performance rating system helps businesses identify energy efficient buildings and implement improvements in their own buildings.

ENERGY STAR History Highlights

  • 1992: U.S. EPA launches ENERGY STAR program, qualified computers and monitors are the first products to earn the ENERGY STAR label.
  • 1995: ENERGY STAR label is expanded to commercial and industrial buildings and new homes.
  • 1996: U.S. DOE and U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR announced a partnership. White goods (appliances) become eligible for ENERGY STAR label.
  • 2000: ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is launched, representing the largest inventory of commercial building performance data worldwide.
  • 2008: ENERGY STAR web tools are introduced to assist Americans with saving energy at home, work, and in their communities.
  • 2011: New ENERGY STAR requirements for televisions take effect.
  • 2012: ENERGY STAR 20th anniversary.

ENERGY STAR Tools and Resources

The ENERGY STAR website offers a variety of useful tools and resources.

  • Search for thousands of energy efficient products including appliances, building products, computers, electronics, and heating and cooling equipment.
  • Learn how products earn the ENERGY STAR label.
  • Get ideas and tips on how to save energy and reduce utility bills at home.
  • Learn about ENERGY STAR certified homes, and how ENERGY STAR helps businesses save energy and money.
  • Find out about available tax credits.
  • Check out the ENERGY STAR Most Efficient product list.

Where Does My Money Go?

According to the ENERGY STAR website, the annual energy bill for a typical single-family home is approximately $2,200. Heating and cooling represent a whopping 46% of home energy ENERGY STAR Where Does My Money Go Chartuse. The interactive chart provides energy saving ideas from easy do-it-yourself items like regularly changing air filters to hiring a professional to seal heating and cooling ducts.

In the past few years, we have purchased an ENERGY STAR labeled washer and television. With appliances representing 13% and electronics 4% of home energy use, these were perhaps not the biggest energy saving actions we could have taken but they were the items we needed to replace at the time.

Our ENERGY STAR labeled washer and TV reduces our home energy use and saves us a few bucks on our electricity bill.

Energy and Greenhouse Emission Reduction

The key seems to be aggregating the energy savings of millions of people. For instance, the Consumer Electronics Association estimates about 33 million televisions will ship to the U.S. in 2012. More than 19 million of these will be greater than 40 inches in size. ENERGY STAR certified televisions are on average, over 20 percent more energy efficient than conventional models.

At that scale, the energy savings really add up and make a not insignificant impact on energy use and greenhouse emissions.

The next time you are in the market for a new heating and cooling system, refrigerator, TV, computer, or even a new home, consider ENERGY STAR labeled products.