Saturday, 22 August 2015

You Are The Solution To Climate Change

Sculptures by Isaac Cordal (http://cementeclipses.com/Works/)


After working as a psychologist/therapist for almost 10 years, I started as a PhD candidate in Environmental Psychology at NTNU in October 2014. I am particularly interested in what drives people; what makes people stand up for what is right and matters now. As we all need oxygen to breathe, one would think that everyone agrees that the environment matters. Climate change matters. Keeping the world free from pollution matters. But even though most people have already made some changes like recycling, there is still a worldwide atmosphere of apathy around taking more bold and significant actions.

So what can get people to take action when things seem to go wrong on a worldwide scale? What wakes them up, without first having to experience the devastating effects themselves? Since I started my PhD, I have been gathering a lot of research and other information on this topic, but perhaps my most useful findings so far have come from studying interactions between people on Facebook pages and Youtube. Here is what I found (backed by research).

1.       People may get defensive when you tell them directly to act responsibly

When a message is clearly stating that something has to be done, many people (probably the very ones who are targeted by the message) get quite defensive. They are not used to being held responsible for the consequences of some of their actions (especially when what they are doing is legal and considered normal, ‘everyone’ is doing it and ‘no one’ seems to do anything about it). They talk about freedom of choice, minding one’s own business and not caring about the issue. There is an immediate breakdown in communication and a clinging to the status quo, to doing things the way we have always done them and to the luxuries, material possessions and securities that modern society offers. They may even start denying the problem altogether. Sounds familiar?
Several major experiments in social psychology have shown that people can do and say the most irrational things just to conform (Asch 1951), to obey an authority figure (Milgram 1963) or because of a role we take on (Haney, Banks et al. 1973) and when a collective habit has formed for long enough, this will get more difficult to change as people tend to stick with the status quo (Samuelson and Zeckhauser 1988, Fernandez and Rodrik 1991, Kahneman, Knetsch et al. 1991). This status-quo bias can also make people defensive when changes to the system are suggested, which is a topic that is further discussed in system justification theory (Jost, Banaji et al. 2004). That doesn't sound like 'freedom of choice', does it? It sounds more like doing what is expected of us, because this is what we were taught to do, without questioning whether it is right or wrong. And when someone does question it, this is perceived as a threat.

It is likely that our defensive nature starts in childhood and stems from the way we are used to communicating with each other. Most children are taught guilt and shame through blaming, which often results in them learning to pass the blame onto others (because that is easier), instead of learning natural consequences and taking personal responsibility through authentic communication. In fact, we are so used to being blamed, that most of us are on the defensive most of the time. This is not just an exhausting way to live, but also not at all conducive to constructive communication and open-hearted exchange. 
The alternative is authentic communication, or communicating from a place of compassion. This is known as non-violent communication (NVC). Imagine you see someone you care about eating meat, but you are a strong proponent of veganism, so it really triggers strong emotions within you. Instead of saying: “people like you make me sad/angry; you are a murderer; what you are doing is destroying the environment”, you could also say: “When I see you eating meat, I feel sad, because I recently learned about the link between meat consumption and health and the impact it has on the environment. And because I care about you and the world we live in, it would mean a lot to me if you would allow me to tell you more about what I learned at some time. Would you be open to that?” Of course it is important to communicate from a compassionate and authentic place, without any manipulative intent and without any force. That means that if the person still does not want to listen, then you accept it. They may not be ready to hear you (see Rosenberg 1999).
The best news about NVC is that to practice this compassionate, authentic way of communicating, you don’t need the other person to do anything differently or to learn anything. There is no teacher and student in the interaction; the relationship is equal. There is only an exchange of experiences and perspectives. A person's response to this type of communication will automatically be different, because it is made very clear that no one is being blamed. Therefore it changes how people listen to you. Because they are not being targeted, they don’t need to defend themselves. And this allows them to open up to your message and to share their own view more openly as well. It is safe for them to just listen to what you have to say. This allows for real freedom, not just for the other person but also for yourself, as the process of discovery that it stimulates within you will lead to a more free and independent way of thinking.
Having said that, sometimes it can also help to use social pressure by demonstrating that someone’s opinion is not supported, especially on a medium like Facebook, where people can support comments with likes. This way we can create new societal standards and hold people accountable when they are trying to make excuses for themselves. But even then, doing this in a way that is not blaming will likely be much more effective.

2.       People may expect others to clean up after them and focus their entire attention on other people in their quest for change

The blaming habit can take even bigger forms where we collectively start to blame corporations, the government, the economy or other countries for the problems in our world. The underlying guilt can then be washed off by further denial, or trying to get others to change first. Research has shown that the larger the group of people, the longer it takes before people take action (Darley and Latane 1968). In social psychology, this phenomenon of inaction is called the bystander effect (Latane and Darley 1968). Some of the ways people then try to rationalize this lack of action in an attempt to relieve the cognitive dissonance that it creates (Festinger 1962), is by taking small and rather insignificant actions (e.g. recycling), or by signing petitions, especially ones that state that other people (e.g. the government) should do something about the issue. It is a way of lying to yourself; pretending you are doing things the right way when in fact there is a lot more that can and needs to be done. Not by others, but by you.

Signing a petition is of course a great way to make a public statement about what you believe in and what matters to you, but if you do not back it up with actions yourself, it is meaningless. For example, if you sign a petition to save the rainforests, but continue to consume meat, knowing that the meat industry is an important contributor to deforestation, then your signature is meaningless and no significant change will be possible.

Until you realize that you are not just an important part, but rather the most important part of the solution, then there is no hope for humanity. So let me tell you this: You ARE important. The human race depends on you to make changes and take responsibility. To make a statement not just through the signing of petitions, or doing research, or recycling, or studying a topic, but also and especially through your actions. Recycling is like treating the symptoms of a structural problem, but moving towards a zero-waste lifestyle is a more sustainable solution.

3.       Leading by example and being an inspiration to others are the best ways to get people on board

So are we doomed? If the research ‘proves’ that people fail to act in important situations, does that mean there is no point in trying? On the contrary. Being aware of our weak spots can help us to avoid them. Awareness is the key here. For example, one study shows that meditation (and being more mindful) can increase compassionate responses and thereby help us overcome the bystander effect (Condon, Desbordes et al. 2013), and possibly other irrational behaviors and biases as well. It can shield you from manipulation and help you to overcome apathy in all areas of your life. Awareness can be developed through Mindfulness, meditation and other related practices (‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle would be a great place to start if you want to develop this quality of ‘being present’ further).

Taking all of the above into account, what would seem to be the best way forward? How can we start a revolution to save the environment and to save the earth we inhabit?
Again, it all starts with you! You can be the change by standing up for what you believe in. You can lead by example and share with the world how you solved the problems you encountered while attempting to live a lifestyle that is better for the earth. You can experience and share with others how your new lifestyle benefits you. How it benefits not just your physical well-being, but also your emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. You can share your story on Facebook, in a blog, on Twitter and of course in real life; with your friends, family members and colleagues. You can be a pioneer. You can find your own new way of doing things. You can be a leader. And you can impact the world in a positive way. This can be the legacy you leave behind.

When you are sharing your personal story, you don’t have to tell others what to do. You only show them how. You are there to provide guidance to whoever needs it. And you also help to create a new societal standard of behavior, one step at a time. This takes care of the issues mentioned under concern number 1. And by taking responsibility yourself, you also naturally take care of concern number 2.
When you share your experiences in a positive and uplifting way, this will be contagious to others. But you will also notice that your own life will become brighter and happier. When you share your personal story, your milestones and personal achievements towards living more sustainably, it will empower you to keep going and at the same time it empowers others to start doing the same. It shows them that change is possible, that it can be fun and that there are many alternatives to life as most of us know it and live it. And perhaps the most important thing is that it shows people that they can make a difference.

For examples of personal blogs with tips about living a happier life whilst living more sustainably, see robgreenfield.tv or liselotteroosen.blogspot.com.


(This article was also published in NTNU's Psychological Journal)

References:

Asch, S. E. (1951). Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgments. Groups, leadership and men; research in human relations. Oxford, England, Carnegie Press: 177-190.
           
Condon, P., et al. (2013). "Meditation Increases Compassionate Responses to Suffering." Psychological Science 24(10): 2125-2127.
           
Darley, J. M. and B. Latane (1968). "Bystander intervention in emergencies: diffusion of responsibility." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 8(4p1): 377.
           
Fernandez, R. and D. Rodrik (1991). "Resistance to reform: Status quo bias in the presence of individual-specific uncertainty." The American Economic Review: 1146-1155.
           
Festinger, L. (1962). A theory of cognitive dissonance, Stanford university press.
           
Haney, C., et al. (1973). "Study of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison." Naval Research Reviews 9(1-17).
           
Jost, J. T., et al. (2004). "A decade of system justification theory: Accumulated evidence of conscious and unconscious bolstering of the status quo." Political Psychology: 881-919.
           
Kahneman, D., et al. (1991). "Anomalies: The endowment effect, loss aversion, and status quo bias." The journal of economic perspectives: 193-206.
           
Latane, B. and J. M. Darley (1968). "Group inhibition of bystander intervention in emergencies." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 10(3): 215.
           
Milgram, S. (1963). "Behavioral study of obedience." The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 67(4): 371.
           
Rosenberg, M. B. (1999). Nonviolent communication: A language of compassion, PuddleDancer Press Encinitas, CA.
           
Samuelson, W. and R. Zeckhauser (1988). "Status quo bias in decision making." Journal of risk and uncertainty 1(1): 7-59.
           

What Can You Do To End Food Waste?

At home

1. Make sure to buy only what you need
If we want to stop food waste at supermarkets, the first place to start is in our own home. It is estimated that approximately 20% of what people buy ends up in the dumpsters. That is not just a lot of food, but also a lot of money that people simply throw away.

2. Give away your leftovers, or foods you know you won't be able to eat.
If you often have a lot of leftovers, if you find it difficult to estimate how much you will eat, or if you live far away from the nearest supermarket and often end up buying too much, then why not find a structural solution for this by giving away your leftovers. If you really want to make this fun, you can even organize food parties. Maybe you can organize a weekly tapas-night where everyone brings their leftovers and you create nice tapas dishes or even complete meals and enjoy eating the leftovers together. There are many awesome ways to use leftovers and this will also help to get you more creative with your cooking.

At the store

1. Ask shops to donate their food and set up a food rescue program (or pave the way for charity organizations to pick up food donations). Read more about this here.
Make sure you emphasize anonymity and food safety! And make sure that you know enough about food to be a good judge of what you can still eat and what you need to throw away. And most importantly, you need to have an extensive network of people to donate to so that you can redistribute the food on the same day. Otherwise it is very difficult to store the food and to use it all within a short period of time (and as most of it will be expired, it will need to be used quickly; sometimes preferably the same day).

2. Dumpster dive
See my guide to dumpster diving for more information on this here. It is not as disgusting as it may seem! And very fun and rewarding. If you are the kind of person who is open to trying new things and loves some adventure and the excitement of never knowing what you may find, then dumpster diving could be a very rewarding experience for you. Don't worry too much about germs (but do keep them in mind), because most food items are packaged. Here in Norway, they even put most food waste in garbage bags, so all the stuff I find is generally clean (unless they contain rotting items). Here is a typical day's waste from just one store (and notice how most things are packaged):

3. Buy "ugly" fruits and vegetables
Actually, I prefer to call them "special". These are the fruits and veggies that stir people's imaginations and may make people a bit uncomfortable while they are out shopping. So what do we do? We throw them away... Sad. Who wouldn't take a selfie with this lovely carrot?
A peculiar-looking carrot

4. Buy scruffy-looking packages
If the contents are untouched, then why care if packaging is torn, dirty, creased or dented? If you choose that one, then you can be sure you have just saved an item from ending up in a dumpster. So if you want to buy something anyway, choose the one that looks the worst. If the spaghetti in a packet is broken, then why not choose that one? You will probably break it to cook it anyway; or later on to make it easier to eat it. Or perhaps the package has stains, teared cardboard wrap or other imperfections that don't affect the contents, such as this dented can:

5. Buy the 'older' version of the product (if the expiry dates differ)
If you want to buy something with an expiry date on it, don't look for the one with the longest time left, but rather the shortest. Most people will look for the ones that will keep longer and supermarkets work hard to keep their shelves filled up, so at some point there are going to be fresh and less fresh products on the shelves. Make sure you buy them in the order they need to be eaten.

6. Buy the 'different' or older looking one
Especially with fruits and vegetables, the older looking ones or the ones that just look different in some way, can get left behind. If the value of the product itself is unaffected, then why not buy the one that seems to look less appealing for some reason? For example, some cucumbers are not as green as others, but still taste perfectly fine. Also, some fruits (or vegetables) may have soft or brown spots, but are still good to eat, especially if you plan to eat them the same day. It is a good idea to choose different-looking over others, because they tend to get left behind.
If the reason that the item is less appealing is that it is smaller or really less nutritious because it seems to have been waiting to get picked for a while, then you could even ask the store manager if you can get a discount. This can be a smart way to shop. Just tell the manager that from a customer's perspective, no one will buy this fruit or vegetable so it will end up being wasted, unless you buy it with a discount. This will also encourage shops to get special 'ugly/old food' sections, where they sell items like that with a discount. Some stores already have such a section.

A mutant capsicum

7. Buy fruits on the day you will use them and look for the ripe ones.
If you buy ripe fruits, then you may have saved them. Ripe usually means they don't have much time left. For example here in Norway, as soon as bananas turn yellow (ripe), they get thrown away. It can be hard to find a ripe banana in the store (even though it is obviously much healthier to eat them when they are ripe). Same goes for mangoes, avocados and pineapples.

8. Choose 'the last one left'
People tend to not buy something if there is only one or a few left, because it feels like you get the leftovers and they are probably not the best ones (after all, they are still here). But since supermarkets already try to make their products as 'the same' as possible (in the growing, selection and production process), chances are that they are just as good as the other ones that happened to be chosen a bit sooner. So if there are just a few left of the product you want to buy, don't let it stop you!


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Nature's Beauty

I haven't had a TV for about 15 years now and I have been perfectly fine without. I also try to stay away from other technical devices and appliances as much as I can and spend as much time as possible in nature. I guess I was privileged too, because my parents encouraged me to have a real childhood: I was out building huts, playing in the mud, catching fish with a net just to admire them (and putting them back after), building 'show jumping courses' for myself and my friends and spending time with my dog or with horses.We also went to beautiful places for the holidays, spending a lot of time outdoors in nature.

Traveling helped me realize that there was a lot more natural beauty in the rest of the world than where I grew up (The Netherlands). Most places had more diverse flora and fauna and more beautiful scenery than where I lived. I longed to live immersed in the natural wilderness more and more and got hooked on traveling, which has brought me so many enriching experiences. Spending time in various countries I learned about diverse cultures and traditions, and how people did things differently all over the world. But most of all, I saw all the different masterpieces of our beautiful earth.

Earth is my favorite architect. It provides everything I could ever need in terms of excitement, joy, peace, entertainment, a sense of freedom and awe, deep relaxation, inspiration, valuable life lessons, food for the soul and even a bridge to enlightenment. When I am in nature, I feel truly at home. It doesn't matter where in the world I am. Nature is my home. I often wonder how people cope when they don't spend much time in nature... What could ever replace this beauty and diversity? How do they manage to feel fulfilled when they don't surround themselves with the magnificence that is already here? Maybe they can't feel fulfilled, and end up searching their whole lives for something that could only be found in the peacefulness, stillness and aliveness of nature.

Here are photos of some of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen (and I know there are many more):

Antilope Canyon, AZ, USA
A mystical tree at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, AZ, USA
Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO, USA
Florida, USA
Near Petra, Jordan

Cuba
Elephants in the Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana
Northern Ireland
Oman
Queensland, Australia
Near Åndalsnes, Norway

Maybe you don't live near beauty like this. Maybe you live mostly around man-made structures and buildings. Maybe you would even miss that if it wasn't there anymore, because you have grown so used to it. But have you ever spent time in nature and felt so peaceful, in harmony, and one with everything? Have you ever marveled at the beauty of a waterfall, lake or ocean? Have you ever breathed in the clear and rich forest air, or the ocean air, and felt how it instantly invigorated your body?

Then you know the value of nature.

This is why I feel urged to protect what is left of it. If there were no more forests, no more clean beaches and clean waters, no more fresh air to breathe, then there would be no point for me to live. What if human-created pollution was everywhere and there was no escape from cities, smog, garbage, stinky cars, and cigarette smoke? What if there were people everywhere and no more wildlife, no place to be alone with nature, somewhere in the forest or on a deserted beach, to contemplate life? Yet this is where we are heading if we don't change our ways. Is this really what we ultimately want?

What about an earth where humans and other animals live in harmony with each other, leaving enough room for plants and trees and the natural beauty of the earth to flourish. An earth where we all have access to those sacred, natural places where we can recharge, contemplate life and integrate our experiences. A healthy earth with clean air and clean water, just as nature intended it to be. A place where we can be healthy because we are immersed in the healing energy of the trees and plants that surround us and give us life.


We can go back to this. It is not too late yet. All it takes is a little downsizing and simplification. This is why next time I travel, I want to look for a more sustainable way to do it. Perhaps hiking or cycling around the world. It is not just better for the earth, it also allows me to see and experience more along the way. My mode of transport will no longer be just a means to an end; a way to get somewhere fast. It will be an experience in itself. I am already planning my next trip, which will be on foot, by bike or on horseback (and 100% moneyless of course), after I complete my PhD.

What are your favorite places on earth and why? Where do you feel most peaceful and at home?

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Life Goals And Relationships


This is a photo of my sweet, beautiful parents, who are still very much in love after many years together. Yes, I had a wonderful example of what a beautiful love relationship can be like. My parents support each other, no matter what hardships may come their way. They communicate openly about everything and so continue to learn and grow, in love and in life. They complement each other and bring out the best in each other (most of the time). And they make it seem so easy.

However, sustaining a long-term relationship hasn't been so easy for me (so far). I'd like to believe that this is because I approach life a little differently and some of my life decisions don't combine well with being in a long-term, committed relationship; largely because they involve a lot of travel, instabilities and uncertainties (and not everyone is up for that). Also, because modern standards of living haven't really worked for me, I had to reinvent my life quite a bit; tailoring it more to my personal needs (which is an ongoing process) and thereby choosing a path that is definitely not suitable for everyone. This reshaping of my life happened (and is still happening) through trial and error, with the help and inspiration of many others who live uncommon or even extraordinary lives. I feel I have come a long way now and have a much clearer vision of the future than before, as I am no longer tempted to fall back to the conventional way of life, not even as a backup plan. But I have come to realize that it takes a very special person to walk this path with me, and I will not settle for anything less. If that means I have to walk alone, then I will enjoy walking alone. And if not, then I will be open to that too. I trust that life will bring me what I need at the right time, as it has always done.

Of course like most people, I would love to find someone who complements me, brings out the best in me and fully loves and accepts me for who I am in every way and every moment (and vice versa). Someone to (preferably) spend the rest of my life with. I guess most people would even go as far as to measure the success of a relationship by whether it ends or lasts, which can be another obstacle to breaking up. But if I were to measure the success of my relationships by their longevity, then I have not yet been overly successful (the longest lasted for about two years). So this is not how I measure relationship success. I measure success by whether I learned from being in the relationship and by whether I am able to fully respect the other person's decisions and way of life while still staying true to my own path. Measuring success of relationships in this way allows me to say that I have indeed been very successful every time.

So what are some important things I learned about relationships? How do you balance personal goals and being in a committed relationship without sacrificing your enjoyment of life? What if you are considering making substantial life changes, that are very important to maintaining your sanity, but may not fit with your partner's views and lifestyle? How do you know when a relationship has come to an end?

Life goals and relationships


Values and priorities
It can be very difficult to be in a relationship while you are still learning, growing and evolving, because your likes, dislikes, goals, values and priorities might shift and change all the time. Yet I have found that values (ideas about what matters to you) and priorities (how those ideas guide your actions) are at the core of any relationship. Having similar values can create a general atmosphere of mutual support and understanding, and it can be a strong foundation for the planning of a future together.
Being a person who is highly interested in personal growth, has proven to be difficult for people around me who are not very flexible or not that open-minded, because I go through all kinds of experimental phases where I try out new things. My priorities have also changed quite a bit, but in recent years they have stabilized and I now have a pretty clear idea of what life is all about for me: Peace of mind is my highest priority (something I call inner freedom) and outer freedom (being surrounded by nature, having as little to do with society as possible, living a mostly self-sufficient lifestyle) is a close second. This brings clarity in my goals and the journey ahead.

Matching qualities
After figuring out your values and priorities (and accepting they might change over time), the next thing to ask yourself is what qualities in other people are a good match for you. What kind of person brings out the best in you? This could be qualities that you have as well, or qualities that complement yours in some way. But it is easier to start with finding similarities, because they make the differences much easier to overcome.

Although it can be hard for anyone to find a suitable life partner, being a little bit different than the average person may give rise to some additional problems, which requires you and your partner to have (or develop) certain rare qualities, that are very valuable to have:
You will need someone in your life who is not afraid to go against the grain; someone who has a clear sense of self (an independent thinker) and no preconceived notions or negative (and wrong) assumptions about your lifestyle, or fears about what others may think about it. If these qualities are lacking, they can never be fully supportive of your lifestyle and your endeavors, which will slow you down and mute your passion, and thereby kill your joy of living. It also helps if the other person is open-minded, can think outside the box and is willing to try out new things.

If, in addition to having different ideas, you are also quite strong-willed and have a convincing, enthusiastic personality, then there is the risk of unwittingly convincing others to go along with your lifestyle without them having fully thought it over.  So the other person (and you yourself) needs to be sufficiently in touch with themselves to be able to know where to draw the line. If they are not aware, then they may go along with what you are doing, not out of an open-minded sense of curiosity, but out of unconsciousness (just following along), a lack of personal initiative or an inner emptiness, a fear of abandonment, a desire to please or simply a way to avoid conflict or discussion. And this leads to all sorts of problems. So you need to look for someone who knows exactly what they want out of life and who is in touch with their feelings, because there may be things that he or she doesn’t agree with and therefore doesn’t necessarily want to go along with. And that is okay, as long as they are aware of this.

Even more important than finding someone who knows what they want, is being someone who knows what they want. You need to be very clear about where you are going in life and what is important to you, because otherwise other people will fill in the blanks. Society will dictate your way of life, or your friends and family members (often with very good intentions) will tell you how you should live and what you should do. But it is not their life to live; it is yours.

If you are clear about what you want and don't want in life, then you can also communicate this clearly to others. And this is very important! How else can someone decide whether they want to accompany you on your journey? And how else can you be (reasonably) clear about what life with you will be like? To learn to communicate your feelings and needs in a clear and compassionate way, I recommend Non-Violent Communication developed by Marshall Rosenberg.

Of course I am not looking for an exact copy of myself, but some common ground is necessary so that both people feel understood, sufficiently supported, respected and fulfilled in the relationship. I don’t need someone who thinks exactly like me or does things in the exact same way as I do. However, what I do need is someone who knows what he wants to get out of life (like me) and who shares some of the same core values, at least when it comes to relationships and life in general. For example, honesty, openness and commitment are important to me. Commitment can mean a lot of things, but for me it includes being monogamous, honest, open and being supportive of each other and of each other’s goals in life. I want to be with someone who knows what is important to him, and in life and relationships. Someone who is willing to stand up for what he believes in, especially if it is a little unconventional. It would be great if we share some interests or passions as well, at the very least a passion for nature, self-development and traveling / exploring. Someone who is very attached to ‘material stuff’, wants to have kids, enjoys big cities, does not show any initiative, has no interest in self-development, has a dependency on alcohol/drugs or intends to stay in the same place for the rest of his life, would not be a good match for me.

Obviously, this is not a list of demands. It is a list of compatibility that was devised through trial and error; through life experience. So, through spending time with others and being in relationships, you learn what works for you and what doesn’t. You learn more about yourself and what’s important to you. I always let my heart make the decision whether to stay in a relationship or not, and even though breakups are never easy, I have never regretted any. I know a lot of people who stay in relationships for the sake of convenience, children, or other nonsensical reasons. Yes, it may be tough to break up if you have a house and kids together. But think about what you are teaching your kids through your life decisions: do you really want them to choose the safe road and just cling to things that neither work anymore nor serve any purpose, or do you want to teach your kids to choose joy over convenience, even if that means overcoming some difficulties and obstacles along the way? I think it is important to look after yourself and your own needs first before taking care of others. It is not possible the other way around, because you will end up feeling empty, even literally being empty. You will have nothing left to give, because you haven't bothered to fill up your own tank. Therefore, if you choose the safe and convenient road, you may get to the end of your life full of regrets. You may manage to get quite far, struggling through life and thinking that this is a natural part of life. But you will get to a breaking point eventually. And then you may realize that you could have done all the things your heart desired in your lifetime if you had just let go of that false sense of security and had stopped prioritizing convenience (or money) over joy and got out of your comfort zone. Maybe you are even having regrets right now. But if you are reading this, it is not too late yet. You can still decide to change your life. It is never too late for change.

Pleasure versus joy
Some people think that 'following your heart's desire' means that you should just follow all things positive in your life and ignore or even avoid any problems or other perceived negatives. But by now it should be clear that this is definitely not the case. It is not about choosing between positives or negatives. I am not talking about ‘giving up’ or ‘running away’. It is all about following your passions; doing what you really want to do. It is not about finding pleasure, but finding joy (there is a big difference).
Some people may also think it is selfish to follow your heart and stick to it. They have learned that you have to sacrifice yourself for others, and compromise to get along, and that it is selfish to think about yourself first. But it is the opposite of selfish. If you follow your heart and fulfill your own deepest and truest needs and desires first (the ones that bring you joy), then you will find that you have so much more to give to others. You will have so much more energy, much more joy and much more love to give. But you may need to cut certain people out of your life if they want you to sacrifice your life and your joy for them.
For example, I am doing a moneyless challenge for personal growth and to grow my awareness, so if I would be in a relationship and my partner would expect me to buy him expensive gifts or go on holiday together, then that would be an insult; it would be disrespectful. My challenge is important to me. It teaches me many important life skills, including the value (or rather lack of value) of money. I’d rather be showered with love and undivided attention than with gifts and I also prefer to give love instead of stuff. I will choose quality time over expensive time any day. So that would be a clear difference in values that is hard to overcome.
This doesn't mean that holidays would be out of the question or that I can't give anyone gifts. In fact, I think I have never been as generous in my life because I am more aware of where and how to find free stuff and because my mindset has shifted more to 'giving back', I am also more aware of what others may want or need. But the expectation that I would abandon something that is important to me for the sake of someone else, is an insult. And it would be equally insulting if I would just expect my partner to adopt the same lifestyle.
So if your relationship prevents you from pursuing your joy, then you are stuck in a dire situation. Same with a job: if a job prevents you from living your passion, then it is time to seriously reconsider. But you may need to figure out what you really want first; what really makes you come alive.

Live your passion
This doesn’t need to be anything spectacular. For me, it is simply spending time in awe of nature, exploring the most beautiful parts of the world and living life as freely as possible. At times I also feel mournful when admiring nature in its purest and most magnificent forms. I look at all the beauty and an overwhelming sense of sadness comes over me, because I know that humans are slowly destroying all this beauty, even without their awareness. But then I remember that this beauty should be enjoyed, revered, and celebrated. This is my only job in life. And because of my love of nature, I should do anything in my power to serve and protect it. That is my mission. And it is mine alone, because I also believe in freedom; so others are free to choose a different path. I am not here to preach. I am here to live my truth. And if that inspires others, then that is all the better. Inspiration, which is a result of living with passion, is contagious; it resonates with others because it is our true nature. This is why I have decided to speak out through my blog. I hope everyone remembers why they are alive and chooses to live authentically. There is nothing more empowering. 

Saying goodbye and starting over
So if I notice that my partner has other goals, other priorities, and other values, to the point where this repeatedly hurts me, confuses me or even astounds me, because it totally contradicts what I stand for , what I believe in and what is important to me, then it may be time to walk away from the relationship. If I don't feel supported or I can no longer sufficiently support my partner due to a lack of understanding (and a lack of common ground), then it may be time to reconsider the relationship. Remember that if one person is not happy in the relationship, chances are that the other person is not happy either. So don't worry about hurting them with your goodbye. They will have reason to thank you for your courage later - whether they ever realize it or not.

At this point in time I am not interested in starting a relationship before getting to know someone well enough to be able to know that I at least share some basic life goals or visions for the future with that person, and that we share some important qualities. And in the process of getting to know someone, I don’t just want the other person to tell me about themselves; I want to see their words reflected in their actions too. Anyone can say that they love nature and love animals, but if they buy a lot of new stuff all the time, use a lot of unnecessary toxic products that pollute the environment, or eat a lot of meat without wondering where it came from, then how can I believe them? It is much easier to deduct people’s values and priorities from their actions than from their words. I wish I would have realized that sooner in life and that I had focused more on people’s actions than their words. People can have very strange views about themselves that have no basis in reality. People may also use their own definitions for certain concepts, which can create a lot of misunderstandings. For example, someone might consider themselves active and sporty because they go to the gym every day to lift weights for half an hour. My idea of active and sporty would be very different: I would imagine someone who enjoys the outdoors, rides their bike frequently, and loves hiking. So examples and being specific are paramount in communication. I often ask people: How do you mean? Can you give me an example of that? I also tend to do that when people criticize me or give me feedback. I am here to learn, so I need the details. This can be difficult for the other person, especially if it is ‘just a feeling’. But expressing details is good practice and it will become easier every time. It also brings you more in touch with yourself.

Friendship is the best starting point
So, friendship is the best way to start a relationship. I don’t believe in love at first sight anymore (although there may be a strong connection and that may be because you sense a lot of similarities; but it is good to investigate first). I don’t like dating anymore for that reason, because it creates complications and expectations and I am not interested in making commitments until I know that the basics are covered. And this takes time. I am also definitely not interested in meaningless relationships anymore. I don’t need to be in a relationship just because it seems to be the norm and because people may secretly wonder ‘what is wrong with you’ (because there must be something wrong with you if you are still single after a certain age, right?).
Well, this is what is wrong with me (and I am sure a lot of singles can relate to this): I don’t want to ‘settle’ for being in a relationship that doesn’t spark my enthusiasm. A relationship can be a great thing, if it makes me into a better person and takes my life to a higher level. If we can enjoy our mutual aliveness together and not constrict each other in any way. If we can love each other with a trust and freedom that knows no bounds. If we can even keep loving each other if it turns out that we both end up wanting different things in life and are moving in different directions. True love is free. True love is wanting the best for yourself and also wanting the best for the other person. It is wanting what the other person wants for them, because you also want what you want for yourself. This is not selfish. It is selfish to choose differently. It is selfish to hold onto a relationship even though you don't really love and support each other fully anymore. Because when you are suffering, everyone around you suffers too. They will sense it. They will be affected. So follow your dreams, follow your passions. Communicate as clearly, authentically, openly and honestly as possible. And remember that love is free. And if you feel trapped in your current relationship, then the most loving thing you can do for yourself and the other person is to set yourself free.

Questions to assess your relationship
Here are some questions to assess your current relationship or a friendship that may have potential for more. See if you can give an honest and heartfelt 'yes' to the following questions:
- Do you have similar life goals? Or can your life goals be combined in some way?
- Do you at least support (and agree with) each other’s life goals, values and priorities?
- Do the person’s actions match their words?
- Do the person’s definitions of things that are important to you match with yours?
- Does the person bring out the best in you? How do you feel around them? What effect does their presence, their behavior, their mindset and their energy have on you?
- Can you communicate about everything openly and with ease?
- How ‘free’ is your love: Do you want what the other person wants for them, even if it is not necessarily producing the outcome you want? Do you support each other fully (within the relationship and publicly) in achieving personal life goals? Do you fully encourage them to pursue their dreams and make them into a reality?
- Are you proud of the other person? Are you grateful that you are together?
- Is your life enriched by the relationship? Does your life feel expanded?

If you answer yes to any of the following, your relationship may require some work or you may even decide that it is time to go your separate ways:
- Are you sacrificing your own integrity for the sake of being with the other person?
- Do you feel trapped in the relationship?
- Are you secretly sabotaging their dreams or holding them back in some way?
- Are you worried about what others may think about your partner or their actions, dreams, desires and life goals?
- Are there touchy subjects that seem to be a no-go in communication? Touchy areas may point to dissimilarities or to areas that need some work of acceptance and/or change, usually in the person who is resisting the communication.
- Do you resist communication on a number of important subjects? Why is that? (Are you willing to work on that or open up?)
- Do you expect (or even force) the other person to make certain life choices in order to be with you? If so, does the person support those choices? If not; reconsider if the other person really needs to make these changes to make the relationship work. If it is absolutely necessary but the other person doesn’t want to do it, then you may not be the best match for each other.
- Are you so attached to the idea of being with the other person that you ignore your innermost desires and follow them blindly?
- Or are you so attached to the idea of being with the other person that you want to change them to fit your description of 'the perfect partner', no matter what they want for themselves?
- Does your world feel constricted (instead of expanded) as a result of being in the relationship?

True Love is free
My most important ‘rule’ in any relationship is this: If doing or not doing something is important to me, then I stick to that. But if someone doesn’t agree with me, I will not stand in their way either. Everyone is free to choose. Personal freedom is very important to me, including being clear, open and honest about what I want and need in life. This encourages others to do the same, and it will give everyone involved a fair chance of getting their needs met. Being upfront about it will help attract the right kind of person into my life.
Relationships are most loving when experienced in the present moment, without expectations or pressures to stay together forever (although this may happen). So if you get to a point where you are willing to lovingly let your partner go at any time if your own or their values change and you turn out to make each other miserable, then you are ready to truly let love flourish. In a state of non-attachment, we can embrace change and prioritize joy over convenience, and we will never be trapped. Life lived in this way may be difficult at times, but it will always allow you to expand and grow.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

My Biggest Dumpster Finds So Far (Largest Quantity Of A Single Product)

Here are some of my biggest finds so far of one item, all from supermarket dumpsters. Sadly all unhealthy foods, but 1000s of dollars worth of perfectly edible stuff. This shows why it is not just possible to share finds with others, but it is absolutely necessary.

Note that normally I find a mixture of all kinds of products and not a lot of the same thing. But because it is easier to calculate value this way, I have chosen to focus on these finds. Normally, I also find about two big boxes of fruits and vegetables, a few bags of potatoes, fresh bread (baked the same day), and other stuff. So don't be misguided by these pictures: I find mostly healthy foods, and the total value is probably about the same each time.

Also note that food is very expensive here in Norway, so the value of these products in your home country may differ.

150-200x chocolate chip cookies
Three big bags with packets of chocolate chip cookies. The pile in this photo was quite high, so it is difficult to see how many there are, and unfortunately I didn't count them. I suspect there were at least 180-200 packages, only just expired 1 or 2 days ago.
Found in August 2015 in Trondheim. Approximate value: 7500 NOK / 830 EUR / 914 USD.

24x boxes of chocolates (double layered)
24 boxes of chocolates, expired just a few days before. Found in April 2015 in Trondheim. Exact value: 3576 NOK / 396 EUR / 436 USD.

60x boxes of chocolates

Shown above is my biggest find ever:
38 big packets of chocolates and 22 tins. Expired just a few days before. Found in August 2015 in Åndalsnes. Exact value (double checked in the store): 10240 NOK / 1133 EUR / 1249 USD.

All these big finds came from just one dumpster each. Can you imagine how much food is thrown away worldwide and on a daily basis? We could help a lot of people by rescuing these foods and donating them to people in need.

Here are some photos showing one day's waste from one (relatively small) supermarket. I know this is exactly one day's waste because it was donated to me by the store and I collect the food on a daily basis. This is just a sample to show how much food is thrown out (if not donated):
Waste for a typical Friday
Waste for a typical Monday
Waste for a typical Saturday


So what can you do? Join the movement that was started by Rob Greenfield and ask your supermarket to #DonateNotDump. Or ask your supermarket if you can collect their waste and redistribute it to people in need.

Perhaps we can also create a website where we can make public which supermarkets donate and which don't, so that we people can choose to support the ones that donate their waste? I think this will provide a nice incentive for the stores that donate already and it will also put some pressure on the ones that are still on the fence about it.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Magic Of Climbing

I climbed to the top of a mountain today.

The start of the path
I love climbing... there is something magical about going to the top. It can even be likened to life itself...

The goal was to get to the top, so I had to have a clear sense of where I was going. But if I would only focus on the end goal and stop paying attention along the way, then I might slip and fall. I might also miss interesting and beautiful moments, or moments of insight and wisdom. On the other hand, if I get sidetracked too much, I may never get to experience the extraordinary view that awaits.


Therefore climbing requires you to stay connected with yourself and everything around you. You are encouraged to be fully present and to take your time to get to the top, enjoying your surroundings on the way without losing your focus of what you set out to experience. You make sure that your general direction is up, and keep on going for however long it might take, with persistence and determination plus a healthy amount of flexibility to choose the most suitable path to the top. Being in a hurry will most likely only slow you down.

During the climb, I enjoyed the accomplishment of each step, and how it brought me closer to the top. I found myself searching for stable ground with each step to place my feet on the rocks so that they wouldn't slip, while staying conscious of how I moved my weight onto my hands or feet to keep my balance and continue the journey upward. I worked my way up, but it didn't feel like work or effort, because I was totally engaged in the process of the climb. I felt energized and revitalized with each step.

Occasionally looking back at the scenery behind me, I saw how my perspective of the view changed as I climbed higher and higher, which clearly demonstrated the relativity of everything. A great reminder of how a different viewing point brings a different point of view. No one can see exactly what you are seeing at any particular moment, because we are all looking at the world from different places. And that is okay, because each view is an experience in itself. Also a great reminder to allow myself to see things from different perspectives and practice broadening my understanding. It helps me stay open and live from a place of compassion.

Top of the mountain
I reached the top, and enjoyed the view. I witnessed the vastness of nature, and how I am somehow part of that. I saw how all the things that had previously occupied my mind seemed so insignificant when I looked down to the world from this height. I felt how exquisite and intense nature is and all that it provides. It can make you feel so full that it is hard to contain it all. So you let it flow through you. This is life. And you are a part of life... You are life.


In the following moments I spotted a place from where I was standing, that I longed to visit next. I had a new destination. A new goal: to get there. To see this beautiful place with my own eyes.


A new destination?
Getting there I felt the magic of the place. It was even more serene than I had imagined. I wished that I could stay there forever. It was so peaceful - how could anything be more captivating? But then I remembered that change is part of life, and that movement is a natural thing. Trusting this movement I never get stuck. And when I flow with life, life takes me to the most beautiful places. Or perhaps flowing with life helps me to perceive all places as beautiful.

One thing is for sure: Life is about experiences, and each moment has something unique to offer.

Coming back from my hike I am still fulfilled. What a great reminder this was. A great reminder of life and what it is all about. Flow with life and trust the path ahead. There is magnificent beauty in every moment. Don't look for it - experience it.
Feel it.
Be it.


Monday, 10 August 2015

How To Live A (Mostly) Moneyless Life


Here is a more detailed how-to guide on finding everything for free. But before we go into the details, the most important and fundamental rule concerning your attitude to life should be made clear first and foremost:

* Be A Generous Person *
You can't expect to get things for free if you are not also a giving and generous person yourself. In life, you really do get back what you give; and sometimes in very unexpected ways. This doesn't mean that you always have to give things in return for other things. In fact, there is a lot of power in just giving or just receiving. Firstly, it makes the act more pure, especially for the unconditional giver, because there is no 'hidden agenda' of wanting to please or just following rules. This makes the experience so much more fulfilling and rewarding. Also, when you receive something for free and the other person doesn't expect anything in return, you can give the biggest gift of all, which is sincere gratitude.
A sincere thank you and a description of how you were affected by the kindness of someone else in that moment, is one of the most precious things you can give someone. This does not mean you can't also show your appreciation in other ways later on, but definitely don't skip the heartfelt gratitude. In fact, in my own life it has been this giving and receiving of sincere gratitude that has been most rewarding and transforming, especially since I started my moneyless journey.
While practicing being grateful and generous, you will discover that there are many ways to give gifts to others, other than money. Money makes people lazy, because we don't have to get creative in what we give to others. We can pay our way through life, without ever giving anything else. But without money, you discover that you can give your time, your attention, share your skills, or just share how you feel about someone. Even just being with someone can be a great gift, to both people.
Without money, the connection with others becomes more of a priority. You notice you will slow down. You may even discover that those new-found gifts are more valuable than any amount of money, and that - through your moneyless journey - you end up feel richer and wealthier than ever before.

Now, let's go into the details of getting creative and living for free.

* (Be willing to) Simplify and learn to let go *
In the process of finding ways to ban money from your life, it is important to keep an open mind and not be too attached to a certain outcome or holding on to a specific way of life. If living (for) free is really your priority, you may have to consider doing things a little bit differently than what you were used to. It helps to frequently ask yourself the following question, and ponder it carefully: "Do I really need this? (Or is there a different way of doing this?)"
When you do this every time you think you may need something, you will discover that you need a lot less stuff than you may have previously thought. Most of the time, there are alternative ways to live your life so that you don't need as much stuff. It just requires a bit of resourcefulness, creativity and the willingness to embrace new ways of living. It is more fun and adventurous too! So in the process of reducing your dependency on money, you will automatically simplify your life, learn to let go and open your mind.
Next, I will go into how you can get specific needs met without the use of money, or at least while drastically reducing the amounts you spend. With all of these following categories, remember that society's waste can be a huge resource! Waste is a huge global issue, threatening and polluting our earth, and a lot of useful stuff is thrown away every day. Remember that next time you want to buy something: that product you want to buy is probably about to be thrown away by someone somewhere on earth, at that very moment. And it may be somewhere near you!

1. Food and water
Of course food/water is one of the most important things we need. Luckily, food is plentifully available if you know where to look. You can try dumpster diving, or if you don't want to eat from dumpsters you can set up a food rescue program to collect food waste directly from the supermarkets and set up a community kitchen where you use the rescued food to prepare free meals for anyone who wants to join, or agree on (=with the supermarket's permission!) using a small portion (1-5%) for yourself and donate the rest to people in need. Another option is to go into nature and learn about edible wild plants. You will discover that there is a lot of nutritious food growing all around you! (that is if you live in a reasonably green place).
Found foods
Drinking water can be found in mountainous areas with streams and waterfalls. The higher you collect your water, the cleaner it will be. Just follow the stream upwards. Of course you can also collect rainwater, filter it and drink that. Also inform yourself about viruses, bacteria and chemicals that may lurk in your water and what you can do about it. Sometimes just boiling the water can be enough to purify it. There may also be springs or wells in your area, where you can find clean (or reasonably clean) drinking water. Unfortunately a lot of water sources have become polluted now, so if you live a nomadic lifestyle then you may have to resort to sourcing water in public buildings in some places. Sometimes you may also find outdoor taps (in town squares, or on pilgrim roads) where you can fill up your water bottle with clean water.
Clean freshwater from the mountains in Norway
2. (Temporary) Shelter
Where do you live if you really want to live the moneyless lifestyle? Again, there are several options. If you are living in a pleasant climate, then living in a tent or building your own shelter is an option. But if you live in a cold climate (like me), or if you don't want to live in a tent or self-built home, then you can try to find a free place to live in exchange for something that you have to offer, like food or skills. Everyone has unique skills to contribute. And of course, a pleasant personality will also help. Check out how I found a free place to live here.
For getting land and building a more permanent home, check out number 9.
3. Stuff
If you choose to live in a tent, then how will you get a tent? Or if you want to build your own house/ shelter, where do you get materials? And where do you get pans, cutlery, scissors and other helpful stuff? Well, here in Norway it is very easy. There is a website (Finn.no) where people give away everything for free (even complete kitchens and tiny homes). The site even has an app so that you can see new ads immediately and have a better chance of getting the items you need. So it is very worthwhile to check if there is a website like that for your area. Craigslist (USA) also has a 'free' section.
Remember that a lot of useful stuff ends up in landfills somewhere, just because people get new stuff or no longer want it. This is bad news for the environment, unless you can stop it from ending up there, and/or prevent a new purchase. So reusing stuff that others are about to throw away is a good thing. And if you discover you no longer need the item (and you will discover you need less and less stuff over time), make sure you also give it away to someone who thinks they need it.
Another option is bartering. Offer something valuable in return for what you need and explain why you feel that you really need the item(s) and how your life can be enriched if someone can help you out (this is 'gratitude in advance'). Also explain that you are doing a challenge and are trying to live without money. Many people actually find that very inspiring and feel compelled to help out. I have met a lot of kind and very generous people through my challenge. It really brings out the best in everyone, including myself.
I got these bike trailers for free

If you can't find something for free and you still believe you really need it, you can also get creative and try to make an alternative from things you find. You will be surprised what you can make if you really need something and challenge yourself not to buy it. It is very empowering and it is a great way to train your resourcefulness! You can do research online or in your local library. Or perhaps you can just borrow the item! If you only need to use it occasionally, then why buy your own?
A final option is birthdays. Some people will always insist on giving birthday presents (even if  you say you no longer participate in the tradition, such as I have), so then you can ask them for practical stuff that you couldn't find for free, instead of useless things that just take up space.

4. Clothes
How often do you really need new clothes? And how many pairs of shoes do you really need? Turns out, not that many. I have had the same two pairs of shoes for at least 5 years now and they still look great. And I haven't needed new clothes for about the same amount of time. I have had some of my clothes for at least 15 years! Meanwhile they have gone in and out of fashion several times. By the way, if you wash your clothes by hand, they last even longer.
Having said all that, if you do need new clothes, there is definitely an abundance of clothes in most countries, so they shouldn't be hard to find at all. If they are not given away freely by individuals where you live, you could learn to make clothes yourself. You can also try organizations that collect and redistribute donated clothes (and other things). Usually they have so much supply that they even have to throw a lot away themselves, so you probably wouldn't be disadvantaging anyone who may need it more than you do. But if this is a worry for you, you can ask them if they have an oversupply, just to make sure. Personally I have never had to go to charity organizations for clothes, because there are so many people who think they always need to comply with the latest fashion trends and only wear their clothes for one season. There are also groups of people (usually women) who organize clothing-swaps where they get together and give away items they no longer want to wear and in exchange take someone else's unwanted clothes.
It definitely helps if you have no (or little) sense of style or make your own style, and have no interest in the latest fashion. Luckily I totally fit this description, which is very freeing in itself. It allows me to wear anything that is available and still feel absolutely wonderful. As long as my clothes are warm and comfortable (and look/fit reasonably well), I am happy. And, as stated before, relying on gifts and exchanges for clothes doesn't mean that you can't look stylish if you wanted to. People give away all sorts of clothes, sometimes even (nearly) new (for example because they don't fit anymore), so don't worry you'll have to look like a slob. Looking fashionable is just not one of my personal priorities, so I don't really spend much time on this.

5. Internet
This is very easy. There are so many places with free WiFi, that it really doesn't make sense to have your own connection. Most cafes, petrol stations, public buildings and libraries have free internet. Also, whenever you don't have internet, learn to appreciate the stillness. Enjoy meditation, knowing that you will not be interrupted by incoming emails, Whatsapp messages (if you still have a phone), and the like.
If you enjoy calling people, you can simply use Skype. Whenever I want to speak with someone, I find a place with internet and send a message via Facebook or iMessage, or if they don't have that I call their number and hang up after two tones. They know that this is a signal that I am on Skype and that they can connect with me if they are available. And it doesn't cost anything.
Of course my phone has a prepaid sim card that I never top up. My phone credit lasts a lifetime, because I never use it. Sometimes it can be tempting to use it, when someone sends me a text and they seem to have forgotten about my challenge, or when they don't know about it at all. But with a bit of practice, it becomes easier to just let it be and let go. Again, this is another important life skill to practice!

6. Health care
First of all: be responsible for your own health. If you smoke, consume alcohol (even in moderation), use medication (even if it is a contraceptive pill), live a largely indoor lifestyle, don't exercise much, eat a lot of meat / dairy / fish / processed foods, then you are more likely to get sick. If you get stressed easily, have a tendency to worry, or don't spend enough time in meditation or in nature (balancing yourself), then you are more likely to get sick. If you use a lot of toxic products, such as deodorants containing aluminum, toothpaste containing fluoride, or makeup, then you are more likely to get sick. If you eat a lot of GMOs, food with a lot of pesticides and additives, or drink contaminated water (with fluoride or other harmful chemicals or heavy metals), then you are more likely to get sick.
So find out what you put into and onto your body. Find out how to balance yourself. Get a daily dose of relaxation and spend time in nature. Move. Balance your body, mind and spirit. Keep yourself well.
Second, teach yourself about natural medicine. Learn how to do self-care in the wilderness. Learn about medicinal properties of plants and trees. Learn about holistic healthcare. Get educated about detoxing. And learn about health foods you can eat / drink to prevent illness. For example, if you know that cancer runs in your family (although the general advice is the same for any other type of disease as well), make sure to keep your body alkaline: drink water with a few drops of lemon juice throughout the day. Drink green tea or herbal teas (preferably fresh). Eat mostly vegetables. And stress less. Meditate. Appreciate nature. Learn to let go.
When it comes to replacing the contraceptive pill with natural alternatives, consider using natural methods (which requires you to be very in touch with yourself and quite dedicated, but it is free), or the Ladycomp (a small device which costs money, but may be worth the investment). Sterilization is of course the safest method and definitely something to seriously contemplate, considering the state of the earth and the decreasing space and resources of the planet, not just for humans but for all other species as well. This procedure may be free in some places of the world.
Camomile tea: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal. Also calming. Source: Edible wild plants by Fleischhauer, Guthmann and Spiegelberger.




7. Power / Energy
One of the more difficult things to find for free without relying on other people or on the excesses of society, is power. Of course the sources for solar, wind and hydro power are free, but the equipment to generate it is not free. I will look into free energy a bit more in the future, but until then, there may be places where you can charge your laptop/phone in exchange for skills/service, food or stuff that you have found along the way. For example, if you donate food to families every day, such that they don't have to go shopping anymore, then I am sure they wouldn't mind if you charge your laptop at their house sometimes. Having said that, it is nice to be fully self-sufficient, so a small solar charger might really be worthwhile to have.
You could also consider getting rid of your phone and your laptop (and other equipment that requires power), and instead just use public computers (e.g. in the library) and online storage. The less you have, the less there is to worry about, so getting rid of stuff is a very freeing experience. It is all about priorities. My priorities are freedom (in the widest sense) and peace of mind, so I may get rid of my phone and laptop eventually (after I complete my PhD).
For light and heat, you can use candles and fire. Knowing how to make a nice fire (without causing the whole forest to burn down) is of course an essential skill.

8. Hygiene
How do you keep clean without spending money? You can actually keep your body clean without using any products;  using only natural water sources. The rain provides free showers all the time. Swimming in the sea is a great way to get clean. You could also use a cloth to scrub yourself, but if you bathe often enough then this is not necessary.

Wash your clothes in a bucket of salty water or find a plant that has disinfecting properties.
Soap can also be made from natural materials, although I haven't done this yet. I have found plenty of soaps in dumpsters, so I won't run out anytime soon. But I will definitely start making my own once I go more nomad and start to rely less on dumpsters. If you Google natural soaps you can probably get a lot of ideas for making soaps and other cleaning products. For example, you can make detergent from common ivy (Hedera Helix).
You will find that as you start to eat healthier foods, your need for toilet paper will diminish. So instead of toilet paper, you can start using leaves, family cloth, or just a little water. But if you really think you can't live without TP (yet), just go to the dumpsters of big hotels, or other places that have those huge toilet rolls. They have a lot of leftovers, because when the rolls start to run out, they often replace them and throw away the small leftover part.
9. Land
Most people who want to live self-sustainably, eventually want to have their own block of land so that they can build an ecohome and grow their own food (well, at least that is what I want at some stage :P).
I believe it is a basic human right to have a place to live and settle down, as long as you live responsibly and in harmony with the earth and the other creatures (after all, we are all animals; and no other animal pays rent or taxes), but this has proven difficult for humans to accomplish. Money and greed are important reasons for this.
There are several difficulties to take into account when trying to find land without spending money. An option is to move to a country where they give away free land (yes, they still exist!), or just 'claim' a piece of land somewhere in the wilderness. You can also try trading your way to acquiring land.
Keep in mind that most countries (but not all!) have land tax, so make sure you choose your location wisely. Also, building codes may prohibit the building of an eco-friendly, self-sustainable home, so not all land or all countries are suitable, unless you are willing to risk eviction for the sake of justice. Building materials are easier to come by (depending on building codes again). Pallets are available for free in most places; just go to any kind of large store and ask. And just use as many natural materials as possible.
Until you find the perfect block of land, you can always choose to live the nomad lifestyle, foraging for food along the way and simply calling the earth 'home'.

10. Travel / Transport
Hitchhike, get yourself a free or nearly free bike, borrow a horse, rescue a horse from slaughter, build a boat, or simply walk. Yes, it will probably take a bit longer, but not being stressed to get anywhere fast you will be able to savor every moment of your journey (and you know what they say: the journey is more important than the destination). If you have all the above skills, then travel is probably the easiest to do for free, as you can devote all of your time to your travels and overcoming any obstacles along the way.
My friend Jay Randle's lovely horse Splendacrest Zafire

Final thoughts
If making the above changes seems a bit intimidating because it feels like you would have to rely on others for fulfilling some of your needs (especially in the beginning when you are still in the process of simplifying your life and training your own creativity and resourcefulness) without being able to 'pay' them, remember that you can contribute to other people's lives in so many other ways than just through money, and most of these ways to give back are much more valuable and enriching, for both parties. People may even remember you for a lifetime, because you gave them something so meaningful and unusual, even if it is just something seemingly simple like sincere gratitude, genuine interest and care, inspiration to see or do things differently, valuable life lessons, or validation of their self-worth.
You will discover that money is a very unnecessary construct, even though most of us have come to believe in it and depend on it for survival. But if you allow yourself the opportunity to stop believing in money by experiencing the alternatives, then you will see it has no inherent value. If money would cease to exist, then people would still want to keep on creating, sharing and giving to others, because that is our nature. But if there was no money, people would simply do it for different reasons. This is what my moneyless challenge is about: finding alternative ways to live and give back to others in a different way. By giving people other (and in my opinion more important) reasons to help each other out, we can eliminate the need for money, one step at a time, and transform our world.