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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Redefining Wealth

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Re-Defining Personal Wealth


The simple living movement has done an amazing job of redefining personal wealth.  No longer is wealth about money or material possessions, it is about living a nurturing, filling, and happy life.  Many people add more layers to the simple lifestyle, so that it is also about becoming debt-free, living an environmentally-sustainable lifestyle, and working toward social justice.


Wealth comes from a richness of relationships, flavors of fresh homemade and homegrown food, being within and a part of nature, contributing more good to the world, and deliberately paying attention to and fulfilling the needs of your self and those around you.  It’s a beautiful, selfless, and self-fulfilling life.


So how can we take this to our work place, to our businesses, to our world economy as a whole?


Re-Defining Business Wealth


In the small towns of Mexico, the stores close during mid-day, as shop owners take a few hours to have lunch with their families.  They return to work renewed, ready for the second portion of the day.  But in the United States, often we each lunch at our desks while working in isolation, and we may send someone out for a quick cup of takeout coffee to get us through the day.  In Australia, Turkey, several parts of Europe – many parts of the world – there is an afternoon break for tea.


What do those breaks accomplish?  A freeing of the mind and eyes, an informal community-building interaction between neighbors and coworkers, a renewal of strength and agility for the rest of the work day, and a sense that life itself matters.  Here we are valued for who we are, we are recognized as human beings with needs, and we work better when we are happier.


How can we re-define the way we do business, so that the people – who are both our customers and our employees – can feel that their happiness, health, and life matter?


Can our workplaces take on the principles of simple living?


And … Where Do We Start?  


That’s the real question, isn’t it?  Have you been able to take your simple lifestyle to your workplace?  How have you done that?  


I find there is a disconnect between my home lifestyle – where I’ve made a conscious effort to simplify and live sustainably – and any work environment.  Do you feel that way, too?  How do we take the first steps to change this?  As I begin a business focussed on sustainable solutions, I realize the incredible need to bring these elements into our operating structure.  


Wealth of a company relies on the emotional, physical, and economic health of its employees, its relationships, its surrounding communities – both online and offline.  As I’m working within a new company, I’m realizing what an incredibly difficult thing it becomes to implement these ideas, however – even with a group of people who do care!  With how much each of the 8 of us knows, there is still much unknown and even undiscovered.


(I would love any advice from those of you who may have tried this.  Or any books you may have read?)


Re-Defining Worldwide Economic Health


And once we find a solution to re-define wealth in the workplace, how can we take that further, and re-define our entire economy?  We know that there are some major problems with how we do business.  Is the problem an overall lack of sustainability – economically, socially, environmentally?  I think it is.  I think it is the same problem each of us is trying to change at home, as we move toward a simple and sustainable lifestyle.


I’m full of questions today!  Please, answer any questions you can here.  The main question is, I suppose:  How can we improve quality of life in work, as well as at home?


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13 comments to Redefining Wealth

  • Tom Humes

    Nice Site layout for your blog. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Humes

  • Well I’m a crafter and belong to an artist’s cooperative. We own a store together. So I don’t feel a great disconnect in the work place. Even when I work the store I don’t (though I do eat lunch at the register). About half customers that come in want to know about the artists. They want a personal connection. My main problem is that I work from home, alone. I miss the human contact now that my kids are gone.

    I used to program at a start up. One of my favorite ways to connect was when people took their smoke break. I don’t smoke and hate to breath it. They knew that, and would put me upwind. But it was a time you could all get together and just talk about something other than work. People used to take coffee breaks, but I just don’t see people doing that much anymore.

    Work is so busy, people don’t take breaks to say hi, as you say they even eat at their desks. I think that most work places don’t try very hard to do even the basic things like recycling. My husband sees the coffee grounds going into the trash at work. He asked me the other day if I would compost them. YES! So I asked Freecycle for some 5 gallon pails (which are usually trashed at places like restaurants, bakeries, and supermarkets). Today I go pick them up and will dress them up a bit and send them in to be filled up with coffee grounds. I think some things can be done on an individual level. Take control. Do what you can.

  • I think flex-time and keeping a sense of playfulness and creativity can make a work place enjoyable, and clients/customers pick up on that. I’ve worked in situations like that, where there are fun little on-going jokes going on, and folks recognize the need for people to attend their children’s school functions, etc., create a sense of comeraderie a collaboration. It goes beyond being midful of recycling,etc. It’s putting people first.

  • Do you mind if I quote part of today’s post on my blog? I really liked the first section.

  • You’ve asked a lot of good questions. If we could answer, and then implement, going to work would be SO much less stressful. Putting people first, as Joyce is a great place to start. But it’s always about the bottom line – profit, isn’t it? At my workplace we get ONE 25 min break in an 8 hour day. And one of our supervisors actually thinks people work better if we’re worried about losing our jobs. It’s sad.
    On the other hand, our workplace pays 1/2 for massages, acupuncture, gym memberships, etc.
    I would like the workplace to be more of a co-operative instead of one boss who hands down the rules.
    You’ve started a great discussion. Seen Zeitgeist?

  • (Commenting in order to be subscribed to comments… how nefarious of me.)

  • On the profit level, I think the bottom line needs to be “enough” rather than “more”. At that point things become more sustainable in so many ways. Businesses are generally just not set up this way, but I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t be if that was what was desired. I guess compromising and prioritizing would be important…. That’s pretty idealistic, I know.

    I wonder if we would be better off as a society with more smaller businesses? I’ve only worked for one large corporation during my life and I just felt like a teeny-tiny cog in the machine. Much happier working for a small business.

  • Really enjoyed reading your post. I left my job in NYC after just a year and a half because I was utterly burned out. The director of my organization worked all hours at the expense of his own family life and expected the rest of us to do the same. I quit last December, cleared out my apartment, and headed straight for Mexico. I’ve been here for 10 weeks now and have done and seen some incredible things. You’re right that people here cherish their family time, and the pace of life is quite a bit more relaxed than in the States. On the flipside, though, there are many very, very poor people who work tirelessly all day, everyday, for pennies. You see toddlers carrying huge packs on their backs and selling goods right along with their mothers. So, perhaps Mexico isn’t an ideal example for the point you’re trying to get across.

    A book that might interest you is “Take Back Your Time” by John de Graaf. You can find it on Amazon, along with several similar titles.

  • we can change the notion of wealth by getting a full understanding of cost.

    while X product may only cost me $30 from my pocket, it may mean I have to pay elsewhere because its production ruins the air or water, or people’s health.

    There will be a clash of forces in the coming days between those who wish to internalize the full cost of our lifestyle and those who would pass the cost on (usually to a group of people who cant afford it.)

    This is a moment of great opportunity however and you have definitely focused on the lynchpin of what must be done.

    Change the cultural narrative. Are we a culture that builds and restores or one that conquers and destroys.

  • My workplace has changed over the years to what I would call a “corporate” model. With that came the end of casual chats and a more relaxed and serene environment.

    In my mind, that was too high a cost to pay for “growth”. From the way the leadership is going, I do not forsee it going back to the olden days where people had more balance. I believe in an optimal size for each business.

    I’ve found that to simplify, I’ve cut back my exposure to my workplace. I’m still there because I feel like I have good work to do but its effects on me aren’t ideal. And as I put various aspects of my life in place, paid work has started to lose its luster.

    My life is about being able to live life and not having my paid work life dominate to a point where I forget how to live. There are great things about business life but I do not have to be immersed in it full time.

    Great post!

  • I have the vision of businesses operating in accordance with the natural energy of the seasons and other cycles. For instance. in the winter, it would be a time for more reflection, research, etc. Spring a time to burst forth implementing the new ideas from Winter’s work, etc.

    My vision is that women’s menstrual cycles would be honored as important and during the week or so of a women’s moontime, she would be excused from work, allowing her time to be with her deepest truest self…..knowing that she will come back to work with more of herself and more wisdom, strength and constructive energy to share.

    I too left my job and the states for Mexico, 2 1/2 years ago. I have been living the simple life, agenda free during this time. Recently feel pushed to be out there in the world sharing my gifts, truths, learnings, creative expressions– and so have started a blog expressing my reflections on living simply and sharing my process of unpeeling and learning. My intent is to earn money through these endeavors (also have a photo gallery/store and am a documentarian)…and find I have resistance to the word “wealth”. Hard to completely drop the societal messages..and to trust that this new definition..which is about a richness of life and what is truly meaningful to ME…is really wealth. For that reason I searched and found your blog! I appreciate your work and intent.

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  • I am currently reading it on my Blackberry and will scan it once I get home. I love your site and marketing strategy.

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