I’ve been talking about Simplicity for many years, and although it’s an ancient philosophy that has always advocated living deliberately and making conscious choices, there are some new, exciting ideas. 

Many of them come from necessity as we face climate change and an unsure economy. But even if we’re being forced to change, we often discover that we like the new life better.

It’s like the joke, “What if there isn’t really any climate change? We will have improved our lives for nothing!”

Consume less

Reducing consumerism is an essential way to cut back on carbon emissions and fight global warming. You can help people reduce their consumerism by showing them ways to save (or make) money in the new movement called the “sharing economy” or “collaborative consumption.” 

Look for free or inexpensive lodging when you travel: Search on the Web for “couch surfing” or “airbnb.”

Rent out a room in your house — Not only can you make extra money, you might find you make a good friend. 

Create a “tool bank” — Initially created to share real tools like electric drills, lately the idea has expanded to sharing all sorts of items, like blenders, vacuum cleaners or camping gear. There are websites such as ShareSomeSugar, Neighborgoods or Bright Neighbor where you can post the things you’re willing to share or would like to borrow. Sites like these have security measures built in.

Sites like RelayRides facilitate peer-to-peer car sharing. (After all, your car often sits for hours, not being used.)

Get involved with (or create) a time-bank program (timebanks.org) — Exchange your skills with others. In this kind of thing, all of our time is worth the same. 

Buy used — Most people have used Craigslist. Buying used, bartering or swapping involves more creativity and ingenuity than taking a trip to the mall. Get things free from Freecycle.

For hundreds of new ideas, go to the on-line magazine, shareable.net.

Support local economy

Help fight climate change by buying food grown locally. There’s nothing more fun than strolling through a farmers market, chatting with the vendors and running into friends.

Keep money in the community by shopping in small, independent stores and avoiding chain stores. Try not to do business with corporations — supporting corporations means colluding in destruction of the environment and contributing to social injustice. 

If you’ve been excited by the Occupy movement, one way to support it is to support local businesses! (See the Seattle Good Business Network: www.seattlenetwork.org.

Focus on happiness — take the happiness survey at happycounts.org/survey/GNH).

Reclaim your time — When you spend less, maybe you can work less and spend your time on things that make you happy. If we did this on a broad scale, we could create more jobs and reduce unemployment as we did in the Great Depression. Germany, one of the strongest economies in Europe, is doing this today.

Create social ties — One of the biggest contributors to health and happiness is social connections. We need to learn that it’s not lots of money that makes us happy; it’s lots of friends. So schedule in the time.

In particular, make it a practice to talk to strangers throughout the day. You create a more caring, civil society, and you begin to feel like you belong to something greater than yourself. (If you don’t know what to talk about, get a cute, little dog. Everyone wants to stop and talk then.)

Make a difference

Get involved with a group working to create a better society. In particular, most neighborhoods in Seattle are organized to combat climate change. (Sustainable Wallingford, Sustainable Greenwood Phinney, etc. Or visit the Sustainable Communities All Over Puget Sound (SCALLOPS) website at scallops.ning.com.)

Get involved in civic action, like with Occupy or Move to Amend (amending the Constitution to say that corporations aren’t people and money is not speech). 

Buy the Real Change newspaper — Help the poor and the homeless and contribute to good journalism. Take time to stop and chat with the vendor. You’ll meet some great people.

Educate yourself — Subscribe to YES magazine and support your local bookstore. Don’t forget the library — the ultimate in sharing. 

Get “The Sharing Solution” or “What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.”

Getting involved brings a new exuberance and energy to your life. There are so many exciting, fun and worthwhile things to do — make this a great year!

CECILE ANDREWS is the author of “Less is More,” “Slow is Beautiful” and “Circle of Simplicity.” She can be reached at cecile@cecileandrews.com.