I like the title of a book published ten years ago, ‘Happier People Healthier Planet’. In four words, this title reminds us that living planet-friendly lives is not the path to deprivation and misery, as some would have us believe.

The author of this book, Teresa Belton, tells how she sent a questionnaire to people who had responded to her advertisement in ‘The Big Issue’, people who had chosen to live a life of modest material consumption and said they were happy with it. She also interviewed some of them. Her book describes the lives of these ‘modest consumers’ and why they chose to live as they did. Each of them worked out their own ways, so they were not all the same. Some of them did without a washing machine, television or mobile phone. Many were enthusiastic re-users, repairers and recyclers. Most engaged in the sharing economy. Many had a particular dislike of waste.

Many of them were motivated by a concern for the environment or social justice. Many of them were involved in voluntary work or community activities and making ethical purchases, like fair trade. They knew the importance of friendships, spirituality, creativity, playfulness and closeness to nature. They were active physically, culturally and socially. Their non-essential purchases included books, CDs, DVDs, theatre and music, and good food, wine and beer.

If we want to reduce the damage from how we live, there are two approaches: either we do less, or we do differently. Most of us probably do a bit of both. ‘Happier People Healthier Planet’ is about people who concentrate particularly on the former, and find that this leads them to lives that are happy and fulfilled.

Henry Haslam is the author of ‘The Earth and Us’.