The Happo-Dammo Ratio, Buying Local: Bridge Building this Holiday Season

This past week, the BGI blog republished the HappoDammo Ratio, a term coined by Gifford Pinchot III.  Referring to the happiness created by an activity, divided by the damage done by that activity, HappoDammo looms large during the holiday season.  On a personal level, many of us subject ourselves to the stress of traveling on crowded buses and planes to be with loved ones this month.  On a global level, what is the carbon footprint of our efforts to ring in a cheerful season’s greetings and an exuberant new year?  Do the math after Black Friday, and HappoDammo might not actually be in the black.  But there is hope.

I pledge to buy local gifts this holiday season, and even when I am not purchasing a present, I pledge to consider the HappoDammo of each act.  Local food exchanges amongst family members is a great way to keep that HappoDammo positive, for these dollars spent in the community stay in the community.  Each year I toy with the thought of a giftless season; however, buying local, compostable goods seems even higher on the Happo end of the scale than buying nothing.

It is amazing to me how many sports events, mostly football, compete with family bandwidth on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.  When we could be out enjoying the winter weather (if it isn’t too nasty) or conversing over malt cider, TVs are tuned in to the big game while stereos and not voices are raised in song.

In the spirit of HappoDammo and buying local, we must also recognize those holidays without big dollar signs.  I spent three seasons lighting Hanukkah candles in the desert in Niger, and the warmth from the candles coincided with the cold season (yes, even the desert gets cold once in a while).  HappoDammo means using what you have, loving who you are with, and not stretching beyond your means.

Take time this month to consider the happiness of your actions divided by any damage inflicted.  The goal is to raise that Happo numerator, but do not forget about lowering the denominator as a bridge to the new year.


About MikeG

I am an affordable housing developer and consultant. I build bridges to create compassionate, diverse communities. When we resolve conflicts, we strengthen our understanding of best practices toward collective well-being. I combine the value of inclusion with strategic planning, research skills that develop links from the seemingly unlinkable, and a passion for our interconnected lives to draft plans that succeed (photo by
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2 Responses to The Happo-Dammo Ratio, Buying Local: Bridge Building this Holiday Season

  1. MarcyT says:

    I second your pledge Mike. I plan to buy local experiences that my friends and loved ones can enjoy rather than stuff. I spent a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family and so enjoyed the simple pleasures of good food and good company. We spent hours putting together a 1000 piece puzzle. It’s amazing how such a simple activity can be so engaging and fun.

  2. Thanks for this reminder Mike! Around the holidays it’s both easy and hard to remember the little things that make us happy and don’t ‘cost’ a thing. I visited the Seattle’s Urban Craft Fair last weekend, and it was refreshing to see so many local artisans peddling their foods and crafts.

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