This past weekend we watched the film The Eleventh Hour. It’s a documentary about the crisis facing our planet which accomplished, at least with us, its goal to both frighten and inspire. Throughout the movie, the phrase “First, do no harm” kept running through my head. You may recognize it as part of the Hippocratic Oath, traditionally taken by newly minted physicians. It comes from the Latin primum non nocere and

It reminds the physician and other health care providers that they must consider the possible harm that any intervention might do. It is invoked when debating the use of an intervention that carries an obvious risk of harm but a less certain chance of benefit. Since at least 1860, the phrase has been for physicians a hallowed expression of hope, intention, humility, and recognition that human acts with good intentions may have unwanted consequences.

It strikes me as a worthwhile mantra for each of us as we approach our daily lives as ____________________(whatever else we are) and health care providers for ourselves and our families, for our planet and for our personal finances. Most of us, I’d argue, have good intentions. We want a safe and comfortable place to live, healthy food to eat, time to spend with friends and family and beautiful places to visit and recreate. In modern times, the pursuit of these worthy goals has resulted in “unwanted consequences” financially, physically and ecologically. Our definitions of comfortable, healthy and beautiful have been shaped by media which is in service to our culture which is characterized by the pursuit of money.

I have been inspired by Jeffery’s post about green home building and the posts by Elizabeth and Regan about bike commuting. Helen has begun a series on sustainable energy and Martinique wrote about the “health, green, money trifecta” in her post about making your own coffee. We all seem to recognize this convergence of goals and the symbiotic relationship between health, green living and reduced costs.

In my last post, I mentioned our plans for a minihome. We have a grand vision that our home will be energy neutral (or perhaps even energy positive), be inexpensive to build and be made with 100% non-toxic materials. Many pieces will fall into place over the next couple of years to help us accomplish this goal. We will continue to downsize our life to free up financial resources for the property and materials. A positive parallel is that we will also be reducing our carbon footprint along the way. There are also potential pitfalls where our decisions could compromise one or more aspects of the trifecta. First do no harm will serve as my guidepost along the way.

Photo credit: Tiny House Blog