Chapter 1: Happiness and sustainability


Action plans for sustainability implies a balance between current development of society, economy and environment, and the chance to give the same opportunities to future generations. Moreover, these plans require a transition to less materialistic values and lifestyles in communities. Happiness is included as one of those values that can be beneficial for sustainability, and is related to life quality and the level of freedom in society. Consequently, happiness is positively correlated to good governance, local autonomy, strength of civil society, health, material comfort, social equality, access to knowledge, economic wealth, and the cultural environment (Zidanšek, 2007).  On the other hand, the characteristics of people’s surroundings influence their well-being and play an important role in determining what makes people happy (Brereton, Clinch, & Ferreira, 2008).

   One important factor contributing to individuals’ happiness are the activities or practices that they choose to do, as actions that require effort and hard work are more beneficial for long-term happiness than superficial changes in circumstances. The relation between happiness and sustainability is associated to this factor. Therefore, efforts in aligning basic requirements for sustainable development with human needs for happiness and life satisfaction could lead to the emergence of a global sustainable civilization  (Zidanšek, 2007).  At this point, the empowerment of individuals and organizations towards sustainability becomes truly relevant as it responds to the modification of their strategies and values, and to the improvement of their life quality standards. Furthermore, as sustainability and happiness work together in strengthening societies’ development, it is expected that happier citizens will be more willing to support and be involved in sustainability initiatives. Thus, the analysis of happiness and wellbeing in a community becomes a central topic to be discussed when talking about the materialization of a sustainable development vision in a territory.


Texel is an island located in the northwest of the Netherlands with a regular population of approximately 13,600 inhabitants. The main economic activities of the island are tourism, fishing and agriculture. Nature and landscape are varied, and part of the dunes area in the west was designated as a National Park. Even though Texel set the goal of becoming a sustainable island by 2020, there are a variety of interests and perspectives regarding how to achieve such sustainability among different actors, which represents the main challenge the island faces towards the achievement of its ambitious goal (Boissevain & Selwyn, 2004).


This report is focused on giving a wide perspective of the challenges related to happiness, health and well-being that Texel is currently facing in order to become a sustainable island. Therefore, an analysis of the current and desired future sub-system were presented and compared to increase the understanding of the mechanisms and trends that can be used to generate initiatives towards the desired sustainability transition. Moreover, the proposed initiatives were structured into an agenda towards a sustainable Texel in 2065. Finally, the outcomes of the subsystem were connected with the rest of the system to ensure consistency and synergy between proposed initiatives.



Challenges related to sustainable happiness

As a starting point of the analysis, the Health, Happiness and Well-being sub-system was divided into two main topics to define what it means for the Texel case: Life quality standards and Citizens’ empowerment towards sustainability. On one hand, life quality standards are related to the general well-being and living of the population; it includes factors such as good governance, health, ecological diversity, access to exercise and relaxation spaces, and access to healthy food. Therefore, this part of the system was related to the sustainability criteria to identify and measure the level of sustainability on Texelaars’ lifestyle, topic to be addressed at the end of this chapter. On the other hand, Citizens’ empowerment towards sustainability refers to the level of involvement and awareness of citizens with the sustainability goal, and the development of individual or collective initiatives to support the goal’s achievement. Moreover, there are some challenges related to the fact that Texelaars do not feel connected to (sustainability) ideas that come from the mainland, which needed to be addressed through the development of the proposals.


The island of Texel has land area of approximately 16 Ha, which is located in the Wadden area, northwest of the Netherlands. It consists of seven villages, which are Den Burg, De Cocksdorp, De Koog, De Waal, Oosterend, and Oudeschild. Den Burg as the main village has 7.000 inhabitants in current condition. Each village has its own character and mentality, although all the Texel people still have a homogenous local cultural identity (Boissevain and Selwyn, 2004).

   Tourism is the main source of income in Texel, where 75% of the people are relied on it. The second source of income on the island is agriculture, even though the number of farms have decreased by 48 from 1985 until 2000. Economic statistic of The Netherlands in 2010 shows that 3.300 people in Texel work on commercial services field, 1.500 people on non-commercial services field, 700 people on industry and construction field, and only 170 people on agriculture and fisheries (, 2014). Particular reasons for tourists to visit Texel are its forest, tranquility, beach, opportunity to enjoy nature by walking and cycling, fresh air, feeling of an island, feeling of freedom, and relaxation.


People in Texel can be considered to have a homogenous cultural identity, however every village has its own characteristic, for example: De Koog appeals to the tourist, De Hoorn has an agricultural community, and Oudeschild is a fishermen village. Some islanders support the tourism’s development in the island but some feel that their freedom is limited by the presence of the tourists. Moreover, the islanders have debated the amount of camping areas that intrude the farms, traffic jams, and crowding on the island. The intention of the tourists to transform the island into their places in order to feel familiar with the place is creating and undermining the living environment on the island at the same time. (Boissevain and Selwyn, 2004)

There are groups of local people in Texel trying to improve life quality in the island by push out campaigns or movements. Some of these groups are Ten for Texel and Texels Belang. From website of Texels Belong (2014), some issues concerned by local people were identified:

  • They need an independent municipality to perform their own affair.
  • They want to maintain the core value of Texel while improving tourist industry.
  • More social housing for young people is needed.
  • They want to preserve second education level in the island, include high school and secondary professional education.
  • Active sport area.
  • They need improvement in healthcare, and ambulance that remain stationed in the island.
  • They need to keep nursing facilities (Hollewal) and let the elders to spend their old age in Texel.
  • Shelter workshop “De Bolder” should remain on the island.
  • Fresh fish market is needed for fisherman to be able to distribute their product without middlemen


On the other hand, one could argue if the inhabitants of the island of Texel are actually Dutch. Texelaars (Texel's inhabitants) have a strong identity through which they differentiate themselves from the regular Dutch people living on the mainland. The islanders have their own dialect of the Dutch language and they have their own annual feast called Sunderklaas (it has nothing to do with Sinterklaas) on the 12th of December (Ronde, 2011). This strong identity creates a strong community of Texelaars, which is focused on its self-preservation in terms of culture and habits. Unfortunately, this leads to behaviours characterized by Texelaars not being quite open to outsiders and their ideas for change, especially when they come from the Dutch mainland.


Transitioning to a more sustainable Texel is a lengthy process. To ensure the success of this process, it is essential that the Texelaars do not only accept this transition, but that they also support it. This means that the inhabitants have to become an integral part of this sustainable transition and the eventual solution. Creating support and acceptance from the community is twofold. On one hand, it focuses on creating local enthusiasm and active support for this transition, and on the other hand, it is also about anticipating on resistance from the inhabitants or other stakeholders connected to this transition. Depending on the context of the project, resistance can lead to alterations to planning, implementation, execution or can even eventually lead to an unsuccessful transition. (Mourik, Feenstra & Raven, 2007)

   Resistance can originate from various different sources. Good or bad experiences with sustainable solutions and the general lack of interest for sustainability are amongst the many reasons why one would become reluctant to support or accept the transition. The impact that this transition might have on their daily life and surroundings eventually shapes their opinion on the transition. The challenge is to shape this impact, or these changes, in a way that they are appealing to the inhabitants of Texel.

   In order to for this sustainable transition to be a success, its result should become a part of the identity of the Texelaar. By empowering the Texelaars, the islanders themselves could contribute greatly to the sustainability of their island. Empowerment happens "when people, individually or collectively, conceive of, define and pursue better lives for themselves" (Oswald & Ruedin, 2012). This empowerment could be realised by a platform supporting local sustainability related projects that can be financially supported through projects and programmes rather than through direct budget support (Oswald & Ruedin, 2012).


The search for happiness, health and well-being can be considered a shared goal among actors in Texel. Initiatives in such field are relevant for the island’s sustainability goals as they can support the creation of a new identity for citizens based on new-shared values, norms and lifestyles towards becoming a sustainable community.  From this preliminary approach, the research was focused on giving response to the questions:

How to design a sustainable lifestyle for Texelaars that promotes happiness, health and well-being with behaviors not only appealing to the inhabitants of the island but also to its visitors?

How to measure the achievement of sustainable happiness on the island?

How to empower Texelaars to become the driving force of the sustainability transition on the island?



Health, Happiness and Well-being for Texel

The need for the transition towards a sustainable society is closely related to the concept of sustainable happiness, defined as the pursuit of happiness that does not exploit other people, the environment, or future generations. In terms of values, two definitions can be found: intrinsic goals, such as personal growth, self-acceptance, relationships, physical fitness, and community involvement; and extrinsic goals, such as financial success, social recognition, image and popularity. Generally speaking, intrinsic value orientation is associated with higher levels of subjective well-being, less materialistic or consume-oriented behavior, healthier habits, and more engagement with environmentally friendly behaviors than extrinsic value orientation  (O'Brien, 2008).

  To further reflection, O’Brien (2008) addressed some questions that are relevant in the context of Texel:  “Is it possible to assist individuals to make better choices about happiness, for themselves and all life on the planet?; Is it possible to create communities, towns, and cities that make people happier sustainably and thus contribute to public and environmental health and well-being?” (p. 291). From this point of view, the main challenge for the transition of Texel towards a sustainable society is related to the empowerment of Texelaars towards sustainability and the pursue of sustainable happiness. Consequently, the final goal of this sub-system is related to create an empowerment platform to promote intrinsic values among Texelaars that support and facilitate the transition (Figure 1).



Figure 1: Mechanism to achieve Health, Happiness and Well-being sub-system's goal



Values related to sustainable happiness

In order to define the requirements to design such empowerment platform, firstly it was necessary to analyze the current state of the subsystem and the actors that are involved in making the transition society. For analysis purposes, current Texel’s society was divided into three main groups that have similar interests, willingness and attitude toward sustainability.  Additionally, tourists were treated as a group to be influenced by the initiatives and proposals of Texel’s attempted lifestyle. The aforementioned groups were chosen because of the different roles they can play in the present and in the future sub-system regarding sustainability, and the potential influence they can have on the values of the other groups.

  • Entrepreneurs: People starting new business and trying to diversify Texel’s economic development sources taking advantage of the island’s resources and capabilities. They are key actors in the transitions towards sustainability in the island as they are used to take risks.
  • Young people: Can be defined as the people aged from 10 -19, going to school and building their perception of life, behaviors, the future possibilities for Texel and its relation with sustainability.
  • Average inhabitants: Regular Texelaars that are active part of the island but have already defined their values, behaviors, perspectives of future possibilities for Texel and its relation with sustainability.


Secondly, it was necessary to define which values were related to the transition in the sub-system. The success of the future subsystem relies on the values of the people of Texel being sustainable ones. Therefore, the current values were analyzed to determine what needs to be done in order to bring about a change in these values. For the analysis, the values that affect life quality were divided into several categories:

  1. Family: To spend quality time with family
  2. Financial Resources: To secure the resources to support short-term and long-term financial goals.
  3. Friends: To build, strengthen and preserve personal friendships
  4. Health and fitness: To be healthy and physically fit
  5. Home and place: To make my home in a location and community that supports my desired lifestyle and personal values
  6. Leadership: To play an important role in the leadership of a group, a company, or an organization.
  7. Leisure Pursuits: To pursue hobbies, sports and interests outside of work and family.
  8. Personal Growth: To constantly learn new thing to expand horizons
  9. Public Service: To contribute to the community or society as a whole.
  10. Spirituality: To explore and develop the spiritual side of my life
  11. Work satisfaction: To do work that is enjoyable and stimulating.


Sustainability criteria

The growing interest on sustainability and sustainable development in the past decades has raised challenges regarding proper ways to assess its impacts. Assessment processes are important to ensure plans and project’s optimal contribution to sustainability goals. One of the main outcomes of such process is the need to define clear measurement points in order to ensure that efforts are going into the desired direction (Pope, Annandale, & Morrison-Saunders, 2004). For the Health, Happiness and Well-being sub-system, eleven criteria were selected to provide insights into goal’s achievement and are used as basis for the analysis.

  • Well-managed vegetation: Vegetation can be one essential element of vital neighborhoods spaces. By driving residents and visitors to shared green areas, trees and grass can foster stronger community ties (Sullivan, Kuo & DePooter, 2004). The proper maintenance of green areas and their adjustment to foster interaction is key to improve Texelaars’ happiness and life quality.
  • Halving exodus: According to the statistics by CBS, there is a trend towards emigration on Texel. Such trend is higher amongst young people, who leave the island to go to college or university, or simply to find other professional development opportunities. The future of the island depends on society to be able to offer young Texelaars opportunities to develop themselves and the economy of the island. Thus, declining exodus is key for achieving sustainability goals and ambitions.
  • Social strength: it refers to the “glue” that holds society together. It is reflected in the level of cohesion and integration in the community that make cooperation possible. Moreover, it includes notions of trust and shared understanding, solidarity, goals, behaviors, values or benefits (Woods & Giles-Corti, 2008).
  • Low carbon footprint housing: it is related to all emissions of greenhouse gases caused by both house building (production of materials used in construction) and the energy requirements of housing (energy use and maintenance). The key challenge is to reach high levels of energy-use efficiency (Barrett & Wietmann, 2007).
  • Lowering psychological health problems: Fatigue and stress are consequences of today’s work and life styles (Berto, Baroni, Zainaghi & Bettella, 2010). This leads to a decrease on mental health and processing capacity that have a negative impact on the perceptions of life satisfaction and happiness. Defining measures to lower the impact of such situations is a must for a sustainable and healthy society.
  • Maintaining air quality level: Air pollution can affect human health mainly by weakening the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, and the environment by damaging vegetation and negatively impacting plants’ growth (EPA, 2010).  Texel currently have a good air quality due to the amount of green areas, efforts have to be done to keep such state.
  • Locally produced products: Related with healthy food, increase the consumption of locally produced and organic agricultural products to reinforce the sense of belongingness of islander, and ensure the consumption of products that promote good health.
  • Increase sustainable exercise by 50%: Increase the number of inhabitants performing recommended exercise rate of at least thirty minutes of physical activity three times per week.
  • Decrease in electricity consumption by 50%: Increase energy awareness to reduce energy consumption. One of the mechanisms already installed is a system that measures and provide Texelaars with Feedback regarding their energy consumption in order to support the goal of becoming a self-sustainable community (Capgemini, 2013)
  • Decrease in fossil fuel consumption by 25%: The consequences of fossil fuel usage for energy generation and transport over the environment are widely known and discussed. They are the drivers towards the seeking for more sustainable solutions in the energy and transport sector. Decrease fossil fuel consumption is going to have a positive impact on keeping a good air quality on Texel.





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Tiwanee van der Horst , Pieter van Hall , María José Galeano Galván

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