By Rachel M. Anderson, Freelance Writer

(Twin Cities) - What is the key to happiness? Some people will tell you it's having a good job and enough money to sustain your lifestyle. Others say it's all about having friends and family who care about you.

Twin Cities resident Karen Olson Johnson says it's about living a life of "Common Sense for Common Good." What exactly does she mean by that?

"Instead of having the attitude that everyone is in it for themselves, we need to move to the position of thinking that what's good for our neighbor is what's good for us - not just on a local scale but globally."

Johnson is not alone in this way of thinking, but how she came to that conclusion is a story in itself. Until 1988, she was on the fast track, always on the go for her work as a trainer for science teachers, eating box meals, driving and flying all over the place.

She made a paradigm shift '" a radical change in her way of thinking '" after getting into an accident in 1988 that nearly ended her life. A drunk driver forced her off the road, and after rolling several times, her car landed upside down in a swamp. The accident happened between the Twin Cities and Brainerd, Minn.

"I was knocked out, and the water coming in and hitting my face is what woke me up," she says. Johnson vividly remembers the crowd of people in the swamp who had stopped to help. "They got me out of the car and carried me to safety."

After the accident, doctors discovered Johnson had suffered lesions on her brain. She lost a lot that day '" the ability to speak, the ability to walk and the use of the left side of her body; but thanks to lots of therapy, sheer will and determination, she eventually gained everything back.

"I was stopped cold in my tracks by the accident. Every single thing I had at the time, physical abilities, speaking abilities, financial capabilities, was absolutely dead. At that point I looked at the world and the manner in which I was living and said, '˜For what? For what?'"

While on the road to recovery, Johnson felt compelled to share her realizations about what life is really all about with others. She wrote her thoughts down and many years later published them in a book titled "Common Sense for Common Good."

Johnson describes it as an easy-to-read guidebook for solving the world's problems, like what to do about our planet's ever-expanding toxic trash piles, water-related illnesses, exploitation of natural resources and world hunger.

"The solutions are simple really," says Johnson. "People just need to stop thinking about what's good for them, and think about what's good for the world."

The book is laid out in a series of stories that first highlight a particular problem, then offer easy common sense solutions. Among the solutions offered:

1) Recognize and be respectful of source.

In her own life, Johnson makes a conscious effort to reuse everything she can and wishes others would too. "In this country we waste a tremendous amount of food, yet we know that kids in Africa are starving. We have the capacity to solve the problem, so why haven't we done it? I think it's because we haven't made the connection between where we sit now globally, where we sit societally, where we sit as families," says Johnson.

2) Be much more conscious of what you are buying

When you buy a packaged meal instead of cooking the food yourself, Johnson points out you are contributing to the problem of the incredible amount of waste being created on this planet, "Not to mention, you don't know what you're putting in your body," she says.

Johnson challenges people to make the conscious decision to cook meals for themselves, and buy organically grown vegetables, rather than those that have been treated with pesticides, or chopped up, dipped in preservatives and bagged in plastic.

Johnson also says people should refuse to buy cleaners and pesticides with a skull and cross bones on them. "You know it's bad for you. Bad for the environment. If enough people refuse to buy dangerous products, companies will no longer make them."

3) Make choices that are good for the world community.

Johnson says people need to realize that every single decision they make in life has an impact on others. For example, when you flush outdated medicine down the toilet, the drugs will eventually find their way into the water and could end up negatively affecting someone who lives hundreds of miles away.

She also recommends that bottled water be taken off the market. "Yes it was good to have in Japan and during Hurricane Katrina. But do you and I need to use it on a daily basis? Absolutely not! It's a waste of material, it's a waste of resource, a waste of packaging. To do something about that would be common sense for common good."

Johnson recommends that instead of tying up resources to manufacture bottled water, societies focus on building wells in impoverished countries.

"It is my hope that people who read my book will come to realize the ultimate in life is not piling up a bunch of stuff or having a lot money. The ultimate is to have mattered, to have made a difference. To know the world is a better place because you were here," she says.

To learn more common sense solutions to the problems that plague us, pick up a copy of Common Sense for Common Good. The book is available for download at for just $1.99. Printed copies of the book are available through for $15.

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About the Author

Karen Olson Johnson is a well-known and highly respected public speaker and workshop presenter on sustainability topics and science. She has educated and inspired preschool through college level students in exciting hands-on science. She can be reached through her website:

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