The New Economics Foundation has just published an update of its Happy Planet Index and top of the 146 countries covered is Costa Rica. A stable democracy with no army and a comprehensive welfare state, Costa Rica scores highly on the length and quality of life of its citizens. It also does so with around half the environmental impact per person of the United States. In others words, Costa Rica is far more efficient at turning resources into human happiness than the UK or US (at 74 and 114 respectively).
NEF's index is part of the wider debate on quality of life indicators which politicians such as David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have shown interest in. Such an indicator would give a much broader base for shaping and evaluating policy and a valuable alternative to GDP as the prime target for policy-makers - though as it would involve the UK immediately dropping dozens of places down the world's league table, there's little prospect of such a change happening anytime soon.
The study is based on existing data and NEF's costs are only in analysis and interpretation: in other words, it is in itself a good example of efficiency in turning resources into benefits.