Live Minimally, Save the Planet
In a culture with a consumerist approach to virtually everything, minimalism has catapulted into the spotlight as means of pushing back against the materialistic tendencies that typically don’t deliver as advertised.
The founders of the minimalist movement, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, claim, “Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.”
For those who endeavor to care for the environment along their life path, minimalism seamlessly provides methods of achieving that end goal. Eco-consciousness and minimalism have two different ideologies at their core, and yet a brief consideration shows that in many ways they have the same goals.
Where You Live
Assessing one’s living space through the lens of minimalism begins by considering the things that you have, and asking how much value and beauty that item actually contributes in and of itself to your life. In much the same way, an environmentally friendly approach will assess the necessity of everything.
Declutter: Decluttering is a part of life that all of us already actively participate in to some degree. We all accumulate things that don’t have a long-lasting place in our home. But, beyond just mail that’s no longer needed or clothes that have gone out of style, if you’re a normal western consumer, you likely have a lot of stuff that you don’t actually need, use, or even really want.
Get rid of the obvious stuff that you know needs to go, and then work your way up gradually in terms of an item’s relevance and importance. If you’re not sure about an item, consider hiding it away for a few months to see how it goes.
Additionally, consider all of the things that aren’t taking up physical space but are cluttering your mental and emotional life.
For example, Kendra Yoho of Life Storage recommends distancing yourself from social media, unsubscribing from unnecessary email newsletters, and going paperless when possible.
Recycle: You are probably already recycling in the traditional sense, but what can you reuse in perhaps a non-traditional manner to reduce your consumption? When you need something for a practical purpose, consider what you already have that can be repurposed to meet the need before you buy. How would you deal with the situation if you didn’t have the means to buy the solution?
Quality over quantity: One of the most practical methods of achieving green minimalism is by investing your money in products that will last longer, and thus create less clutter and less waste. Not only is it important to invest in quality but also in products that achieve that with minimal impact on the environment.
Because the items we fill our homes with inevitably become outdated or worn out from use, this is a tactic that can be applied over and over again. If the options exist, consider good-quality products made by companies with green policies in place.
You can use reclaimed wood when redoing your floors. You can buy a high-quality, organic mattress free of harmful toxins and pesticides. You can make choices during renovations and maintenance that can transform your home into a LEED-certified dwelling.
How You Commute
This may seem so obvious, it needs no explanation. The less you drive, the less you pollute, the less you need in terms of maintaining your vehicle. For some of us, driving long distances every day seems to be an unavoidable part of life.
However, long commutes in our cars have been found to have such detrimental effects that truly are a type of non-tangible clutter in one’s life.
According to Charles Montgomery for The Guardian, “There is a clear connection between social deficit and the shape of cities. A Swedish study found that people who endure more than a 45-minute commute were 40 percent more likely to divorce. People who live in monofunctional, car‑dependent neighbourhoods outside urban centres are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walkable neighbourhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services and places to work.”
He goes on to cite another study that points unequivocally to the fact that the longer a person spends in the car commuting, the less happy they’ll be. Thus, this is not just about reducing the one-fifth portion of US emissions cars are responsible for, it’s also about the care and keeping of self.
If you have a long commute, take public transportation. Taking public transportation will not likely shorten a commute; however, it does give you that time back. Instead of losing all of that time in the car, you can utilize it to get ahead of work projects or recreationally for purposes like reading. Taking public transportation can effectively declutter the bookends of your work day while also diminishing your contribution to pollution.
If you have a short commute, walk or bike. Joseph Stromberg reports for Vox that studies show walkers and bicyclists are the happiest, healthiest commuters there are. Additionally, walkers, bicyclists, and public transit riders are less bothered by longer commutes than drivers are.
You may not be ready to turn your car keys in just yet, but maybe you are ready to change your level of reliance on your car. It can seem like a daunting, life-altering choice, and it may be — just not in the way you think. Perhaps it will change your overall quality of life in a way you never could have imagined, by removing one the most significant quality-of-life drains in your life.
What You Wear
Gone are the days when clothing seasons mirrored those of the actual seasons. Now, there are 52 seasons of fashion a year as the clothing industry churns out more at a faster rate than any before in its history.
Not only are the factories that produce clothing producing the inevitable pollutants required for manufacturing, we’re buying more and thus wasting more. It’s essentially more of the same, over and over and over again.
Not only does owning less matter for the environment, it again has a correlation to our well-being. Some of the most successful people on the planet, like Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg, have committed to streamlined wardrobes.
Why? Because it declutters mental space for other, more pressing decisions. It’s a means of decreasing stress generated, energy exerted, and time wasted.
Enter: The Capsule Wardrobe
In the ‘70s, boutique owner and eventual author Susie Faux coined the term “capsule wardrobe” to refer to a closet built from timeless pieces that can be augmented via seasonal accents. While Faux noted such classics such as jacket, a belt, a skirt, etc., she was quick to note that the essentials would vary from person to person.
So, if you’re feeling the weight of a closet bursting with items that you like but don’t love, and an overall dislike for the excess, consider building your own capsule wardrobe. In doing so, you’ll save space and energy, and you’ll be investing in the saving of our planet as well.
Minimalism and a green lifestyle truly do go hand in hand. Both have been cultivated by those in society who have recognized problems, and committed themselves to the resolution of those problems. If you hold to the tenets of minimalism, you’ll become more effective at minimizing your carbon footprint as well.
Plus, minimalism has benefits beyond those that are most commonly recognized. Notable news sources are beginning to showcase how minimalism is a common-sense way to overcome the challenge of saving enough for retirement. Not only that, minimalism applies the same quality over quantity form of thinking to relationships.
Who knows what other benefits will become relevant as the movement continues to evolve and gain traction? Ultimately, the underlying ideology of minimalism is for one to identify what truly contributes to the quality of their life, and for some, that means the eco-friendly approach that minimalism effortlessly supports.