A new year. But new beginnings? Are you making new year resolutions? Great! January 1 is the perfect time to talk about the concept of environmental minimalism. Minimalism may seem like a trend, but when done with the environment in mind, it could make a big difference. The year 2020 has exposed a lot of open secrets – from how vulnerable we all are to Black Swan events and how precarious is our place in this world, to how incompetent many of our political leaders are, how dependent the global economy is on constant consumption, and how destructive our consumption patterns actually are. Changing our habits to less destructive ones can only help at this point. Enter environmental minimalism.
Minimalism is helpful to the environment. Haven’t we all plundered the earth enough? I know we haven’t personally extracted the earth’s resources, but our constant consumption is what drives the extraction of resources. Extraction of resources is what has caused widespread deforestation, habitat destruction, and extinction of countless species. All of which, of course, indirectly cause events such as the ongoing pandemic.
What? This pandemic has an environmental root cause?
Which is caused by us, to ultimately fuel our consumption. We’re quite a ravenous species, eating up our planet’s limited resources, and it’s about time we all went on a diet.
Our Unsustainable Consumption Patterns
In a sincere attempt to curb our excessive consumption, can we turn to minimalism? What does minimalism mean, after all? It’s when you live with the necessities, not the luxuries. So, instead of 30 pairs of footwear, we make do with four or five essential ones. Instead of buying a new smartphone every year, we buy a new one only when the current one stops working. And we buy a refurbished smartphone, if possible. Instead of leaving all the lights on at home, be aware of energy waste and only use how much you need. Shop at local businesses. Buy secondhand clothes. Curate a quality capsule wardrobe for yourself that lasts years.
Only buy what you need, and no more.
Right now, we’re buying a whole lot more than we need. According to the Global footprint Network, we would need five Earths if all of us lived like Americans. We would need four Earths if we all lived like Belgians. And so on. And as we’re all very aware, we only have one Earth right now.
In fact, Earth Overshoot Day is the “calculated illustrative calendar date on which humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year.” And this year, Earth Overshoot Day was on 22 August (which was later than expected due to the pandemic).
Is Minimalism Good for the Environment?
So, what would minimalism for the environment look like? How would environmental minimalism help you?
Increased awareness of nature
Our smartphones cause tremendous destruction in many parts of the world where lithium is mined. Our clothes cause a lot of environmental and community havoc across the world. Our consumerism is responsible for about 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Habitats, species, nature – are all greatly affected by our consumption and habits. Reducing our consumption and developing mindful habits will make you more aware of your effect on things and your role in the world. Without sounding too woo woo, it could make you feel more connected to the natural world and its breathtaking magic.
The average person in the United States produces 130 pounds of trash each month, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. On a practical level, minimalism leads to less consumption, which leads to greater reduction of waste. The less you buy, the less you waste. This is something that directly benefits the environment.
If you buy less, you’re spending less. You’ll have more money to save for travel, education, retirement. You’ll be more in control of your own life.
Living an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle
It all boils down to a more mindful existence on this planet. The choices you make for minimalism will influence other choices you make, such as the books you read, the movies you watch, the people you vote for. You will learn more about your impact on your community, and you will probably try to make a positive impact, by being more eco-friendly, more generous, more kind. You will realize the kind of impact you’re having on the planet at large, and you will probably try to make that positive as well. You will realize that, ultimately, we’re all in this together. You will also end up taking shorter, timed showers to reduce water wastage!
Environmental Minimalism is the Way Forward
Environmental minimalism is being a minimalist for the sake of the environment. It’s about living with respect for the Earth. It’s not about having fancy monochrome apartments that you show off on Instagram, it’s not about wearing black (or white) clothes all the time, or buying expensive gadgets and sleek Scandinavian furniture. It’s not simply about the aesthetic.
Environmental minimalism, or eco-minimalism, is about drastically reducing our consumption to just what we need (and a very little bit of what we desire). What would that look like?
Stop mindless buying.
But (of course, there’s a ‘but’), living a more minimalist lifestyle does not mean you need to throw away your excess belongings. Be mindful of the waste you generate. Continue to use whatever you have, but for longer than you previously intended to. If you do want to downsize, then go ahead and Marie Kondo your possessions, but don’t dump the discarded stuff in the landfill. Instead, donate your items to people who need them. There are many people, especially now, due to the economic hardships caused by the pandemic, who do not have what they need. Give them your unused items.
The truth is, we don’t really need much in the material sense to be happy. And having less stuff to clutter our lives can actually make space for the important things: family, friends, nature, music, art, life.
Convinced? Ready to give environmental minimalism a shot this new year?
Living a minimalist lifestyle for the environment is about environmental responsibility. Such a lifestyle would be more in tune with respecting nature, other species, and, ultimately, ourselves. It would mean living more meaningfully. In Happier People Healthier Planet, author Teresa Belton outlines how the things that improve human well-being have very little environmental impact. How cool is that! How convenient!
And how true.
Happy new year! May this year be a peaceful and safe one for us all.
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