Minimalism is great because it allows us to pare down on our physical belongings so we can focus on the things that are most important to us in life: relationships, experiences, etc. We can feel less stressed and less burdened by our stuff.
But minimalism also helps the environment. Buying less means less production, which means less waste, less pollution, and more. In a way, minimalism is like a gateway drug for being a responsible consumer and helping the environment. Once you begin to consume less, you’ll notice you’re wasting less.
Only a few years ago, there were at least two packages arriving on my doorstep from online retailers every day. I ran a beauty blog, so I received samples to review all the time. That was further compounded by the fact I simply had a shopping problem. Amazon and I were best friends. I shopped Hautelook every day. My closet was bursting with clothes that I didn’t wear, and shoes that I never touched.
Being a Responsible Consumer
A lot has changed since my intense consumer years. I cancelled Amazon Prime, and then I cancelled Netflix. I got rid of a ton of stuff, and then I got rid of even more stuff. Over and over. Now I am doing my best to make environmentally-conscious decisions with every purchase I make.
Here are a few ways to take your interest in minimalism to the next level and, if I may be so bold, help save the world:
1. Buy less.
I’ve already covered this a bit. But yeah, buying less means you will waste less. The less merchandise that’s flying off the shelves at stores, the less goods there will be in production, because the demand will be lower.
This means less pollution from warehouses. Less harvesting of resources from the environment. Less being shipped from the manufacturer to the big box stores. (As a side note, my dad worked in logistics all his life, and he talks a lot about how trucks are inevitable in getting goods into your home. He’s an expert.)
And if you are like I was—having stuff delivered daily—buying less means less packaging and less pollution in getting that stuff to your mailbox.
2. Buy higher quality.
If you’re buying less, you’ll want to focus on buying quality over quantity. Suddenly, when you’re not filling your closet with fast fashion items—like $10 t-shirts in every color available that will wear after a few washes—you’ll have money for a high quality organic cotton shirt that puts less of a dent in the environment.
Whenever possible, opt for slow or ethical fashion.
3. Shop at thrift stores.
Buying gently used items at thrift stores can be a more wallet-friendly approach to buying higher quality items. By purchasing items that have already been worn before, you are not creating more supply and demand overall. On the flip side, you can donate and/or sell your gently used items so someone else can enjoy them.
4. Recycle, repurpose, and repair when possible.
Recycle by donating. Take time to deconstruct your consumer trash to see if there’s anything that’s recyclable. Think creatively with items that you have laying around your house.
Recently, I remembered I had a bunch of flannel receiving blankets that belonged to Beans when he was a tiny baby. They weren’t in great condition, so I felt weird donating them. Instead, I decided to send them off to have them cut down and sewn so the edges wouldn’t fray. I’ll be using them for household wipes when I get them back (think tissues, paper towels, rags).
Repair your stuff when you can. Have a favorite shirt with a small hole in it? Sew it up. Are your favorite boots looking really worn? Get them repaired. By repurposing your belongings, you save them from going into the landfill.
5. Avoid plastic items.
This is a vague tip, but a good rule of thumb. Plastic takes longer to break down in landfills. And it doesn’t always get recycled. And when it does get recycled, it takes up a decent amount of energy to do so.
Here are some quick and easy ways to avoid using plastic (or use less plastic):
- Bring reusable shopping bags everywhere.
- Bring a coffee mug with you. If you need to get a cup, opt for the less fancy lids and go with the old-school flat lids.
- Use a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottles or using plastic cups.
- Buy from companies that offer less-plastic refill options. For instance, buy the liquid soap dispenser once, and then buy the refills that come in the bags instead of buying a new soap dispenser to replace it.
6. Do your own research.
The Internet brings anything and everything to our fingertips. We have instant access to companies that are doing the right thing, and we should focus on buying from companies, like Patagonia, that have sustainable practices.
Consumerism is an ominous and mysterious thing. Knowing the entire lifecycle of your belongings is difficult. No one can be a perfect eco-friendly, minimalist consumer, but anything you can do to contribute to the greater good will help.