If you’re serious about living a sustainable lifestyle, you’ve probably come across the concept of minimalism –– a lifestyle that embraces simplification and rejects consumerism.
My personal journey with minimalism began in college while I was studying for my degree in philosophy and sustainability. Like many others, I found myself in a cycle of purchasing unnecessary items to give myself some fleeting happiness and then regretting my decision soon after (late-night online shopping, anyone?).
As the amount of crap in my apartment started piling up, so did my guilt. Not only about the wasted money, but also about the unsustainability of my consumerism.
I still remember the day that I purchased The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up on Audible and dumbed over half of my possessions into bins to be sold, recycled, or discarded. Let me tell you –– it was cathartic.
Choosing to live a simpler lifestyle didn’t just help me focus on the things that really matter to me. It also set me on a path to live more sustainably by completely transforming my relationship with material things.
So, what is eco-minimalism?
Every day, we make decisions that either help or harm our planet –– from the products we buy to the food we eat.
Approaching minimalism with an environmentally-conscious mindset allows us effortlessly to embrace sustainability through simplification.
Eco-minimalism takes the basics of minimalism and transforms them through the lens of being environmentally conscious.
Minimalism on its own is inherently sustainable. Rejecting consumerism is one of the best things you can do for our planet, right next to switching to a plant-based diet.
As its name suggests, the main point of minimalism is to minimize the clutter in your life. Eco-minimalism, on the other hand, focuses on transformation rather than simple minimization.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the 3 guiding principles of eco-minimalism so that you can start your journey into a sustainable lifestyle.
1. Simplify your life
The first principle of eco-minimalism is minimalism in its truest sense.
There are countless benefits to simplifying things in your life. By removing the things you don’t really need in your life, you leave space for the things that matter. In my case, getting rid of all of the thoughtless clutter in my apartment allowed my cats to lounge in all sorts of new, previously occupied spaces.
Minimalist living has quickly grown into a mainstream trend thanks to its positive impacts on finances, mental health, and time management.
Most people start their journey into minimalism with a full audit of their possessions. A really effective strategy to going about this is Marie Kondo’s philosophy of “sparking joy“. Basically, you walk through your home and take the time to sit with every item you own. If the item brings you joy, keep it. If it doesn’t, into the bin it goes.
This is a great place to start –– you’ll be surprised at how many items you have that are totally unnecessary and just take up space.
I know it can be really tempting to go wild with this step and throw out half of your apartment into the dumpster, but take some extra time to see if anything can be sold or donated. Clothing, furniture, and even towels can find new homes rather than being dumped in a landfill.
Once you’ve simplified your possessions, the next natural step is to simplify the immaterial parts of your life. Think about your habits, friendships, or anything else that takes up your limited amount of mental space.
While auditing our morning routine, my partner and I saw an opportunity to cut out our morning trip to the coffee shop by making our own cold brew in mason jars. Not only did we manage to save some time and money this way, but we also reduced our waste by avoiding single-use plastics.
2. Purchase thoughtfully
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If you audit your own ecological footprint, you’ll notice that nearly every impact you make on our planet stems from your purchases. Whether you’re buying food, clothing, or travel accommodations, there will always be options that are more or less sustainable than others.
It’s a fact of modern life that we need to buy things for ourselves. By taking the time to purchase thoughtfully, we can invest our money into clothing and home goods that will last us years –– or even decades –– to come.
There’s no shortage of high-quality, ethically made, and sustainably sourced products on the market thanks to consumers’ growing interest in these types of products.
By asking these five questions before every purchase you make, you can ensure that you’re living sustainably.
- Do I really need this product?
- How long is this product going to last?
- How much waste will be generated from this purchase over its life cycle?
- Is this purchase ethical? (Were any people, animals, or habitats harmed in making it?)
- Who owns this company and what are they doing with their profits? (Is this a cause I’m willing to fund?)
Asking these questions will help you determine what the true cost of any product is.
By considering the origins, production, and life-cycle of the product you purchase, you can effectively avoid becoming susceptible to greenwashing –– a misleading form of marketing used by companies that portray their unsustainable item as being eco-friendly.
3. Build habits that are environmentally positive
What really sets eco-minimalism apart from traditional minimalism is the focus on transformation rather than just removal.
After we’ve gone through our lives and removed the excess and unsustainable, what’s left?
Living sustainably isn’t just about limiting the negative –– it’s also about increasing the positive. Simply cutting out unsustainability isn’t enough to make a difference for our planet, and there are plenty of opportunities each day to do environmentally positive things.
One environmentally-positive hobby that nearly anyone can pick up is gardening.
Whether you have a full backyard or a small apartment balcony, both you and our planet will enjoy the benefits of growing native, climate-appropriate plants.
As our planet’s biodiversity shrinks due to the decline of natural habitats, you can make a difference for a few local pollinators by providing and maintaining a home for them.
If you’re unable to garden due to a lack of space, another great hobby to consider is hiking. There are national parks scattered across the country waiting to be discovered by you! Just make sure you leave no trace and if you see any trash left on the ground, channel your inner steward of nature and pack it out with you.
By prioritizing experiences over items, you’ll not only find yourself living a more fulfilling lifestyle, but you’ll also end up saving a lot of money.
Whatever you do, always do your best to consider the short and long-term environmental impacts of your decisions.
Every day, we make decisions that either help or harm our planet.
Embracing eco-minimalism is arguably the most effective way to live a sustainable urban lifestyle.
By simplifying your life, making purchases thoughtfully, and building environmentally positive habits you’ll be well on your way to living in better harmony with yourself and the planet we call home.
How are you planning on incorporating eco-minimalism in your life? Let me know in the comment section below!