When I hear the words “minimalist,” I tend to think about a hipster meditating on a futon within an empty, industrial apartment. Good for them, not for me. But minimalism isn’t about “going without” — it’s about getting more for less.
Do material possessions control your life? Are you drowning in debts? Do you fight with your partner over spending? And the biggest tell — is your home stuffed with knickknacks that serve no purpose?
Minimalism is more of a philosophy than a design aesthetic. As a nation, we have way too much stuff. The average American produces 102 tons of garbage in a lifetime, which is somewhat equivalent to 102 elephants. We like to think that once we throw our trash in the bin, it magically disappears. But the truth is, we’re cramming our planet FULL of trash — including the ocean. Also, outer space. To try and keep up with the amount of garbage we produce, we’re also burning it. Torching our debris only adds to the damage we’re inflicting on the ozone layer and destroys our quality of air.
So how can minimalism help?
Eat Basic, Eat Well
Do you know what sits inside a landfill for all of eternity? Styrofoam. Luckily, many businesses have done away with using plastic foam. But all the McDonald’s clamshell containers from the 80’s and 90’s are probably going to be floating around our planet long after it’s gone. So fast food is okay now, right? Wrong. 51% of greenhouse gas is caused by animal agriculture, meaning that all of those happy meals are essentially destroying the Earth.
By adopting a minimalist diet, you’re not only helping your health — you’re also seriously helping the Earth environmentally and karmically. On this topic, Cowspiracy is a well-informed and staggering documentary about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment — but you’ll have to overcome the title.
It’s not just about animal agriculture — think about your grocery store haul. The packaging of chip packets, the plastic rings we’ve seen wrapped around marine life, the plastic grocery bags that clog up our landfills. If you want to get minimal, start with your diet. Guess what doesn’t come inside a plastic wrapper lodged inside a paper box? Fruit and vegetables. There’s enough research out there to indicate that the closer we eat to nature, the better our health is. I’m talking about an astonishing decrease in cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and a litany of diseases that come from eating processed and unhealthy food.
Don’t be fooled by “organic” labels, either. If it comes in packaging, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. Forks Over Knives, F-ed Up, Earthlings, and of course, Cowspiracyare some great documentaries to watch, and they may change the way you see food —forever.
The next time you decide to clean out your closet, take a look at the labels. Think about where your clothes come from. And I’m not talking about the mall. Many companies use sweatshops and child labor to create affordable fashion. Furthermore, these fashion factories are tearing the environment to shreds. Walmart, J.C Penny, H&M, and Tommy Hilfiger have all used factories based in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has very lax environmental laws, and as a result, the Buriganga River is now biologically dead — despite local people relying on it for sanitation, irrigation, and bathing. Workers at tanneries are subject to process raw hides in toxic cocktails, which can cause lethal sickness from air pollution. And if you care about animal welfare, I can guarantee you don’t wish to know about the conditions these animals were subjected to prior to becoming a fashionable jacket. Oh yeah, and the Buriganga River? It looks like this:
So do you really need to buy a new wardrobe every season? You don’t have to don a mumu and call it a day. Something as small as purchasing several high quality t-shirts can promote a healthier planet. They may cost more, but the price is worth it to be eco-conscious. Keep that in mind next time you’re perusing the sales rack.
I know, I know. IKEA makes a really big deal about being environmentally friendly. And when it comes to using recyclable materials and investing in things like solar power, yes, they do a good job. But despite this, the EPA reports 9.8 million tons of furniture waste every year. If you’ve ever been attacked by a free falling IKEA closet, as I have, you’ll know that longevity isn’t exactly the calling card of affordable furniture. Instead, head to your local Goodwill. This will ease up the flow to the landfill, and it will give you an opportunity to welcome your inner interior decorator. Get familiar with upcycling, and you’ll see how you can make nearly any item of salvaged furniture look amazing.
The Rules Of Minimalism
- Focus on what you need, not what you want
- Declutter — but donate it, don’t trash it
- Avoid packaging altogether
- Ask where it comes from — and consider if you really want to support it
- Align your values with your lifestyle
- Stress less, do more
What do you think about the minimalist lifestyle?