“Simplicity means to choose ways of living that touch the Earth more lightly and that reduce our ecological footprint.” Duane Elgin
One of the great things about choosing a holistic minimalist lifestyle is that, even if you’re not trying specifically to reduce your ecological footprint, you will! Reducing consumption in and of itself is a positive step for the environment, as are multiple other side effects of the minimalist lifestyle. If your shift towards minimalist living as motivated by an environmental conscience then you’re probably already aware of all this, but it can still be a useful tool in explaining to others just how becoming a minimalist can help them reduce their ecological footprint!
#1 You’ll Consume Less
“We’re the ones who can make a difference. If we lead lives where we consciously leave the lightest possible ecological footprints, if we buy the things that are ethical for us to buy and don’t buy the things that are not, we can change the world overnight.” Jane Goodall
Ok, duh, you consume less. This is the whole point of first level minimalism. Of course it’s framed in many different ways. That’s why minimalism has the potential to reach so many people beyond the usual suspects who are already hip to the urgency of downsizing for environmental reasons. Usually the focus is on only keeping things around that “add value to your life” or “bring you joy,” if you follow the Marie Kondo method. Whereas the anti-consumerist message of many activist groups can actually be disempowering or a “turn off” for many people, minimalism remains accessible by dint of focusing on the personal, individual benefits of consuming less. You could say it caters to the inner narcissist in each of us.
The discourse is one of decluttering your way to mental, physical, financial and emotional freedom – and it works! Buying less, owning less, having less stuff to manage creates more literal space as well as more internal space. It frees up a lot of time, energy and money you didn’t even know was being lost.
#2 You’ll Reduce Your Waste
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
Again, this may not be the main motivation behind your minimalist lifestyle choices, but it’s an inevitable byproduct…and a pretty awesome one! There are several things that contribute to waste reduction as a result of minimalist living. First off, as mentioned above, you’ll be consuming less. This obviously means producing less waste. You’ll also be focusing on “quality over quantity,” which means the things you do buy are likely to last longer (less disposable items, less things built with “planned obsolescence” in mind = less waste).
You’re also going to be more likely to truly value the things you own and thus to repair or upcycle (transform them into something new once they can no longer be used for their original purpose) them instead of throwing them out as soon as they have a little something wrong with them, which again leads to less waste in the long run. As a result of focusing on “less clutter” in your life you’re likely to also want to buy things that create less garbage because it means less clutter (garbage, recycling etc.) to deal with. Badabing, badaboom! Simply by being in a minimalist mindset you will drastically reduce the waste you produce!
#3 You’ll Focus on Reusable or Sustainable Products
When you choose to live a minimalist lifestyle you end up naturally leaning towards reusable or sustainable products. This is because they tend to a) be made to last and b) to produce less or zero waste. Buying something reusable instead of something you’ll have to replace in not too long is an obvious choice for a minimalist, even if they don’t particularly care about their ecological footprint. The same goes for sustainable products. Anything that is truly a sustainable product is in sync with minimalist values because it should, same as reusable items, be made to last and create little to zero waste…and on top of that, it will theoretically have been made in way that also produces little to zero waste and/or is more respectful of the manual laborers or environmental impact of manufacturing on the country where the product was created.
#4 Multipurpose In More Ways Than You Think
“We have to cultivate contentment with what we have. We really don’t need much. When you know this, the mind settles down. Cultivate generosity. Delight in giving. Learn to live lightly. In this way, we can begin to transform what is negative into what is positive. This is how we start to grow up.” Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
Not only does minimalist living lead you to buy more reusable and sustainable goods, you will also end up choosing things that serve as many purposes as possible. This is because in order to have less stuff cluttering up your space it makes sense to “stack functions,” or have each element in the space serve as many purposes as possible so as to reduce the overall number of things you need to own. This evidently will also reduce the amount of waste you create by default as owning less = less long term waste production. So your multipurpose goods are also going to be serving the purpose of lessening your ecological footprint!
#5 Conscious Consumption Leads to Environmental Awareness
As a result of shifting your consumption choices to focus on more reusable, sustainable and multipurpose items you inevitably end up developing an acute sense of “consumer consciousness.” You start shopping in places that you know have the things you want or need, which usually means stores that have a certain “environment-friendly” bent.
The focus on quality over quantity leads you to buy more fresh, organic and local foods, which leads to building relationships with people involved in various sustainability movements, from locavores to vegans to your local farmers. Being immersed more and more in social and cultural environments that focus on environmental awareness will rub off on you, and anyone on the minimalist lifestyle journey with you, over time, even if you started out this whole minimalist lifestyle thing without any real drive to reduce your ecological footprint.
#6 The Ripple Effect: Your Choices Impact Others!
“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” Howard Zinn
Whether or not you choose to actively promote minimalism as a lifestyle choice, you will nevertheless impact those around you simply by sticking to your principles and being an example of what’s possible. People have all sorts of excuses for not doing what they want to or know would be better for them. When we choose to be the exception – the person actually making changes in their lives instead of talking about what they wish they could do and never taking action – we prove that it’s possible. This can have a huge effect on those around us.
You also end up impacting those close to you by sharing your new lifestyle on the everyday; when you go out to eat or go shopping and are clear about the places you will or won’t go based on your consumption choices; when you have people over for dinner or go visit someone and tell them about what you do or don’t eat or buy and why; when people visit your home or workplace and notice the clutter-free environment and you end up explaining your lifestyle choices. No matter where or in what context you live, if you have any social contact with other humans you will end up influencing somebody, somewhere! You never know who might be inspired by your way of life.
#7 Appreciating The Living World = Protecting It
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Rachel Carson
Minimalism makes us slow down and take time for things…it emphasizes the importance of experiences over objects. It helps you focus on quality over quantity, both on a material level and in terms of the quality of time we spend with people we care about and in our solo time. As a result of slowing down you end up being better able to appreciate the world around you and the many amazing details of life. When you’re connected with this kind of magical aspect of daily life and connected to gratitude and abundance (both core principles of minimalist living) you end up appreciating the rest of the living world on a whole other level. Deeply appreciating the natural world and your relationship to it leads to a desire to preserve and protect it, in whatever ways possible. Again, this may not have been in any way your intention going into minimalism, but it’s an unavoidable result of long-term minimalist living.
#8 Conscious Parenting
“Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it.” David Suzuki
On a similar note, being a minimalist parent means passing all of the above unintended benefits of minimalism on to your kids! This means another human with a lower ecological impact than would otherwise be the case (need we mention that kids born in North America specifically are huge contributors to environmental waste…). Imagine if all the parents raising kids right now in high-consumption societies across the globe were to apply minimalist principles to their lifestyles? It would have a HUGE impact on any country’s negative output. So even if you’re raising kids in line with a minimalist lifestyle mainly because a clutterless life means less personal chaos and more quality time spent together, you’re still going to be doing good unintentionally. And your kids will inevitably end up being more conscious consumers than their non-minimalist counterparts.
#9 Improved Health
A holistic minimalist lifestyle almost always leads to improved mental and physical health. This is because by downsizing you’re freeing up time and energy to take better care of yourself, your space and your relationships. When your general wellbeing is improved it means several things. First off, your lifestyle serves as prevention from a whole slough of potential health problems, which means less money and time spent on dealing with problems stemming from basic unhealthy lifestyle choices. So from the outset you’ll be saving more time and money simply by living well.
This also means you’ll be less of a “weight” on anyone you interact with – your family, your friends, colleagues, or even people in the grocery store. Your general outlook and attitude will improve as a result of less stress and better habits.
#10 Better Focus
In addition to improved health, decluttering and downsizing leads to better focus. This is in fact one of the primary motivators of shifting to a minimalist lifestyle for many people today. Better focus means you’ll be more effective in whatever field you work in. The shift of focus from quantity to quality applies here as well because you’ll be more drawn to doing meaningful work and doing it well, as opposed to doing work you don’t really believe in and putting in overtime just to make more money. Doing work that’s in some way meaningful to you – where you feel like you make a difference – inevitably means you’ll be doing something that is helping change the world for the better in some way or other.
Living an integrated minimalist lifestyle you end up becoming part of a larger global shift in consciousness. The principles and values of minimalism trickle down into all spheres of your life and can be utterly life-changing both for you and for those around you if they’re open to the possibilities!
Action Point Summary – Here’s What You Need to Do Now!
On top of all that other good news, all you really need to do now is start living like a minimalist…and keep doing it! All 10 of the ways minimalism reduces your ecological footprint will just happen as a result of integrating minimalist principles and values into your daily life choices. How awesome is that?