By Cora Gold, Editor-in-Chief of Revivalist
Sustainability and minimalism are two concepts that have been around for a long time. Now, they seem to be coming together as a trend out of necessity. Climate change has already shown its adverse effects on the planet. Seeing this harm has led people to think about minimalism and sustainability in the same light, even if they were already practicing one beforehand.
Consumer culture is commonplace worldwide, and it’s been around for a little over a century. That’s relatively new compared to how long the Earth has been around. Consumerism took off in the 1920s in the United States after World War I ended and an age of prosperity began. Industrialization took off, with production increasing twelvefold since the 1860s. In contrast, the population had only tripled since the American Civil War.
For the first time, there were more goods than people. Poverty and famine were still a problem in some places, but it wasn’t as prevalent. For the first time, Americans had more than enough supplies to serve everyone. Companies began utilizing credit and mail-order shopping to attract consumers and get them to buy things they wanted but didn’t necessarily need. Since then, American consumerism has taken off and never looked back.
Consumerism took hold in the United States and other countries, but now there’s a rising effort to reverse the course. People have realized that unnecessarily high consumption of resources has been detrimental to the environment. Reducing water, fossil fuel and energy use are essential for a more sustainable planet. This philosophy happens to tie in with the idea of minimalism.
Minimalism is a lifestyle where people only own and use things that serve a purpose. You take what you need to prevent waste in the home and save money. This idea goes hand in hand with sustainability because they both focus on what’s required. Combining the two helps people ask themselves what they can do for the environment while maintaining a minimalist lifestyle at home.
One common denominator between minimalism and sustainability is the idea of conscious consumerism. It entails shoppers being more aware of what they’re buying and how it impacts their lives. This practice fits the bill for sustainability because people want to know how their purchases affect the environment. Minimalists try to be conscious of their spending habits to prevent unnecessary consumption.
These ideals come together primarily when people monitor what companies they buy from. Consumers have become more intelligent in their spending. They want to know how products affect the environment and what companies do to practice sustainability. This consumer consciousness is on the rise. People from Generation Z to baby boomers are willing to spend a few more dollars on sustainable products.
What are some examples of how minimalism and sustainability come together? One intersection you can see is how both lifestyles keep spaces small and clean. Smaller buildings require fewer resources and generally have a lower environmental impact. They’re also easier to maintain because of the reduced square footage and require less HVAC usage, reducing energy consumption.
Another benefit of having a small living space is having less area to clean. Minimalists take pride in their bare-minimum use of materials and products, making tidying up a more manageable task. Cleaning a living space is critical because it protects people from bacteria and illnesses and can benefit the environment if the products are eco-friendly.
Eco-friendly cleaning products have become more accessible. People have better knowledge of making them, and consumers are more intelligent and do their research on sustainability. They’re more likely to buy cleaning products without harsh chemicals. Minimalists practice this and may take it further by creating detergents and disinfectants at home.
Waste in food is a significant issue in the United States and worldwide. Americans waste about 80 billion pounds of food annually, about 30%-40% of the country’s food supply. Divide it up and you get an average of about 220 pounds of food wasted per person.
One effect of America’s consumerism is buying more food than needed, so a large proportion ends up in the trash, even if it’s safe. About 80% of Americans throw away food that is still acceptable because they misunderstand labels like the expiration date.
Food is another connection between minimalism and sustainability. Both lifestyles practice similar virtues, such as only buying necessary ingredients. A significant similarity is how they utilize homegrown ingredients. Minimalists and sustainability enthusiasts often grow fruits and vegetables in domestic gardens, reducing the need to buy products from grocery stores. Crafting a better relationship with food and resources can help reduce consumption and benefit the environment.
Mental health has become a topic of importance in the past few years. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a decline in mental health for some due to increased anxiety and stress, depression and general sadness. Sometimes, news about the pandemic and other world events can make people wonder what’s next for them, their families, their job and more.
Practicing minimalism and sustainability can improve people’s well-being. It can be a way to prioritize what’s important in life. Minimalists take pride in what they have instead of comparing themselves to others. Preying on human’s fear of missing out (FOMO) is one reason consumerism took off in the first place.
Sustainability is another contributing factor to positive mental health. Becoming more eco-friendly is an excellent way to focus on yourself and the bigger picture of Earth itself. Humans thrive off direction, and minimalism and sustainability give people a purpose and teach them to be mindful of their surroundings. Knowing you can put forth a small effort and still help the planet is a point of pride for minimalists who embrace sustainability.
While many people think of minimalism as an interior design or fashion style, it’s much more than that. Minimalism means living simply and focusing only on the essentials, which pairs perfectly with sustainability. When you minimize the things you buy, you’re making a positive impact on the environment. If you’re looking to live simply and sustainably, minimalism can be a great place to start.
About the Author
Cora Gold has a passion for writing about life, happiness and sustainability. As Editor-in-Chief of women’s lifestyle magazine Revivalist, she loves to share her insights and find inspiration from others. Follow Cora on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.