Minimalism + Sustainability

by Nyamka Bayanmunkh in , ,


I believe that minimalism and sustainability share a similar origin story and a similar direction. To learn more about it I asked Tania Lloyd from Sharing Sustainability to come and talk to the Melbourne Minimalist about sustainability and why it is important. Here is what I have learned from that day.

Minimalist life is usually chosen because we want to get out of debt, save money, and  have more time. Beyond the personal benefits there are also the social, environmental, and economic benefits to a minimalist life. By choosing to spend our time, money, and energy on things that add value to our lives we lead a less wasteful life than we would have if we didn’t make educated choices. A less wasteful life is less taxing on the environment as well as our social systems and economy. This external effect we have on the world as minimalists aligns very well with the idea of sustainability.

Sustainability, not dissimilar to the origins of minimalism, has emerged as a result of concerns about the unintended social, environmental, and economic consequences of rapid population growth, economic growth and consumption of our natural resources. Most recently we have seen how unbridled spending and borrowing can lead to a financial crisis that has affected us all.  Furthermore, we have seen how this has affected our society and environment as well as ravaging the financial stability of entire economies. This is where ideas that take the whole into equation like sustainability comes in.

Sustainability aims to avoid situations that favour  just one area such as focused economic growth that ignores the direct and indirect harm it cause to other  vital areas of life such as our environment and our social structure. Sustainability strives to create and maintain the conditions that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

Definition

If something claims to be sustainable, it should be able to continue indefinitely whilst sustaining our way of life in the long term.  The generally accepted concept of sustainability involves three pillars consisting of the economic, social, and environmental pillars. If any pillar is weak then the system as a whole is unsustainable (for more information on the three pillars check here).

Actionable steps to be more sustainable

  • Before you turn up your heater rug up with layers
  • Unplug appliances when not in use, many appliances still use energy when they are not in use if they are plugged in

  • Drive only when necessary. Make an effort to take public transport, walk or ride when possible.

  • Buy what you need, lots of food, clothes, and appliances don’t get used and end up in landfill.

  • Choose products that don’t have unnecessary packaging.

  • Start using your own water bottle instead of buying bottled water. Save money and reduce your impact on the environment.

  • Use less toxic cleaning products over to more synthetic ones where possible

  • When possible reuse and upcycle things

  • When possible choose energy efficient appliances/renewable energy systems

  • Know where your clothes, food and other products are coming from to be able to make more educated choices.

  • Maintain your car and other appliances for efficient operation.

  • Only run the dishwasher/washing machine when full

Be warned

Greenwashing is when companies and organisations claim to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimise environmental impact. Companies and individuals may lie to you about the things that are “sustainable” where “sustainable” may mean it is just more sustainable than the available alternatives. As with most things in life the more you know the better your decisions will be so keep learning. 

Further reading

If you want to keep learning about sustainability check out the following books on sustainability suggested by Tania.

1. Demystifying Sustainability – Haydn Washington (Environmental scientist and author)

Addresses the overuse of the term “sustainability”, which he believes has now lost its meaning. Facts, figures and issues that humans face are explained.

2. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things - William McDonough (Designer and

Encourages you to see the effects of the entire life cycle of a product, including those which are recycled. Instead of only considering downcycling (which is recycling to a lesser quality/reduced functionality to be used in the creation of another product – true for most plastics in commercial recycling) this book invites the audience to consider up-cycling, in which the materials of a product become biological or technical nutrients (biological meaning they can re-enter the environment without harm or technical meaning they remain within closed-loop industrial cycles).

3. The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability - William McDonough and Michael Braungart.

Instead of limiting human activities to cause no harm, this book focuses on upcycling in which humans have a net positive effect: aim of improving the natural world as we create, build and live.

This blogpost was based on the information provided at a recent Melbourne Minimalist Meetups event as part of our Expert Series on the topic of sustainability with Tania Lloyd from Sharing Sustainability.