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Choosing to live the minimalist lifestyle, sustainably speaking

Prudence tells us that the planet, and our future generations, will be better off when sustainable lifestyles are adopted by all. Minimalism, the disciplined pursuit of a lifestyle that emphasizes owning only those items that add meaning or answer a genuine need, can work hand-in-glove with the pursuit of sustainability. When you are careful about your purchases and buy only what you need you automatically reduce your carbon footprint.

A peek into minimalism

Minimalists avoid buying what is not strictly necessary; they eliminate excess; they focus on what brings true value to their lives. They say no to excessive consumption, distraction, and meaningless activities. They circle in on a life well-lived, one that seeks joy and truth. Like the art of the same name, they seek simplicity, order, and harmony.

Minimalism automatically reduces our carbon footprint, or the greenhouse gases (GHG) released when we buy indiscriminately to satisfy our needs and desires. Our carbon footprint is directly affected by our consuming less in terms of perishables as well as purchasing longer-lasting products. Manufacturers produce less in response to decreased demand. Less transportation is required, and less waste is generated. All these help in the goal of achieving environmental sustainability.

Reduce your carbon footprint[Curious about your carbon footprint? Turn to The Nature Conservancy’s carbon footprint calculator. This calculator measures common household activities like energy use, travel, buying and consuming food, other goods, and services procured and then provides your total carbon dioxide (CO2) usage in tons per year, and how you compare on average to other households. It also suggests ways you can reduce your CO2.]

Minimalism automatically reduces our carbon footprint, or the greenhouse gases (GHG) released when we buy indiscriminately to satisfy our needs and desires. Our carbon footprint is directly affected by our consuming less in terms of perishables as well as purchasing longer-lasting products. Manufacturers produce less in response to decreased demand. Less transportation is required, and less waste is generated. All these help in the goal of achieving environmental sustainability.

Sustainably speaking

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) gives a great definition of a sustainable lifestyle: “Sustainable living means understanding how our lifestyle choices impact the world around us and finding ways for everyone to live better and lighter.”

A sustainable lifestyle emphasizes a good standard of living for people now and in the future. Its principles include prudently using and limiting where possible, all of the Earth’s resources, creating as little waste as possible, making sure that your lifestyle does not negatively impact the environment, and wherever [possible, seeing that those up and down the supply chain of the goods and services you use provide for clean and safe working conditions, limit impacts to the environment, and provide a good standard of living for those working to produce the goods you use and the services you require.

To live a sustainable lifestyle, you can start by limiting your use of valuable and finite resources. The careful use of water tops the list of resources we must work to conserve. You ensure that your choices support healthy ecosystems such as forests and coral reefs and the wildlife they support. You buy locally grown consumables and procure your services from local providers whenever possible. You purchase products that are sustainably made, that is, their manufacture requires as little natural resources as possible, and products are created from recycled materials where available. You seek zero waste by cooking only what you can consume, composting leftover vegetables and fruits, and recycling everything

So what are some ways to reduce your carbon footprint and seek zero waste? The internet provides loads of lists. All call for a core few actions:

  • Avoid unnecessary travel
  • Use public transportation whenever possible
  • Make sure you properly upkeep your vehicle by providing for regular checkups, performing routine maintenance as recommended, and keeping your tires properly inflated
  • Purchase an all-electric or hybrid vehicle If you can afford it
  • Cut back on mass-produced convenience foods, buying locally grown food items instead
  • Buy second-hand durable goods
  • Plant a garden
  • Compost your waste
  • Where possible, avoid purchasing items wrapped in single-use plastic
  • Recycle whatever you can
  • Purchase your durable goods from manufacturers that operate sustainably

In full disclosure, I must mention that I’m not there yet: I do recycle, but I still eat junk food. I buy most of my clothes second-hand, but I buy a lot of them. I don’t service my vehicle as often as I should. I still buy products encased in single-use plastic; however, I do recycle the limited refuse that my rural locality takes in. And those I haven’t yet engaged? They are on my goal sheet, only awaiting an assigned date to accomplish them.

Whether you choose to live sustainably or a minimalist lifestyle (or both), you will find plenty of benefits. First, your bank account should grow since you are cutting back on buying things you don’t need. With a household filled with only those things you need or that bring you joy, you may find that less housework is required. When your diet features primarily that which is local and fresh, your health may improve. You also should feel better about yourself, knowing that you are actively working toward a sustainable and plentiful lifestyle for future generations.

Visit the Goodside website for a free eBook: “Good Guide to Reducing Your Environmental Impact.” A carbon footprint is discussed in detail, and ways are provided to reduce yours.

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