Updated: Dec 7, 2020
What do minimalism and zero waste living have in common? The simple answer: LESS. Living with less, wanting less, needing less, and buying less. Minimalism (in the context of the lifestyle) is about finding out what you really need to live your best life, and eliminating the rest.
Minimalism can help us break free from our stuff and can release us from:
The overwhelm of a cluttered home
The debt associated with overspending
The burden of an overbooked schedule
The stress of a busy mind
The hedonic treadmill of living a consumer-driven lifestyle
The trash associated with an excessive lifestyle
Minimalism is about more than decluttering. It’s truly a shift in your mindset where you believe and feel within your heart of hearts that you can live with less. When you want and need less, you’re removing yourself from the hamster wheel of consumption. No longer participating in excessive shopping and keeping up with the Joneses to fuel our happiness, we can pursue more meaningful activities like our favourite hobbies, spending time with family and friends, and having more freedom to enjoy our lives.
Zero waste living, similarly, is about consuming less and consuming only what we need. When we adopt a minimalist mindset, we can make the transition to a zero / low waste lifestyle much easier because we’ll want to consume less. Consuming less is in alignment with ‘refusing’ and ‘reducing,’ which are two main principles of living zero waste.
Clearly, there’s a strong relationship between becoming minimalist and going zero waste.
Here are 5 ways minimalism can help you become zero waste:
1. You’ll want less stuff
This one is simple. Becoming a minimalist means you’ll want only the most important and necessary things in your life. The rest, well that’s just stuff that you won’t spend your money on and consume. Going zero waste doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want less stuff. You may still want lots of things even if you don’t partake, but with a minimalist mindset, your desire itself changes. This will help you consume less, therefore helping you become less wasteful (i.e. buying extraneous things and over-consuming).
2. You’ll spend less money
When you shop less, you’ll spend less money (most likely, anyway!). This will result in (hopefully) better savings, less debt, and more financial freedom. When you spend less money, you’re typically consuming less, and therefore you’re less wasteful (when you take into consideration the full life-cycle of each item you would purchase). As you become more financially independent, you may find there are opportunities to make more positive changes in your life.
If you’re working an unsatisfying but high paying job for example, but that job requires long hours and a convenience-based lifestyle (e.g. lots of takeout), you’ll likely be relying on your pay check for living in the fast lane. If you spend less and save more, you’ll have more freedom of choice, meaning that you might not need that high-paying job anymore. Once you can slow down, you can consume less and enjoy life more, ultimately reducing your waste.
3. You’ll pursue experiences over things
Instead of consuming things, take the time to find out what experiences you enjoy. Do you love going for walks in the woods? Hosting a game night with your friends? Babysitting your little niece or nephew? Learning new skills? Minimalism is about cutting out the unnecessary (like shopping for fun, or having a calendar filled with commitments you’re not interested in) so that you can spend time on experiences that bring you fulfillment.
There are loads of experiences that don’t cost a cent, so again, you’ll be saving money! You may even use your savings for things like travel and local adventures. And perhaps you weren’t able to do those things before because you spent too much money on fast fashion each week. Using the minimalist mindset of experiences over things will help you reduce you waste and enjoy your favourite activities.
4. You’ll find what truly brings you joy in life
When we’re stuck on the hedonic treadmill of consumption we may not even stop to question if what we’re consuming brings us joy. On top of that, once we get that ‘one thing’ we always wanted, we’ll find a new thing ‘that we really want’ and of course we assume that when we get there, we’ll be happy. However, the joy fades. The novelty wears off. So instead of relying on stuff to bring us joy, minimalism inspires us to ask questions about what really brings us true fulfillment in life.
Do you know what really brings you joy? If not, take a few minutes to jot down 5 things in life that bring you joy, that aren’t actually things. Perhaps they are moments, hobbies, parenting, working on your business, helping others, volunteering, and so forth. Fill your time and space with what brings you joy. When your fulfillment comes from living your life and not buying stuff, you'll create less waste.
5. You’ll find new ways to give back
With new found savings and extra time that inevitably comes with adopting a minimalist lifestyle, you can find new ways to give back to your community. Perhaps that may be in a monetary donation or in the form of volunteering. When you have more time and space for joy, you can fill that with gratitude and help lift others up.
If zero waste living is your passion, and if that’s fuelled by your love for the environment, then you can use your time and money to support things like conservation efforts, beach and litter cleanups, planting more trees, improving wildlife diversity; the options are endless, choose for yourself how you want to give back. You’ll find this is so much better than shopping for fast fashion every Saturday!
Will you become a minimalist?
What do you think? Will minimalism help your zero waste journey? Consider the ways you can adopt a minimalist mindset into your life, and how it can help you reduce your waste.