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How Minimalism Benefits the Environment

How Minimalism Benefits the Environment


Minimalism isn’t just about creating time, space and freedom to make your life easier and more fulfilling. Minimalism can help the planet too. In this guest post by Mia Barnes from Body+Mind magazine we explore how minimalism benefits the environment and promotes sustainability.


Minimalism encourages and helps to simplify your life, but you aren’t the only one who benefits. Planet Earth also appreciates your desire to live mindfully and with purpose. This lifestyle promotes sustainability by reducing consumption and prompting you to think more deeply about your wants and needs.

A minimalist lifestyle goes hand in hand with eco-friendliness by design. One of the kindest things you can do for the Earth is to create less waste. Here’s how minimalism benefits the environment and promotes sustainability.

It Challenges You to Fulfill Your Wants and Needs Sustainably

What truly brings you joy? When did you last take 10 or 15 minutes to ponder that question?

When you do, consider the words of end-of-life carers who spend their days with those living their final ones. What do people most regret on their deathbeds? They don’t lament not collecting more materials — most report wanting a better relationship with their children or spending more time doing things that make them feel good.

How does this translate into minimalism and sustainability? Consider this example — maybe one thing that makes you happy is a pleasant, cosy and beautifully decorated home. Does that necessarily require dropping a bundle on designer furnishings and decor? Not necessarily. A simple yet colorful fruit bowl can give your kitchen a dash of life and cheer while reminding you to eat more food that looks like food.

In fact, minimalist maven and queen Marie Kondo — creator of the KonMari method — lays down her sixth rule of keeping only those things around you that spark joy. Touching each object in your environment becomes a mindfulness activity as you ask yourself how it makes you feel. If you adore your wedding gown, keep it lovingly preserved — but maybe consider donating those figurines you inherited but hate dusting each week to a museum.

Another minimalist principle is the idea of one-in-one-out living. That’s the concept of repurposing, recycling or donating an old item before you bring something new home. This mindset shift changes the tenor of every shopping excursion — you aren’t mindlessly looking to retail therapy for something to do when bored. Browsing the shops becomes a mindful activity as you carefully consider if each desired object will enrich your life or is better left on the shelves.

It won’t take long before embracing a minimalist lifestyle helps you consider other ways to meet your wants and needs besides buying things. After all, consumerism has existed for less than 300 years — humans managed to survive before that with goods that didn’t come from a store.

Your lifestyle can help you achieve a greater sense of agency and responsibility, feeling your actions can make a difference while meeting your wants and needs sustainably. For example, maybe you love working in the garden but don’t have much extra time — or spare cash for mulch, plants and fertiliser at the nursery. You could despair or take action by following these minimalist steps to have fun with your pastime on the cheap:

  • Save seeds: Why buy vegetable seeds when you can grow the ones from the produce you buy? Granted, the seeds will be hybrids, meaning the baby plants won’t all grow tasty fruit — but some will. Put on your Gregor Mendel hat and select the varieties you want to save, creating heirloom strains.
  • Compost: Why would you invest in potting soil when you can make it from your organic waste? All you need is a compost bin. Urban dwellers can find countertop models to line plant containers, while those with yard and garden space can pick up free pallets at hardware stores to create bigger backyard bins, even making mulch with lawn waste.

Will it take longer to create a garden using these methods? Yes, especially if you’re starting from scratch and must learn the ropes. However, you’ll gain valuable skills along the way. What better way to feel empowered than knowing you can nourish your family with organic fruits and vegetables you grow yourself?

How minimalism benefits the environment

Buying Less Means Less Waste

Those who embrace the minimalist lifestyle often do so to live with greater intention. Instead of continually seeking more stimulation and distraction to avoid feeling unfulfilled, you focus on what truly matters to you.

Consider this — the stuff you own also owns you. It steals moments of your life one by one as you spend time maintaining your possessions. Do you want your life to be one endless cycle of clearing away clutter only to bring more home, lather, rinse, repeat? Or do you prefer to say no to these tiny time thieves, refusing to let them suck away minutes you’d rather spend doing something besides dusting?

Newton’s third law holds beyond physics — for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you want to drive a car, you must pay for insurance, fuel and maintenance, which requires you to work a certain number of hours per week. The same rule holds proportionately for every material object you accumulate.

Time is the one thing you’ll never get back once it’s gone. How many precious minutes do you want to sacrifice to maintain appearances?

Owning less opens up all the glorious possibilities time offers. It allows you to spend your spare hours being human, doing what you love instead of resigning yourself to another weekend of housecleaning and chores. For example, consider the seven principles zero-waste people embrace and how they could enhance your life:

  • Rethink
  • Refuse
  • Reduce — and repair
  • Reuse
  • Repurpose
  • Recycle
  • Rot

For example, many parents think they must take their kids to Disney World — the epitome of a family vacation. As a result, they work countless extra hours, depriving their kids of their presence and missing precious moments of their development they’ll never get to relive.

However, rethink that. What if you refused to buy into the dream vacation mindset?

What if you fixed up an old camper instead? What if you made your kids part of the process, teaching them valuable job skills that could translate into a lucrative trade career? What if you spent extra time working on this project with them instead of at the office, rewarded yourself with more minutes with those you love most and got a nice vacation home you can use for countless family getaways? What if?

Mindfulness Extends Into All Areas of Life

The inquisitive mindset you develop from embracing a sustainable, minimalist lifestyle spills over into everything you do. It goes beyond the one-in-one-out rule to leaving your credit cards at home, taking only enough cash to cover those items on your list.

If you do grab your wallet, you think more carefully about your choices. Is there a Starbucks kiosk in your favorite grocery store? You can once more bring in reusable cups since the WHO declared COVID-19 no longer a global health emergency, so ditch the plastic. Do the same to carry home your eggs, choosing a sustainable, reusable bag that won’t break.

You’ll also seek better ways to do things. Your default mode switches from “I need to go get” to “How do I?” You start reclaiming your ability to adapt and overcome as a human instead of seeking the simple store-bought solution. If something breaks, your mind turns to repair instead of replacement — which equals fewer items in landfills.

How minimalism benefits the environment

Minimalism and Environmental Sustainability

Adopting a more minimalist lifestyle can simplify your life and improve your happiness. It also does a kindness to the planet.

Minimalism and environmental sustainability intersect through mindful habits that require you to pause and think before taking action — or driving to the store. It reminds you that life is much more than stuff and challenges you to use what the planet provides more wisely.



Mia Barnes is a freelance writer and researcher with a passion for mental wellness and healthy living. Mia Barnes is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the online health publication, Body+Mind magazine