It’s easier than ever to make a purchase. It’s so easy, in fact, that most people don’t realize 1) how much they buy 2) how their consumption habits impact the environment and 3) how much they can save. Yes, it is possible to practice sustainable consumption without compromising your wallet. Incorporate these 3 easy steps to become a minimalist in no time.
Busy? Try the speed read.
Here’s how to transform yourself into a minimalist:
- Track your purchases and categorize them. I break my purchases into “needs” (basic modern survival stuff), “boosts” (productive buys), and “luxuries” (extra things that make life more enjoyable).
- Think before you buy, think after. Why am I about to make this purchase? Now imagine making the purchase, how would you feel after one week, one month, one year?
- Take responsibility for a product’s end-of-life. The trash can or recycling bin should be the last option. Can you share it, borrow it, sell it, repurpose it, thrift it, make it?
Bottom line: ‘Less is more’ stands the test of time; when you practice minimalism in an intentional way, everyone benefits. If you do shop, always keep ethics and savings in mind.
Dig deeper → 4 min
As individuals, we have the power to choose what we consume and the effect these products have on the world.
Producing household items, food and clothing for billions of people requires vast amounts of energy and natural resources. Still, consumption is not inherently harmful; there are ways to buy new things bearing ethics in mind.
It’s called minimalism. Yes, sustainable consumption practices intersect with minimalist habits. Buying only things you need 1) creates less waste and 2) makes you more aware of your purchases. Ask yourself: how does this product affect the planet and how does this product affect my quality of life?
Environmental impact of consumerism
Americans own too many clothes. It is estimated that the average American will throw out about 80 pounds of clothing every year.
Additionally, about 3.1% of the world’s children live in the United States, yet they own 40% of the toys consumed globally. Even from a young age, people pile up way too much unnecessary stuff that, in most cases, will end up in landfills.
These consumption habits account for up to 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That number can be significantly reduced if we opted for minimalism.
Stop accumulating stuff that doesn’t contribute to your success or happiness. It can be buying the same product multiple times (my mom has like seven jars of peanut butter) or simply buying stuff you rarely end up using.
I know too many friends with piles of clothes, books, toiletries that do nothing more than occupy space waiting to contaminate the ocean. However, with a little nudge, consumers can change their consumption patterns for the sake of the environment.
You don’t have to watch a Netflix series. You don’t have to read a book. Just follow these three steps to become a minimalist.
How can I transform into a minimalist?
1. Track your purchases and categorize them.
Make a list of all your purchases. You can start now, or retroactively go down your bank statement. Categorize your purchases into “needs”, “boosts”, and “luxuries”.
Needs are pretty self-explanatory. But they are items like groceries, food/drink, household goods, home repair, etc. Everything on Sustainable Review’s shop is either a need, or a sustainable alternative to things you already consume.
Here is an example of a few ‘needs’:
Boosts are purchases that you don’t need, but propel you forward. These are productive purchases. It can be a new book, a really nutritious meal before a big work presentation, a personal trainer, etc. If it falls under personal/professional growth, I’d call it a boost.
Lastly, track your luxuries. That fancy night out on the town? Luxury. That 3-day getaway to Lake Placid? Luxury. Keep in mind that luxuries can be important for self-care and mental health. Don’t shy away from them, just be intentional about it.
By categorizing your purchasing behavior, you will inevitably become a more conscious consumer. It will be easy to see what column is filling up fastest, especially if you tie numerical value to your decision-making process.
2. Think before you buy, think after.
When you need to buy something, look for eco-friendly options that put less pressure on the ecosystem. For example, opt for one high quality, reusable, and long-lasting product instead of multiple disposable items like reusable bags.
Borrowing from friends and buying second hand is also a way to get what you need without the environmental burden of purchasing something new. Buying locally sourced products also minimizes emissions from transportation and storage while also supporting the local economy.
Before buying a product, think of what you already own and ask yourself if you really need it.
If you do need a new product, ask yourself where the product comes from. Was it manufactured sustainably and ethically? Is there a substitute for this product with a lower carbon footprint?
Think about the future when making a purchase
Ask yourself if the satisfaction and utility you get from buying something today will be the same in the long run. Many of us are surrounded by things we don’t need and no longer use.
Think about what will happen when you get rid of the product. Will it end up in landfills, contaminating the environment?
3. Take responsibility for a product’s end-of-life.
What happens when your sick of a product, or it can no longer be used? Can you share it, borrow it, sell it, repurpose it, thrift it, make it?
Decluttering is a big part of minimalism. Take responsibility for where your product ends up. Make the recycling bin or trash bag your last resort.
When getting rid of items you don’t need, give them to someone who will use it, donate it, or recycle it. Creating a minimalist lifestyle shouldn’t be about putting more pressure on the environment!
By understanding the consequences of shopping habits, identifying our needs vs. our wants, and buying responsibly, we can have a positive long term effect on the environment for a sustainable future. It can also be healthy for your mind and quite liberating.
Beyond buying fewer things in general, when we opt for more eco-friendly products, their supply also increases, thus changing both the consumption and production system towards a greener path. When we consume less and consume responsibly, we eventually dispose of fewer objects.
‘Less is more’ is timeless. As we own fewer things, everyone benefits. After all, that’s what minimalism is all about… benefiting yourself and your environment.