Minimalism and the Environment

The environment is one of my pet political causes. 

I grew up in a small coastal town where the environmentalism is strongly encouraged: part of the curriculum from elementary school through high school involves field trips to the center for environmental studies where students participate in an age-appropriate environmental science lesson.  The biggest political divides on the local level there are not Democrat versus Republican or liberal versus conservative, but pro-environment versus pro-development.  Appreciation for the environment was instilled in me as a young child.

Environmentalism and Minimalism, for me, go hand-in-hand.  Being deliberate in how we use resources and not using more of these resources than we need obviously benefits the environment.  While there are more people than ever, we are taking up more space per person than ever and spending more money on storage than ever.

Passing used items on to someone else when we no longer need them and seeking to purchase second hand or re-purpose something we already own instead of buying something new keeps items out of the landfill.  There is also an environmental impact associated with manufacturing these new items.  If people bought less, less would have to be produced to meet people’s needs.  Consider passing on any item of clothing you have not worn within the last 6 months.

Choosing quality over quantity helps the environment in multiple ways—most obviously, when you own less, you take up less space and have less of an environmental impact.  So-called “fast fashion” is an environmental nightmare.  That cheap, but cute, top you bought was designed to fall apart quickly.  Clothes have become so cheap that very few people bother repairing clothing that has a tear or has lost a button.  Many adults today do not even know how.  We have more clothes than ever and keep them for shorter periods than at any time in history.  Many items remain unworn and it all has to end up in the garbage eventually.  If you’re honest, you could certainly make do with what you’ve got.

In addition to all that, the cheap fabric so many items of cheap clothing are made from today leaves behind microfibers that are one of the biggest sources of ocean pollution.  All this negative environmental impact and we haven’t even considered the plight of the underpaid factory workers that slave away making these goods.  Something to consider before making your next (probably wasteful) clothing purchase.

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8 thoughts on “Minimalism and the Environment

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