It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.Ansel Adams
Environmental Issues Take Center Stage
Planet earth doesn’t belong to you.
And it doesn’t belong to me.
It’s a gift, entrusted to our care.
But listen to the news correspondents, the political commentators, the voice of the people and you’ll hear a common theme: we aren’t caring for the planet, we’re destroying it.
Environmental issues are quickly taking center stage.
And for good reason: modern countries are gobbling up precious resources at an alarming rate. Even worse, the entire process of acquiring these raw materials and making them into usable goods emits harmful toxins into the air we breathe.
All for what…
…so we can park 3 cars in our driveway?
…so we can build storage units to hold the overflow from our homes?
…so we can keep a spare TV in the guest room?
…so we can build another factory to make more stuff we don’t need?
Businesses Resist Change
Large businesses are lobbying to maintain the status quo. And why not? Under the current system, they’ve seen decades and decades of continual growth.
Conveniently, they haven’t considered the finite nature of natural resources or the negative impact their business practices have on the environment. It makes sense, because they’ve never had to care.
Change Has to Come From Somewhere
The solution then is this:
Change has to start with you, and it has to start with me.
So what’s the alternative to the lifestyle of consumption, quick fixes, and cheap pleasures that threatens to destroy our home?
Let me suggest a simple answer – minimalism.
Minimalism is a feasible alternative to the rat race of a life we’re living now. Minimalists adhere to the philosophy of voluntary simplicity: “Living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.”
By focusing inwardly on what brings us joy, we’ll be less tempted by the quick fixes of consumption. Making for a livelier, less threatened earth.
Imagine the Implications of Simple Living
- We lead simpler lives, and discover wealth beyond our imagination.
- We buy less stuff, and find we need fewer things than before.
- We learn to be content, and put less strain on the earth.
- We set out to change our lives, and in the process we change the world.
Save the Planet, Take Action Now
OK, enough talk. Sometimes when you set out to change something, you just have to dig in and get your hands dirty. Below I’ve made a list of 12 simple, action-oriented steps you can take to start saving the world with a minimalist approach to life:
1. Buy less stuff. Stop relying on consumption to meet a need. If you like to eat, plan ahead and plant a garden. If you want entertainment, ride your bike over to a friend’s house. If you like fine art, look no further than your own backyard, there’s a beautiful sunset every evening.
2. Purchase quality over quantity. Instead of buying cheap stuff, consider saving up and purchasing a well made product. Oftentimes, I find that the best made stuff can be bought locally, made by people who have a reputation to maintain in town. The more durable the item, the less often you’ll have to replace it and throw another hunk of plastic in the land fill.
3. Eat organic, locally grown food. Besides tasting 10x better, local produce doesn’t have to be shipped halfway across the country to arrive at your plate. And it isn’t sprayed with harmful chemicals to control insects and weeds.
4. Buy from responsible companies. In an upcoming post, I’ll write about a handful of companies who really care. They treat employees well, give back to the community, and develop sustainable practices. Be willing to compensate these companies with higher prices, it’s difficult to compete with larger companies who aren’t taking responsibility for their behavior.
5. Go outside and explore. Don’t head out to the mall or movie theater if you’re looking for a good time. All the fun you could ever want can be had outside: gather some friends for a game of ultimate Frisbee, have a picnic, take pictures, swim across a lake.
6. Be less involved. Not only will this add some much need free-time to your schedule, but you’ll burn less fuel traveling back and forth. This gets back to the previous point about quality vs. quantity. Being involved with less means you get to focus more on the things you really care about.
7. Go paperless. Many small businesses are making the shift to paperless. It cuts down on waste, keeps the offices cleaner and more efficient, and it makes organizing much simpler. You can apply these same advantages to your home office. One easy way to start is by automating your monthly bills. Many companies will let you pay bills instantly without any paperwork, just a monthly notification email about the transaction.
8. Give away or sell stuff you don’t use. I recommend Sell Your Crap by Adam Baker. It’s the most comprehensive guide to crushing your clutter, getting rid of the crap you don’t need, and making wads of money doing it.
9. Be content. Advertisers have us wrapped around their finger. With a simple 30 second ad, they try to convince us that our life won’t be complete until we buy their product. And many of us fall for it, because we’re insecure, unhappy, and searching for anything to fill that void. Trust me, everything you’ll ever need to be happy…you already have.
10. Freecycle. It’s a brand new way to recycle everything. And it’s country-wide. Join a local branch and start giving away stuff you don’t need: appliances, couches, bikes…or pick up something you can use instead of buying it new. The best part? It’s all free.
11. Adjust your thermostat. What is comfort? I have a theory that comfort is entirely relative. We get used to certain conditions and call them comfortable, we could just as easily get used to different conditions. Try this experiment for a couple of months: If it’s summer, raise your thermostat a degree every two weeks. See how long you can go before someone else in your house notices the change.
12. Take shorter showers. Most of us take water for granted. There may be a time in the future where fresh water is hard to come by. Start conserving water now and lower your energy usage by cutting down on those long, hot showers. You may even consider installing a water-saving shower head. The small investment will likely pay for itself in a year’s time.
The editor of Ethical Living, and pursuer of relatively interesting information, Simon has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales, and is a photo-journalist and writer whose written and photographic work has been represented by the AFP news agency and appeared in newspapers across Europe and Asia.