“Twenty-five years ago people could be excused of not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today, we have no excuse.”
—Desmond Tutu, Theologian and Activist
This Thursday, October 24th, is the International Day of Climate Action. The following day is likely to be another opportunity for activists worldwide to demand that leaders make immediate changes that address climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse.
So what does all this have to do with minimalism, you might ask? Quite a bit, actually — especially from an ethical perspective.
Unchecked Consumption’s Disastrous Impact
For many years, our decisions as consumers have gone relatively unchecked, which has led to the rampant destruction of our planet’s rainforests, an increased rate of consumption of natural resources, and rapidly rising pollution.
However, with these impacts has come an increased global consciousness, with more and more people self-assessing and asking: How have I personally contributed to the climate crisis? And what changes am I willing to make in the immediate future to help counteract humankind’s many negative impacts to our environment?
“If we demand change from other individuals and organizations, then we must make changes ourselves,” says Intent Founder Brooke Richards. “We can’t pass the responsibility of preserving our planet onto others if we’re living in a manner that contributes to the issue.”
“While the climate change strike gains momentum in more and more cities around the world, it reminds me how quick we as humans are to rise against unrighteousness,” adds Richards.
“It also reminds me that change begins with each individual and each one of us should be making shifts toward minimalism as quickly as we can. We cannot ask others to make these changes on our behalf. But all too often, we tend to shift ownership onto others — whether it is big business, the wealthy, or someone who has more time to speak up,” she says. “The fact is each of us owns this path — which includes making decisions that may not always be convenient.”
Climate Action: Where to Begin?
Maybe this starts with a small decision like not purchasing clothing until something you currently own needs to be replaced. It could mean participating in a zero-waste kitchen or converting your home to alternative energy. Here are a few more steps that nearly everyone — regardless of income or living situation — can take to reduce their impact:
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle. (In line with the five Rs of zero waste living, we suggest adding “refuse” and “rot” to this list!)
- Bike and walk more, drive less.
- Mind your food. Purchase produce that has been grown or meat/dairy that has been raised sustainably, buying locally sourced and organic whenever possible.
- Buy less plastic. Specifically, choose food items that are contained in other materials. Additionally, when shopping, bring reusable bags.
- Conserve resources. Try to cut back on water use, and shut off the lights when you leave a room. Energy-efficient light bulbs are also an easy way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Be proactive. Plant a tree, volunteer for cleanups in your community, and participate in carbon offsets if you are traveling via a commercial airline.
- Educate yourself. Continue to read and watch information about ways to better care for our planet. There are several wonderful documentaries that can inspire more mindful living that benefits both humans and the planet we inhabit. Some of our favorites are Before the Flood, The True Cost, and Mission Blue.
Perhaps most important to keep in mind is that we vote — and show what we care about — with our dollars. As demonstrated many times throughout history, real change occurs with a shift in the market. For instance, imagine you live in a city where 60 percent of residents ride their bikes 50 percent of the time — indefinitely. What then happens to the demand for gas, automobile sales, repair costs, and so on? Markets correct themselves over time when mass populations shift their buying power.
One Change at a Time
Some of these changes are difficult to make and may require some adjustments. Yet many of the changes we’re suggesting are easy for most people to implement. If you haven’t already read our post about transitioning to a zero-waste kitchen, we invite you to do so. This type of shift may not seem feasible at first, but we’re here to tell you it is — and it’s easier than one might think. Imagine if 60 percent of Americans cut their grocery bills by 1/4 and shopped more in the bulk food section — wouldn’t large plastic manufacturers feel that crunch? That’s a shift to consider, both for our own well-being and for that of the planet.
Wherever you are in your path toward a more minimalist lifestyle, we would love to hear your stories. We invite you to comment below and share with us how the changes you’re making are transforming your homes, communities, and our planet for the better.