- Caroline - Freelance Writer - Canada
It is no secret that climate change is taking place and its effects are being felt around the world in drastic ways. The glaciers are melting at rapid speeds, the global sea levels are rising and dozens of species go extinct every day. A leading factor to this global issue is the culture of overconsumption, particularly prevalent in the West. It is common to shop for leisure and luxury rather than for necessity and as a result, global warming has become a major issue worldwide. However, this is not an impossible problem and adopting a minimalist lifestyle can actively help to fight the effects of climate change.
Minimalism: A Definition
Although minimalism can vary from person to person, it is understood to be a lifestyle without excess so one can appreciate the things that truly matter. In today’s society, it is often promoted that money equates to happiness. People then buy in excess in a vain attempt to find purpose within materialistic objects. In the end, the only ones who benefit from this lifestyle are the companies who profit from the sales made, as the consumers spend money on things that will eventually turn to waste and the environment is killed by it. A minimalist lifestyle helps to provide a clear image of our individual priorities on the important things in life. It is not merely about ownership, but rather the activities and experiences we fill our lives with.
Living a minimalist lifestyle significantly helps to decrease the amount of waste a person produces and therefore fights against the effects of climate change. By buying less materials and finding happiness within experiences and life itself, this drastically cuts back on a person’s carbon foot print. This is also due to the fact that minimalists recycle and reuse many products rather than buying brand new. This is important as it reduces the amount of waste put into landfills and focuses on only using necessary materials. Minimalism has a multitude of benefits such as living clean, saving money and having the space to fill life with genuine experiences rather than meaningless objects.
Minimalism vs Overconsumption
A clear example of the difference between minimalists and overconsumption can be seen in the fashion industry. Fast fashion is cheap and trendy clothing that entices people to buy, but quickly goes out of style making room for the next trend. The old clothing is then thrown away and more is produced and the vicious cycle continues. The fast fashion industry alone annually releases about 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas which is a main contributor to global warming. Not only does fast fashion contribute an enormous amount of waste, but it is also produced through outsourced underpaid labour and dangerous working conditions. Companies establish their factories in countries with few labour or environmental regulations and are then able to exploit the workers and the environment. The companies generate extreme profit from this, as they are able to continuously sell cheap clothing without limits.
Minimalism directly opposes overconsumption like the fast fashion industry. A minimalist lifestyle would consider more ethical and sustainable sources of consumption such as thrifting, donating what you no longer use, restricting the amount of clothing materials you have or even making your own clothes. Another major way to live as a minimalist, would be to support local businesses rather than large companies who profit from exploitation. When shopping as a minimalist, it is important to prioritize quality over quantity. This means clothing that will last years rather than fast fashion which only lasts a season. This also includes paying attention to items that use recyclable packaging and businesses that make an effort to produce eco-friendly. Although there is no complete way to ethically consume under capitalism, minimalism has a huge impact on reducing waste and the effects of climate change. As well, the key to minimalism is using only what is necessary, rather than consuming for pleasure. Minimalism prioritizes a clean and clutter free lifestyle to allow the space for the individual priorities that matter and make our life fuller.
Canada on the World Stage
Canada in particular produces more garbage per capita than any other country in the world. In 2009, a study found that Canada produced 777kg of garbage per citizen, with the average being only 578kg in other developed nations. Japan for instance, produced only 377 kg per person that year, which Canada more than doubled. Out of 17 developed nations, the Conference Board ranked Canada as 15th for the amount of water usage, energy consumption waste and air pollution produced. This way of living is unsustainable and cannot be maintained for much longer. Researchers say that we could cross the threshold for dangerous global warming as soon as 2027. We each have a responsibility to live as sustainably and environmentally conscious as possible in order to reverse the effects of climate change before it is too late.
With these statistics, it is clear that the threat of climate change is real and is only going to get worse. Today, we can already see the effects of climate change with record breaking temperatures and natural disasters around the globe. By living in countries like Canada, we have the privilege to have options on where to shop or what or buy. This privilege should be used to buy ethically and environmentally rather than for luxury and brand name. Each person has a duty to work towards preventing the effects of global warming and minimalism is part of the answer.
How Minimalism Can Save the World
Minimalism is not just a personal choice to have less clutter, it has a much larger impact on the whole world. When a person chooses to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, this spreads awareness to others who might also choose that lifestyle. As well, other than the personal benefits to minimalism such as refining our lives and finding joy in life itself, it also drastically reduces one’s carbon footprint. A carbon footprint counts the amount of greenhouse gases that are accumulated from our actions, for example driving a car. By living sustainably, you can prevent producing tons of waste that would otherwise go into landfills and contribute to global warming. Even if just one person were to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, that would save the world from hundreds of tons of waste. Further, it would encourage others to follow the same path. This would also make a smaller market for large corporations and force them to either choose an eco-friendlier method of production or to stop producing as much. Consumers have the power to demand what products they want and how they want them. If minimalism became a larger trend that more people followed, this would force companies to listen to the demands being made. So how can you be a minimalist?
Minimalism is a spectrum and certain aspects may not be for everyone. For example, some minimalists opt to not have a car or they choose tiny homes rather than excessively large ones. Although these are excellent methods that are great for the environment, it may not be a possibility for those who need a vehicle to get to work or for large families. However, there are still easy every day ways to be a minimalist. For example, donating items you no longer need anymore; this helps others, declutters your life, and is environmentally sustainable. Research is also a huge part of minimalism that anyone can do. Look into the backgrounds of companies that you buy from and examine whether they are exploitive or sustainable. Educate yourself on new practices that you can implement into your life to make a positive change. Education is key to making the world a better place and every person has the power to change their lives. There are resources all around us which give us the ability to live the best way we can. Education is a responsibility that all of us have in order to become better citizens of the world.
To conclude, society emphasizes short term pleasures rather than genuine and meaningful experiences in order to generate profit. We, as consumers, allow this to happen as we continue to buy more and more rather than living sustainably. This has led to the global issue of climate change which has had drastic effects and soon, will make the earth inhabitable. Minimalism could be the solution as it prioritizes buying out of necessity rather than excess and living sustainably. Reusing, recycling and most importantly, research and education are the key to reducing the effects of climate change. Minimalism requires a conscious effort to consume products that are sustainable rather than luxurious. This effort has many benefits such as living without clutter, having the space to appreciate the things that matter, saving a huge amount of money and saving the earth. Each individual has a moral duty to do their part to take care of the world and minimalism is the best way to do so.
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