Can Eco-Minimalism make you happier AND reduce your carbon emissions?

Written by Terri Witherden


What is minimalism?


Minimalism is about taking things out of all aspects of your life that do not serve you. It's all about “LESS IS MORE” in terms of embracing the most out of fewer things.


Minimalism can be a more conscious way to live and therefore is particularly suited to those looking to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle or reduce their impact on the planet. Minimalism can also help you keep your carbon footprint low and thus eventually can become environmentally positive when practised long term.


Eco-Minimalism is an environmentally conscious lifestyle choice that is gaining popularity. As some of us become more conscious about where we buy our food and our commodities, where they come from, what happens to our trash, what we can recycle and what we can't, we can also begin to question what we bring into our lives and, most importantly, why.


Minimalism and thus eco-minimalism isn’t just about owning less stuff, it is about living a life more intentional to your personal values. By having to audit what comes into your life, you create an environment that helps you flourish, rather than one that feels cluttered and heavy.



Who coined the term eco minimalism?


The phrase “Eco-minimalism” was first coined by architect Howard Liddell and energy consultant Nick Grant. It was originally part of a design concept used to construct buildings with minimized environmental impacts; i.e the materials, the transportation and so on.


Eco-minimalism has evolved into so much more, and the new definition combines eco-consciousness and minimalism to create a sustainable lifestyle that’s both simple, better quality and good for the planet.


While both eco-friendly living and minimalism focus on living consciously, they also differ slightly. Minimalists live with very few items, simplifying their lives by decluttering and consuming mindfully. On the other hand, eco-friendly environmentalists live in a way that reduces their environmental footprint as the primary goal. However, both environmentalism and minimalism share rewarding habits like reusing, upcycling, recycling and conscious consumerism which enables those who practise it to live in a sustainable way and reduce their ecological footprint.


What is the concept of a minimalist lifestyle?


Less Is More


An eco-minimalist lifestyle centres around the philosophy that less is more and in a lot of ways, we do too! Whilst it can feel extremely daunting to read the daily headlines around climate change and the environment, it only takes a few small habits adopted by the majority to start making a difference. We believe a key way to tackle climate change is to do little and often, rather than wait around for one big event that most likely will never occur.


How does minimalism help the environment?


Less stuff = Less carbon footprint


If you’re buying things, chances are they have come a long way to end up in your basket. Manufacturing is now a global operation with many items, especially plastic ones, being manufactured and shipped from the other side of the planet. This adds carbon emissions from global transit onto the items' manufacturing emissions. In fact, according to one study, consumption contributes to 60% of greenhouse gases globally.

Minimalism asks you to look at your consumer habits and really ask the question “Do I need this?”. If all of us questioned our impulse purchases a little more robustly, many of them wouldn’t happen. Reducing your consumption can make a real impact on your personal carbon footprint and save you money and space. It’s a win-win.



Less Is More


Opting to own and purchase less and operate on fewer resources, leads to less waste, less water consumption, less energy use, and more initiative around using the things we have. Instead of purchasing for convenience, many minimalists tend to purchase for higher quality because they are investing in their purchase and are intentional about its use. This means the item may well last longer, be repairable if it does break and also is more likely to be upcycled or recycled, for example, an eco-friendly alternative might be repairing your clothing when it is torn. This adds to the lifecycle of the product and helps keep it out of landfills for longer.


Eco-minimalism isn't about striving for the perfection of zero waste living; simply reducing waste and reducing consumption can reduce your greenhouse emissions massively. It's about finding creative ways to build good habits, which requires balancing with your current lifestyle in order to keep them long term.


Less stuff = Less hassle


A key concept of a minimalist lifestyle is the pursuit of freedom from consumption. This sounds heavy but essentially living a minimalist lifestyle may improve your overall health and happiness as you are living in a mindful manner in accordance with your personal key values.


Minimalism also has a much greater focus on immaterial things which bring us joy, such as relationships, experiences and being in touch with nature. Ultimately living in line with these values, rather than the constant desire for more, can reduce stress and deepen our relationship with the planet as individuals. Once this happens, we’re all much more likely to want to protect the Earth and continue cutting our carbon emissions however we can.


Disposing of unnecessary items and living with fewer items can also leave room for you to prioritise and have room to showcase those items that you truly love and bring value to your life, not to mention the increased storage space and the ability to easily find the things you need in your daily life - bring you more mental space and improves your mental health.


What is the problem with minimalism?


The most common misconception is that minimalists “suffer” and “sacrifice” while having fewer things and fewer interesting experiences. It can also become so much a part of your life that once again you can be fixated on 'stuff' rather than people, just the other direction; becoming so obsessed with getting rid of things that you miss out on the point of the activity.


We can't stress enough the importance of balance - this is a lifestyle change, not a fad diet. You need to be able to keep it up long term for the positive effects to accumulate. There is a misconception that you can become sustainable overnight, but this is not true. Everyone has to start somewhere and overcome personal barriers that often restrict our accessibility to sustainability. Make a list and start small. Do things that are achievable and accessible to you.


Tracking your carbon emissions with the Climate App is a small habit that could lead to a big impact on your personal carbon footprint in a way that makes climate action easy, fun and social. Using the app, you’ll be able to see the impact of our actions in real-time and also compare your journey with and inspire your friends and family. We'd love to support you on your eco-minimalism journey towards sustainable living and a more meaningful life.


Terri is a Digital Designer helping Conscious Businesses connect with their ideal audience through brand design, content and marketing. Find her through her website, Instagram or Linkedin.