Minimalism and climate change - have you ever wondered how less can do more for you and the world? We all know Australians know how to live. But do we know how to live responsibly?
In the past 60 years, Australian houses have more than doubled in size - if in 1950 an average house Down Under was about 100 square meters, today’s average measures 235 square meters. Not surprisingly, this makes Australian houses the largest in the world, ahead of the United States and Canada. But that’s not all - while the square footage of our properties have been growing dramatically, the average number of people living in them has been declining. Since 1950 the average floor area per person has risen from 30 square meters to about 87 square meters.
We fill our unnecessarily big houses up with a whole lot of unnecessary stuff. Take clothes as an example. Did you know that Australia has become the second highest consumer of textiles per person in the world (the U.S. has an unenviable first place)? A typical Australian consumer goes through 27 kilograms of new clothing per year - 93 percent of that clothes go directly to landfills.
Our insatiable drive for more is passed on to younger generations - an average child now owns more than 200 toys while regularly engaging with only 12. We tend to over purchase even though we know that it does more harm than good - according to numerous research studies, children who have too many toys are easily overstimulated which impacts their ability to learn and play creatively.
But that’s not just our children who become a victim of our ever-growing consumerism - it’s all of us. And, sadly, our environment.
How is our consumption ruining the environment?
Consumerism as a trend is driven by several factors. One of them is a rapid growth of the higher-income middle class in emerging markets. Having means to buy things, the prosperous middle class is no longer happy with purchasing only the necessities - food, water, or clothing. It thrives for more and wants to own items for social status - latest versions of iPhone, fancy sunglasses, designer baby clothes, the list goes on and on. Stuff surplus is not expected to end any time soon - on the contrary, as the world’s population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, we’d likely see consumerism to blossom. Unless we intervene.
And intervene we must. Since the 1970s, our needs have not been corresponding to the capacities of Earth - humanity has been using more resources that our planet could replenish. According to 2022 edition of the National Footprint and Biocapacity Accounts, today we use the equivalent of 1.75 Earths to provide resources we need and absorb the waste we produce.
Our desire for more translates into overfishing, overharvesting forests, soil erosion, and emitting an extraordinary amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that forests can sequester.
When purchasing things that we need (or don’t really need but want) we rarely think about how much of greenhouse gas emissions are created during their whole life cycle - from resource extraction and manufacturing through transportation to using and disposing at the final stage. Based on a study done by Christoph Meinrenken from the Earth Institute’s Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management, the average product results in carbon emissions equivalent to 6.3 times its own weight.
Carbon emissions behind every product that we use multiplied by the number of things that we own and number of people on our planet equate to a global scale disaster. Does humanity have a chance?
Does minimalism help the environment?
Yes, simple living or owning less stuff (and that’s what minimalism is all about) can help to protect the environment. Being a minimalist means that you own only what adds value and meaning to your life and let go of the rest. By following this philosophy, you not only save the environment, you also protect your hard earned $$$ and save time (less stuff means less cleaning and less time spent on shopping). Owning less have also been proven to reduce anxiety, stress and improve your overall wellbeing. As a side bonus - by acquiring a minimalist mindset, you tend to reassess your values by putting people and experiences ahead of all material stuff and possessions.
Minimalism is still more than that. If you want to dig deep into the topic, we encourage you to follow The Minimalists blog and read their recent book on the topic.
Bonus: TOMbag’s tips on how to consume less
Avoid single-use - think reusable!
Think twice before you buy something! Distinguish between your wants and needs
Stay within your own means - say no to credit cards
Keep things in a loop by buying pre-loved clothes, toys, furniture, etc., and selling unwanted stuff that you own
Choose experiences over material things for gifts
Teach your children on how to consume responsibly and lead by an example
Avoid food waste by planning your meals in advance and storing your food correctly
Choose public transport or walking/biking over private vehicles where possible
Need more inspiration? Check out this blog post by Redfin where sustainability enthusiasts like us share their expert tips on achieving a zero waste home.
Got any minimalism vs. climate change tips on how to comsume less? Share them with us below.