Minimalist and Zero Waster!?
Zero-waste and minimalist - Surely two conflicting ideals?
One involves the reuse of all materials until they're literally falling apart. The other involves disposing of anything in your life that doesn't bring you joy or isn't essential.
Zero-wasters see the long-term potential in all materials and possessions. Minimalists see the psychological value in ruthlessly trashing items that carry unwanted associations.
At first glance the two appear incompatible - and in a lot of ways the two ethos have been incompatible in my life.
One evident way I started to see my conflicting values counteract each other was in the way I hoarded single-use products. The times I forgot to request they leave out disposable cutlery or napkins, I found myself completely unable to dispose of them because the resources had already been used, but also unable to use them because I thought a single use was wasteful and I hoped I'd need them in an unexpected cutlery emergency. This left me with a slowly growing stock of useless disposable utensils that just made me depressed to look at them. A minimalist nightmare!
But more recently, I've found peace between the two supposedly conflicting ideals. I'm not an all-in completely dedicated zero-waster. If you follow my Instagram food photos you'll know I'm not even close thanks to my sweet tooth. I don't live by it like law, but I'm on the journey so I still share the values of bonafide zero-wasters, practice many waste avoidance methods in my home and keep my waste usage in consideration at all times. And these practices I now know complement my minimalist approach to living.
Both involve scaling back consumption and focusing on intentional consumerism. And with a small shift in perception you can see how perfectly aligned the two concepts are.
Zero-waste = Avoid anything you don't need.
Minimalism = Avoid anything you don't need.
Zero-waste lifestyles are minimalistic. Minimalism is waste-reducing. They're two peas in a pod.
With mindful, intentional purchases I purchase only what I need and try to find it with as minimal packaging as possible. I simplify the way I use and interact with products.
I avoid buying useless novelty contraptions. I don't buy clothes unless I need them. I don't go window shopping. I first look for secondhand before buying anything new. I find new ways to repurpose old items. I don't buy anything without considering if it's lifespan justifies the cost to my wallet and the cost to the Earth. I stick to things that are useful, practical or particularly sentimental, and I don't purchase anything that I don't need because it is an unnecessary use of resources and unnecessary clutter I don't need in my life.
Minimalism helps zero-waste by stopping the trash cycle before it begins. If zero-waste means nothing from your home ends up in landfill, then minimalism is the key to stopping products that could be trashed from entering your home in the first place.
Living a minimalist, minimal-waste lifestyle will never be perfect. Trying to only buy vegan, Fair-trade, organic, zero-waste products while maintaining a minimalist lifestyle can be a bit much. You can feel like there's pressure to perfectly balance all ethical considerations, and fear dropping the ball. But here's the thing, nobody expects you to be perfect.
You will buy some products with single-use waste. You will buy some products you don't need that your rational mind can't justify to your "ooh, pretty!" mind. Things will be imperfect, but a balance between these two is something honourable to aim for.
Today I see that being a minimalist and being zero-waste are two life ethos that go hand-in-hand.
While attempts at complete zero-waste living can lead to clutter because we don't want to turn anything reusable into preventable waste, minimalism can force us to redefine our definition of waste and become proactive about disposing this waste in productive and eco-friendly ways. It doesn't need to stay in the perimeter of your house to still be zero-waste.
Did you know there are free giveaway Facebook groups where people will come pick up your unwanted books or jewellery? Easy, you don't even have to leave home to declutter, but your goods go to a new home and are much more likely to end up being used than if they were dumped in a charity bin. I dispose of unwanted clutter like a minimalist, but I do it thoughtfully like a zero-waster.
Both life philosophies involve reconsidering our consumption and disposal of consumer goods, and both promote conscious living and being aware of our purchases and the way they affect ourselves and those around us.
At the end of the day, what matters is that we remain conscious in our daily life. Buy less. Choose better. Consider your impact. Be conscious in all your choices, and soon it'll hardly matter whether you decide to call yourself a minimalist or a zero-waster.