Waste, Minimalism & Climate Change

It’s been a while since my last post as I was travelling around for work (spectroscopy and radio astronomy schools for anybody who wanted to know).

I’ve been thinking that I really want to write something on the personal side of sustainability – and that will be coming very soon, I promise 🙂

However, I’ve also been thinking about the link between waste, minimalism, and caring for/about the planet: I hadn’t realise, for example, how rubbish in landfill sites contributes to climate change (I don’t like saying “global warming” because that’s not a very good description really; in some parts the climate gets hotter and in others colder). As the rubbish decomposes, it releases greenhouse gases which, similar to the greenhouse gases released by cars or planes, contribute to environmental pollution and climate change (see e.g. here).
So reducing one’s waste not only prevents the pollution of eg the Earth’s oceans and landscapes, but actually helps to do something against what I would consider one of the biggest threats to humanity at present, climate change…

But how does minimalism come into all this?
To me, minimalism is all about consciously choosing one’s possessions and purchases. It means deciding what’s important and what adds value to one’s life – and eliminating/reducing the rest. It means making a shopping list and not simply buying/consuming for the sake of it.
The link to waste reduction is this: while we can try to reduce and recycle the things we have (eg putting your papers into the recycling bin, reusing glass jars as food containers, making flowering pots out of plastic bottles, wrapping dirty shoes/clothes in a plastic bag…), this only delays the inevitable journey to the landfill (though for a lot of recyclables, the lifetime can be made quite long!). Hence, in order to produce less waste, we need to start at the source: buying only what we’ll actually need/eat/use.

So what steps can we take?
In terms of food:

  • look through your fridge; what’s going off soon and needs eating? Are there any leftovers?
  • write a meal plan/ideas for the week ahead, ideally including any leftover or soon-to-go-off items
  • make a shopping list and go shopping 🙂
  • as an aside: while researching this I also learned that the UK throws away more food than any other European country; for some interesting graphics and numbers, have a look here

Clothes/other:

  • set two or so annual shopping days (eg one for spring-summer clothing, and one for autumn-winter clothes), and make a note of any items needed (idea taken from e.g. Zero Waste Home)
  • work on a 30 day system whereby any item you’d like to buy goes on a “wish list” for a month; if after the moth has passed, you still feel that it would add to your life, buy it (idea taken from Zen Habits)
  • check out second-hand/charity shops near you; buying used items means that their lifetimes is extended, the item isn’t produced for you from scratch, and you’re supporting a good cause
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6 thoughts on “Waste, Minimalism & Climate Change

    1. So true, Valerie!
      I’ve started to always carry around some cloth bags (I love the extra small one I recently bought, it’s just the right size for snacks like nuts or carrots or cherry tomatoes). And glass jars – I was surprised to learn that they make great tea mugs too (if the walls are thick enough to deal with the heat). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I know that this isn’t necessarily a point you want to make on this blog, but when discussing sustainability, climate change and food choices, it’s worth pointing out that animal agriculture is responsible for somewhere between 18 and 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The single biggest change one can make to global sustainability is removing animal products from your diet!

    http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294

    Like

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