Consumption, Minimalism, and Climate Change

Over the holidays I came across “The Minimalists” through their 2014 documentary, “Minimalism: A Documentary.” It struck me as appropriate to explore, as while Christmas is a wonderful time to spend time with family and friends, and exchanging gifts can create happiness, it is also the perfect time to reflect on the “good things in life”, which are usually not material. In the film, the principals – Joshua and Ryan, tour the country and evangelize people to live with less stuff, and focus more on the people and relationships in their lives. This is especially poignant this year with Covid-19, as many of us have not been able to spend as much time with the people we care about.

There are a few themes I loved about the approach Joshua and Ryan took in the film: (1) Their positive energy and enthusiasm about the world is contagious and uplifting (2) Taking time to think about what material things you really need, and how they contributes to your happiness is something we should all do (3) Their approach is not “preachy”, but provides people a vision, and encourages us to all do what we can and improve each day from there.

I am a long way from a minimalist, and in the consumer world we live in, I find it hard to encourage my kids to embrace the concept. However, given Christmas has just occurred and we had a flurry of gifts, the idea of focusing more on the people, and less on the stuff seems appropriate. When I look forward to a holiday or birthday, the thing I anticipate the most is a meal together, and the discussions that emerge.  This year my kids gave me some beer and cheese which was perfect. “Things” I love, and I could consume and share them in the company of people I care about.

All the things we buy have an impact on the climate. “The minimalists” reminded me to try to take a step each and every day to assess: Do I really need this? Will it make me happier? I started this blog a year ago to share my day-to-day thoughts and actions on how an individual can make a different fighting climate change. Adding to the questions about buying stuff I would include: what energy was consumed in making and transporting this? What happens when I am done with it? Does it end up in a landfill? Is there too much packaging?

To make an impact start with actions you can take every day. Ultimately, starting behavior that is sustainable is important. What are the steps and ideas you have?

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