My life as of late has been very nomadic, as I have once again moved countries, but this particular move was made me really think about the physical objects I own. Consequently, I have become totally engrossed with the minimalist movement, the zero-waste advocates, and the plastic-free folks. I realize these are three separate “movements” but to me, their respective ethos’ are harmonious.
I think the common ground these three movements share is INTENTION. Minimalists are explicit about selecting a small number of physical objects that enhance and support your life. Zero-waste and plastic-free decisions are focused on being intentional in our behaviours, recognizing that the choices we make every day have long term impacts on our planet.
From my own perspective, incorporating aspects of these three movements have helped me live a more intentional and thoughtful life – and finding ways to shift towards products that are ethically-produced and good for me and the world.I have had several friends ask me about sustainable/durable/ zero-waste/plastic-free products lately, so I thought I would share a few resources that I really like.
My minimalist journey started two years ago out of necessity (an impending trans-Atlantic move) and is still a work in progress. I would say some of the things that buoyed me along the way were the very well-known book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, which popularized the KonMari technique (which even Emily Gilmore toyed with in the latest Netflix re-boot of the Gilmore Girls). Once you have got rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy” you can start to organize your things the konmari way. A simple example video on how to fold shirts can be found here).
I continue to think about minimalism a lot – partly because I have dragged “most important” stuff from London to Stockholm, where I have been living for the last 5 months. I thought I had done a pretty good job of packing – moving here with 35kg of stuff in a wheeled hockey bag and a carry on backpack. However, I was immediately aware of the physical hassle that too much stuff can have, as I landed shortly before an attack in downtown Stockholm, which stopped transportation from the airport. I spent the next 8 hours wearily weaving between other stressed travellers and tight security with all of my stuff in tow. All this dragging stuff up and down stairs and in and out of buses, trains, and airplanes had me start to consider my efforts in miniamlism. I have realized that this is a constant process – to fight the tendency to accumulate, and requires you to be continually aware of what physical objects you welcome into your life.
I have spent the last months fantazizing about van life/boat life/ tiny house life, and have spent an embarassing amount of time on youtube and instagram drooling over people who have made the switch to minimalist and tiny living spaces. Since I don’t have a ton of decor or house goods, minimalism has had the biggest impact on my wardrobe, thus some of my favourite youtube gurus on minimalism concentrate on minimalist wardrobes.
Muchellb – This youtuber has shared at 30-day minimalism challenge, including videos about decluttering your wardrobe and beauty products.
My Green Closet is a CANADIAN youtuber who shares a lot of videos about her capsule wardrobe and ethical fashion. Her recent post on her winter capsule wardrobe is here.
Sarah Nourse is another popular minimalist youtuber and her neutral, minimalist closet tour can be seen here and Lavendaire has some more tips here.
Related to minimalism, I have continued to have a “work uniform” since I started this approach in 2015. I have 2 weeks (10 outfits total) which I formalize each season. As I work in a casual workplace, these outfits range from slightly dressy to straight up casual. I switch out items as they wear out or as I get new pieces. In addition to these 10 outfits, I have a few “play clothes” (ridiculous things to wear on the weekend) and some special occassion items (blazers for profesh situations, a few fancier dresses).
While I love the look of chic, monochrome, scandi capsule wardrobes, I have realized that I can have 10 bomb-diggidy outfits that reflect my personal style while still being minimal. For example, my recent purchase of a vintage skirt which is now one of my favs in my summer rotation. At this point, 30-40% of my outfits are vintage and I am trying to inch the rest of my outfits to be ethical products by companies who have good environmental or social policies, organic materials, or local artisans.
This approach to my wardrobe has helped me get rid of some of the guilt I have for getting rid of certain pieces (the ones that I never feel really great wearing or the ones that have started to wear out and no longer look fresh).
Nothing minimal about this abundance of prints! ❤I have also tried to extend my minimalist approach to packing for travel! I recently spent 5 days travelling out of a medium handbag! I have realized if I plan my outfits in advance, I can pare down on the stuff I need to carry and each hotel room doesn’t look like a hurricane has come through as soon as I start searching for something.
There is no lack of small space living videos on youtube and so much inspiration on Pinterest. Exploring Alternatives is a great youtube channel which (as you might guess) explores alternative ways of living – from families living in tiny houses, individuals in vans, or living off the grid. Be prepared to see many hours of your life vanish…
I think the areas of my life most impacted by trying to minimize waste were grocery shopping and beauty products.
I have really edited my makeup kit and beauty products and have tried to find alternatives to many of my products that I can make myself or that I can source in recyclable packaging.
Here is what my makeup shelf looked like 6-months ago. I have found a few more switches – I now have a rose water toner in a glass bottle instead of the Shiseido one here. I have not found any sort of zero-waste options for contact lenses. There are a number of makeup products that I am researching so when I am finished these ones, I may make the switch for more eco-friendly products. I have previously shared how I make my own toothpaste here. I also make my own body lotion (recipe here). I have also made my own mascara, but I don’t love it so have switched back to store bought. I continue to be obsessed with my homemade coffee scrub. I have heard SO many adds about poopouri (the stuff you put in your toilet so you can pretend your poo doesn’t smell). I looked up their ingredients and found it is made from essential oils. I have to say a few drops of sweet orange makes all the difference!
Eco Boost – A youtuber that shares a lot of zero-waste videos is Eco Boost. I love her upbeat peppy style and she has a lot of great tips on her channel. Here is her zero-waste grocery kit.
Another easy switch was to make hankies cool again. I don’t think I have succeeded in making them cool, but I have started picking up some vintage handkerchiefs and have been using them instead of tissues and napkins. I have also switched out cotton rounds that I was using for makeup removal for microfiber squares (basically I cut up a few cloths into smaller squares and they are a dream!)Part of the zero-waste as well as the minimalist approach is to seek out products that are of high quality and that will last. The website buymeone.com has been an incredible resource (I have even submitted fav products that they ended up including on the site!). Another good list of things that have good warranties can be found here!
The plastic-free movement has really gained more awareness with people talking about the huge plastic patch in the ocean and with increased talk of how long plastic sticks around (basically forever). So little plastic is recycled, and even what is recycled takes a lot of energy to make the shift. One of the ways consumers can make a difference is trying to choose plastic-free alternatives.
This can be relatively easy – the easiest switches for me have been my razor (I love my steel razor – it is saving me tons of money in the long run, as blades are less than 5 cents each, but the razor is a bit expensive at the start).
Switching to bamboo toothbrushes was the other easy switch. Once my brush needs to be replaced, I simply pull out the nylon bristles and compost the bamboo handle. Easy peasy.
The area that has been most frustrating for me has been finding food that is not wrapped in plastic. Some weeks, I get a really brag-worthy haul of plastic-free produce, and I have found a few bulk food bins for me to get some of my essentials, but this remains a huge challenge, and I wonder how we can put pressure on manufacturers and distributors to cut down on the amount of plastic put on food. Obviously, the easy(ish) switch is remembering to bring your reusable cloth bags to the grocery store so you can avoid additional plastic bags. I have a bag in my bag pretty much all the time, so I am awarding myself all the stars in this department.
Also, it helps if you have a rad sister who will sew snack bags for you to haul your delicious treats around in! I do love it when I find a brand that is plastic-free. I have been obsessed with Tony’s Chocolony, a chocolate company from the Netherlands whose chocolate is slave-free and committed to workers rights and packaging is 100% recyclable! I also think of my grandpa every time I eat this chocolate (as his name was Tony).
Apparently, tea bags contain a small amount of plastic in them (who knew!?) so I have switched back to loose leaf. This was not much of a struggle, considering how adorable my tea strainer is: Another good resource is the Life without Plastic site and store. There are some really great products on this site, although I haven’t ordered anything from it (international shipping can be a real bugger!) but it is a great resource of information and would be perfect for those living in US and Canada.
I have started to develop serious plastic straw guilt. Every time I am served a drink with the straw, I think “THIS is the plastic straw that broke the camel’s back!” I can’t stop obsessing over the straw situation, so I just ordered some glass straws. I haven’t got them yet, but I am excited to pull my re-usuable glass straw out and say “no straw please”!
Whew. That was long winded. Would love to hear your thoughts!
6 thoughts on “Minimalist, zero-waste, & plastic-free”
We think plastic is one of the most pressing issue. There is simply so much of it in our lives that we really do need to cut back seriously on. Some folks do not support the use of paper, but actually it is far more recyclable and renewable than plastic. What do you think?
Intuitively, you would think that paper is far better than plastic – that it seems more “natural” and that it is biodegradable (so isn’t hanging around like plastic – which takes over 500 years to breakdown, leading us to stories like this: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/every-single-piece-of-plastic-ever-made-still-exists/blog/58440/). However, the story is never that clearcut –
it does take a lot of energy to produce and to recycle paper products, so they are not blame-free. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/08/paper-or-plastic-a-look-a_n_111547.html
I think it is hard to make these decisions – balancing trying to tread lightly on the earth while still participating in everyday life. That is why I flagged some areas where there are easy swaps, but there are other areas that require a huge recalibration in order to reduce waste/plastic.
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But then nothing is blame free! LOL. So long as we take from the earth and process it, we will create CO2. Just like whether paper books would be more detrimental to the environment vs kindle… the manufacture of PCBA is soooo mass balance unfriendly… So we don’t disagree. Perhaps minimalism is about avoidance?
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I definitely agree that this is the power of minimalism! That if we live with more intention and are thoughtful about what we have and use, we can stop mindless consumption and accumulation.