Minimalism, Zero Waste, Oh My!

About five years or so, I started noticing minimalism enthrall the corners of the internet where I lurked. It started with Marie Kondo I think, with her decluttering prowess and gently folded sock drawers. Less was more; furniture was sleek, simple, and Scandinavian; and that’s without even us reaching the level of hygge.

This pursuit of minimalism for me felt like an outgrowth of my own personal diminutiveness. I was newly graduated, had little more than a suitcase of clothes and a mattress to my name. I didn’t need much of the world and maybe, if I kept it that way, it wouldn’t ask too much of me either. Rather than try to go out and make an impact, I wanted to be as invisible as possible, as light and unimpactful to the world as I could be. Like footprints on the beach.

Minimalism also appealed to my sense of environmental consciousness. Sure, as a member of modern society my carbon footprint was almost necessarily large. But maybe I could make it less. And here was this well-marketed, consumerist-centric way to do it (for, I believe, much of internet-minimalism has morphed into thinly veiled marketing for over-designed luxury products, if it ever was anything else). What could be more easily actionable than to buy something or not buy something else, as the case may be.

Nowadays, I feel myself falling for another trend, similarly pinging at my sense of environmental unease and appeal for nice things: zero waste. Less trash? Sounds good. “Plant-based” products? How a-peel-ing. It’ll save me money? Tell me more!

Here is a list of “zero waste” things I have done already:

  • use reusable cloth tote for groceries and other purchases
  • replaced paper towels with cloth napkins and rags
  • composting scraps, zero food waste
  • replace one-use sanitary pads with reusable cotton pads
  • nix dryer sheets in favor of wool dryer balls
  • mostly purchase used clothing
  • mostly eliminated disposable dish ware
  • purchase vegetables through CSA delivery with minimal to no packaging
  • don’t own a car, generally walk or take public transit
  • improved energy efficiency for the house – solar, heat pump, water saving, LED lightbulbs, insulation

Here are some things I’m considering to become more “zero waste”:

  • bringing my own containers to use for takeout (this feels like it could be a health code violation, more research needed)
  • use bees wax wrap instead of disposable plastic bags to store food
  • eliminate 2-day shipping and food delivery in favor of my own two feet

Here are some things I am interested in changing, but have no idea how to begin (suggestions welcome!):

  • how to get food delivered to my house for game nights, etc. without producing a metric ton of takeout container trash
  • finding sustainable home supplies, especially for items that are regularly replaced, e.g. HVAC filters, vacuum bags, batteries, etc.

And here are the zero waste things I 100% will not be doing:

  • ask my fiancé to give up his car
  • grey water or composting toilets (nitrogen cycle human waste)
  • stop myself from having kids
  • not travel on planes (though I do want to be more mindful of how often I travel)
  • eliminate plastic from my life entirely
  • going vegetarian (though I may change my diet to limit myself to chicken and fish for protein)

Do you try to be a “minimalist” or “zero waste”? What “zero waste” things do you do? How do you feel about these paring-down lifestyle trends?


2 thoughts on “Minimalism, Zero Waste, Oh My!

  1. I was drawn to minimalism for similar reasons to you, I think. I was a few years out of college, but needed to move around so many times, generally with only the baggage allowance I’d get on a flight. (I had accumulated a lot of clutter before previous moves, which I couldn’t take with me, and that seemed… foolish, and not the best way to do things.)

    I’ve taken a few baby steps towards “zero waste”, but I generally feel sheepish about how little I’ve done. I’ve stopped using paper and plastic cups at work and use reusable grocery bags, but that’s about it so far (alas). I’m planning to try wax wraps when I finish using up my current container of saran wrap.


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