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?

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