Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.
—Henry David Thoreau
We must live simply, so that others may simply live.
Ah, the simple life. No worries, no responsibilities, it’s the stuff of dreams. But in today’s world, living is far from simple. Simplifying your life often seems like one more impossible task on your long to-do list. Even though common sense tells us that the most environmentally conscious life is a simple one, it’s much easier said than done.
So how do you go from talking the green talk to walking the walk? Well, you could start by simplifying. I know, I know, easier said than done. Specifically, take a look at your consumption habits and learn to do more with less stuff. If you could add up the true cost of everything you own, including each item’s environmental footprint, you may be surprised at how much is involved with owning a seemingly simple thing. From raw materials to manufacturing to shipping and marketing, a lot of pollution, waste, and energy goes into every little consumable good, whether it be a toothbrush or a computer.
I’m not advocating going without a toothbrush (or a computer, I know I couldn’t do that) but simply being conscious of the impact your purchasing decisions have on the planet. Reflect on the wise words that began this post, and begin asking questions. Here are some questions to ask yourself before giving into your materialistic consumer tendencies:
- Do I need it? This is a pretty obvious question, but you’d be surprised how wants and frivolous desires turn into necessities.
- Is it something I’ll use often? If you’re contemplating buying something but don’t plan to use it more than once or twice, could you rent or borrow it?
- Would a used item suffice? Not everything needs to be brand new to work well. Give old items a second chance and reduce waste by re-using. Hit up thrift stores, yard sales, and swapping sites like Freecycle.
- What is the most sustainable option? Before making a purchase, do your homework. Find out if a greener alternative is available, and look for items that are organic, fair trade, natural and cruelty-free to fit your conscience and your needs.
- Am I falling prey to consumerism? Do you want something because it’s useful and necessary, or because you saw a cool ad or it’s the latest fad? In today’s consumerism-obsessed culture, companies will do anything to get your dollar. Use it as a vote, support companies you can feel good about and watch out for false promises, fads, and greenwashing.
- Will it last? Go for quality with any purchase you make, and try to fix or modify something before tossing it and replacing it with something new.
- Could I make it myself? There are many things you can make yourself to save money, the planet, and a trip to the store. From growing your own food to sewing clothes to making soap to building furniture, there are many things you can tackle yourself with a little extra time. The best part is, if you create something, you control what goes into it.
Asking these types of questions before making a purchasing decision will not only help you save money, it will make you a more conscious consumer. Every choice we make has an impact, and our purchasing choices are an opportunity to make a statement. The more we realize this, the more careful we’ll be about voting with our dollars.
Making the gradual change from a consumer to a conscious consumer starts with a mindshift. We’ve grown up being conditioned to prize convenience over quality and shopping over creating. Time speeds up and we get busier, then technology and products seemingly come to the rescue. In the process of becoming a modern consumerist society, we have forgotten a few things. We have forgotten that the food we need comes from the earth, not a supermarket. We have forgotten that with a little hard work and determination, we can provide for all our needs and live sustainably and simply at the same time. We have forgotten the lessons our ancestors worked so hard to learn: how to live with the earth, not just on it.
How do we re-learn those forgotten lessons? We rekindle our kinship with nature and start asking questions like the ones listed above. We slow down, simplify, and let go. This could mean living in a smaller space, cleaning out your closet and donating what you don’t wear, starting a compost bin and an organic garden, and taking time to make meals from scratch instead of eating wasteful and unhealthy processed convenience foods. It could mean buying nothing, if only for one day. It could mean simplifying your to-do list and focusing on the handful of things that make you truly happy. Living more simply and sustainably is your own personal journey, you define your green lifestyle.
So dive right in, embrace the winds of change and see what you could be happier doing without. Simplicity and sustainability go hand in hand, and I’m sure happiness is not far away.
Read More About Simple Green Living:
- Green is In, but What is Green? “Green” Lifestyles and Green Living on Planetsave
- Simple Living and Operating a Sustainable Green Business on Sustainablog
- Have You Downshifted Yet? on Eco Child’s Play