Can minimalism and zero waste go hand in hand? I’ve seen this question come up a lot and it’s an absolute no brainer for me so I’m confused as to why people are feeling conflicted about it. In my opinion there’s no conflict between minimalism and zero waste, in fact, I would say they are one and the same. I’m not a minimalist but seeing this question again today made me want to share my perspective.

Some people seem to think minimalism involves not keeping stuff, in other words, throwing stuff out as soon as you are done with it to avoid clutter. On the other hand people seem to think zero waste involves hoarding random items like yoghurt containers and scraps of fabric until they can be reused. In my mind these are serious misconceptions. The essence of both lifestyles is that you don’t get the stuff and waste in the first place! The golden rule of zero waste living is to refuse what you do not need. Careful assessment of your needs leads to reduced clutter and waste, which means you shouldn’t have a lot of random things to reuse or repurpose. Is it not the same for minimalism? Shouldn’t minimalists be carefully assessing their needs before deciding what enters and what leaves their home. If you are not doing this, how can you call yourself a minimalist? Your home is simply a thoroughfare for stuff that comes in one door and goes out the other shortly after. That’s not minimal or mindful consumption.

Whilst not a minimalist, I do love clutter-free environments and that is part of my attraction to zero waste living. So let me say it again, I don’t believe there’s any conflict between minimalism and zero waste living but I’m keen to hear your opinion too, am I missing something? Have you struggled with balancing the two? Is one more important than the other to you?

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10 thoughts

  1. I’ve read quite a bit about living a minimalist lifestyle, and about zero waste for that matter, but nothing that states that there is a conflict between the two. (I must have missed some of the literature!) If one lives with minimal possessions, then they would hopefully also have minimal waste. While I have not as yet achieved either, each day I take a step closer. It’s a challenge worth taking on! 😊

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    1. On social media some people seem to get mixed up about it and think that minimalism is just about discarding things and that zero waste is about hoarding items until you can find a reuse for them. They haven’t understood that they both start with ‘refusing’ or more mindful consumption.

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  2. I can see how it is possible to make this assumption, it would have to be by people who are very new to the concepts. Coming from a mindful place of refusing to purchase unnecessary items, while also considering the life cycle of each product, will provide a good starting point. (I really like the pyramid you included in a previous post with ‘refuse’ at the top!)

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  3. I haven’t achieved zero waste, or even come close to it, but I am and do call myself a minimalist. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, but gradually, over time, the process of letting go and becoming less attached to stuff has become a lot easier.

    There’s not really a goal for me, as such, except to find my happiness in myself and in people, not in stuff. I’m definitely there already, and it has made a huge difference to my life 🙂

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      1. The main issue I have is food packaging. Wherever possible, I try to go to a greengrocer which uses paper bags (which I assume are better than plastic) but still find myself producing a lot of packaging waste. It’s mostly things like soya yoghurt pots, glass jars, plastic wrapping on vegetables and so on. I do recycle although I’ve heard that it’s debatable if my local council actually do recycle what gets put in our bins. So that bugs me. Other than that, I don’t think I produce a huge amount of waste. Any tips?

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      2. Reusable bags are better than both paper and plastic. The making of paper bags is actually more resource intensive than plastic but of course, plastic has the end of life issues and health issues which are worse. I’m pretty sure recycling occurs everywhere it is collected. It seems to be some weird myth that councils don’t really recycle. They would never spend as much money as they do collecting it if it couldn’t be recycled. I think it comes about because there’s often a lot of contamination of recyclable materials which means a large amount still ends up in landfill and because some trucks are able to collect both. It is hard to reduce waste because if you aren’t able to shop in bulk or get fruit and veg unpackaged, you have to make decisions about whether you will keep buying a product. I do a lot of extra cooking and making and have given up some things too. I was already growing some food. If you’re not ready/able to change that much just pick a few things to really focus on getting waste free and when that becomes a habit, move on to something else. Good luck 😊

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