By Kayley Tezbir
You see us on campus all the time! Out there in our green shirts- perhaps giving you reusable straws, educating about Fill it Forward, celebrating Campus Sustainability Day or Earth Day, leading green film discussions, or serving as guest speakers in classrooms. It’s obvious: we care about the environment, but maybe that is all you know. Why do we care? Why should anyone care? The Eco Reps are just a few members of this community that care about the longevity of the planet and all of its inhabitants. At the baseline of that is adopting a sustainable lifestyle and mindset. One such lifestyle is eco-minimalism.
Eco-minimalism is a relatively new spin on a sustainable lifestyle that pulls elements from both the zero-waste and minimalism movements. The zero waste movement focuses on sending as little as possible to the landfill, and only using sustainable products/brands that confer no harm on the environment. On the other hand, the minimalist approach looks into buying and owning as little as possible, but does not put as much focus on making sure brands are eco-friendly. What happens when you combine the lifestyle of a minimalist with the mindset of an environmentalist? The Eco-minimalism movement was born.
It is obvious that humans take advantage of the planet. The natural resources we have are being used at an alarming rate. Everyday, tons of new products such as clothing, decor, processed food and so on are coming to markets and old products deemed no longer trendy or in style are sent to landfills, or donated to thrift stores that are already being overwhelmed with items from places like Shein, a fast fashion clothing company. While donating old clothing and unwanted items to places like Goodwill may seem like the environmentally conscious thing to do, it is not necessarily preventing that item from being thrown out. For example, Goodwill Outlet serves as a last chance for items to be bought at a low rate, before it is ultimately thrown into the garbage.
This is where the minimalist mindset of eco-minimalism comes into play. If less clothing is purchased to begin with, and each purchase is thoughtfully made, less will be flooding donation stores (that may not be able to resell every item) and less will be thrown away.
Buying less is a way to satisfy both facets of the eco-minimalism lifestyle. Another important aspect of the lifestyle is using what you already have to its full potential. The zero-waste lifestyle is lavished with bamboo toothbrushes, metal lunch boxes, shampoo bars, safety razors, beeswax wraps and other non-plastic, non-disposable alternatives. In the transition to a lower waste lifestyle, if you throw out all of your plastic wrap or plastic toothbrushes in your possession in order to make room for their zero-waste alternatives, it is not a sustainable thing to do. The same goes for switching your hygiene and skincare products to more ethical, planet focused brands. In this lifestyle, it is so important to finish up what you already have, and once that has finished, to then switch to the more sustainable brand or product.
Of course, we would not be Eco Reps if we did not advocate for sustainable living. Here is some advice from one of our current 2021-2022 Eco-Reps. Muriel Baki, a junior Arts and Entertainment Industries Management Major and fellow Eco-Rep says “Our society’s commitment to consumerism and our obsession with having not only many possessions, but always the newest and best option is incredibly harmful and contributes to the mindset that all objects are disposable. This leads to our insane trash output and threatens the environment, while also creating a market for poorly made, few-use products. If we make more conscious choices in favor of quality and durability it can cut down costs in the long term, personal waste output, and ease the stress of owning and maintaining large numbers of material items.”
If you still have questions about the eco-minimalism lifestyle, YouTube is a huge resource for examples of the lifestyle, tips, and reiterating the “why” of sustainable living. One of my favorite eco-minimalists to learn from is Shelbizleee. She runs both a website and a YouTube channel, with many videos focused on eco-minimalism alone. If you ever wanted to learn more about sustainability in general, Rider University offers an Introduction to Sustainability course each spring! As Shelbizleee ends each of her videos saying, “You cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good you can do.”