The term ‘Eco minimalism’ was coined by Howard Liddell (architect) and Nick Grant (energy consultant) and, at first, only applied to constructing buildings designed to have a minimal environmental impact. However, in recent years, the concept has been adapted by the union of minimalistic and environmental movements.

Minimalists live by decluttering their lives from whatever they consider excessive and focus on mindful consumption and buying only what they need and when they need it. Everyone perceives minimalism differently, so what for some might be minimalistic for others may seem excessive.

Photo by Photo Boards on Unsplash

Environmentalists try to reduce their environmental footprint as much as they can. So, they would use lots of reusable swaps, reduce packaging, and buy only what they need, thinking about the whole production and delivery process, which in regard to some products isn’t sustainable (i.e. How far did the product travel to get to you? Can you buy something produced locally?).

Both movements are strong advocates of reusing items, upcycling whenever possible and consciously making decisions that will impact consumers’ lifestyle, sustainability on Earth or debt they carry.

Eco-minimalism is a combination of both movements. In short, it propagates less clutter and mindful sustainable life choices. Eco-minimalism doesn’t mean that you should become a monk and live off the strip of land for the rest of your life. For me, eco-minimalism has empowered me to set my own boundaries that include the following elements: 

  • Defining what clutter means to me/you personally? If you are decluttering your space, you don’t have to get rid of everything you own. Keeping the items that you use and the items that make you happy is vital. Currently, I’m decluttering my inbox. I’ve been subscribed to so many newsletters, which I never read. On average, I would get around 20-30 newsletters every day.  So now, when  I open my email and have no new messages, that makes me smile. I’m only keeping my email for the important stuff. My next task is decluttering my life from emotional vampires.
  • Thinking about clutter, I usually focus on the things around me that bother me when I look at them. I have a lot of photo frames all around the living room, and I’m more than certain a lot of minimalists would see this as clutter. However, it gives me so much pleasure and happiness to look at the photos of my kids at different age that I’m sure I won’t get rid of them. For every one of us, clutter represents something else. Try to coin your own definition of clutter and refocus your life towards clearing that, instead of trying to copy others who may perceive minimalism and clutter in a completely different way.
  • Knowing why you want to follow the path of eco-minimalism is essential – having a strong WHY will stop you from going crazy and spend hundreds of ££’s on hair accessories or other staff that you will never, ever use. My strong WHY keeping me on the path of sustainability and financial independence are my children. I want to leave as little environmental footprint behind as possible and set an example for them, which they then can adapt in their own lives, once they become independent adults. 
  • Choosing to build your path is essential. So, if books are important in your life, getting rid of them isn’t going to make you happy. But if you don’t care about the car and prefer to use public transport and/or a bike, …
  • Always choose what is good for you at the current stage of life. I believe that you should base all your eco-minimalistic decisions on what works for you at this moment in time. Your eco-minimalism will change and grow together with you. If you try to implement too many changes too fast, the odds of relapsing to the old ways are high. Small but consistent change is my motto.
  • Don’t look at and compare yourself to other people. You are where you are. You are doing your best to change YOUR life for the better, and it takes time and courage.
  • Eco-minimalists try to leave as little footprint behind as they can. Their choices are minimalist because they don’t need excessive stuff to be happy, or they use many reusables, sustainable items that don’t need replacing often. Putting sustainable choices, being kind to the environment, thinking long term is the backbone of the whole movement.  
  • An eco-minimalistic lifestyle is also good for the pocket, with less spending on things that aren’t essential, and more opportunities to save up and invest. Once you invest in reusable swaps, you won’t need to replace certain items for a long time.
  • Always remember: re-use, upcycle and make friends with 2nd-hand items before you purchase something new.
  • Zero-waste lifestyle is different to eco-minimalism, but there are a lot of similarities. However, personally, where I am now, I know I wouldn’t be able to commit fully to the zero-waste lifestyle. Small steps, right?

In my opinion, eco-minimalism is more manageable than a Zero-Waste Lifestyle and more workable over a long time, especially for people waking up to the realization that we are drowning in the pool of rubbish, while constantly adding more to the pile.

We all need to try to stop the vicious cycle, and eco-minimalism could be the right steppingstone. If enough of us will take the right actions, we might just might turn the tide.