From minimalism to zero-waste, the ‘less is more’ trend has become a sustainable lifestyle for many over the past few years, especially among millennials.
It wasn’t a lifestyle I had heard about until I moved to America, but it was one that after just a few weeks in the States, I was in desperate need of.
At this current state in my life I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, nor can I say I am living a zero waste lifestyle, but since living in America, I have begun a journey towards both of those things.
Americans own an abundance of ‘stuff.’ In fact the average American house contains 300,000 ‘stuffs.’ Owning such a large amount of stuff means they also dispose of a large amount of stuff.
One of the first things I noticed living in America, was just how much stuff they throw away each day. In the dorm hallway, the two large bins would constantly filled to capacity, despite being regularly emptied. In the dining hall, there was an entire wheelie bin dedicated to throwing away left over food, also constantly filled to capacity.
Americans like to fill bins and who can blame them when everything they buy is individually packaged, designed for single purpose and convenience?
Technically my journey towards minimalism started the day I packed my bags for my year abroad, I just didn’t know it at the time.
In the weeks leading up to my flight, I stressed and scoured the internet and my local shopping centre in search of the largest suitcase I could find. Although I knew I couldn’t bring everything I owned with me, I was determined to bring as much of it I could.
When I finally found the largest suitcase available, I packed, and repacked, and repacked again.
No matter what I did, I just couldn’t fit everything I wanted in there. That’s when the minimalist in me was born.
I removed everything I could see myself not using within the next three months, which was mostly my winter coats and winter boots (which I still had my mum send me).
I was content with what I was left with, yet when I finally reached America and started living with what I had, it was all too much.
Half of the clothes I had brought, I never wore during my entire year there. And all the stationary and other stuff, just collected dust sitting on my desk, getting in the way.
I came to the realisation that not just in America, but at home as well, I had too much stuff. That’s when I discovered minimalism.
My first encounter with minimalism was through The Minimalists. After listening to just a couple of episodes of their podcast, I was hooked, and ready to live the minimal lifestyle.
I downsized my desk stuff, and readjusted my attitude towards what I was buying while in America (because lets not forget I had to get it all home again).
But it just didn’t feel like quite enough. As I delved deeper I discovered the zero waste/plastic free movement.
I’ve always been a big believer in recycling, and doing my bit to keep my carbon footprint as small as possible, but it’ not always possible.
Not everything is recyclable, and it can be hard at times to chose products that are reusable or recyclable.
I thought it was impossible in the frivolous world to live without creating any landfill waste, until I stumbled upon a youtube video where a women had kept all of her landfill rubbish from the previous 2 years in a mason jar.
Lauren Singer, had found a way to create so little trash in her daily life that, even now, she can fit all of her landfill waste from the past four years in that same mason jar.
Not only was it possible to live a zero waste life, hundreds of people were already doing it.
As i started doing more research into this lifestyle, I become more and more encouraged and excited to live this way, but knew it was going to be impossible to transition fully to this unconventional way of living whilst in America.
I was living in an environment where the preparation of my every meal was out of my control, in a country where disposable and convenient products were a way of life.
Rather than try (and inevitably fail) at living a fully zero waste lifestyle while abroad, I instead took at step back and looked at the way I was living with things in my life I could control.
At this point I had watched dozens of videos, read countless articles, and followed many blogs, that all centred around this lifestyle, and the one thing most of them all had in common was cotton rounds.
I had never heard of them, and when I googled them most of the results were about breastfeeding pads. But don’t be put off by this!
Cotton rounds are a fantastic swap for the disposable cotton pads many of us use daily (sometimes twice a day) to remove makeup or apply cleanser or toner. So now instead of throwing away two non-recyclable cottons pads 7 days a week, 365 days a year, I am the owner of 10 cotton rounds and now use one cotton round twice a day to apply toner, and then wash with the rest of light clothes in the washing machine.
Not only am I saving the environment by cutting down on the amount of cotton pads ending up on landfills, but I am also reducing my plastic consumption by reducing the production of the plastic film bags these disposable cotton pads are sold in.
And if that wasn’t enough of a gain to keep me using cotton rounds, I am also saving money. Say the average packet of cotton pads is £1 for 100, that’s £1 every 50 days, and that’s £7.30 a a year.
Now £7.30 a year might not sound like much, when you take into account the endless amount of products that can also be swapped for reusable items, living a zero waste lifestyle can save you a lot of money every year.
A Zero Waste, Minimalist Future?
While I have yet to fully transition to a fully zero waste lifestyle, I have since returning from America, made many changes in my life that see me using less plastic based products, as well as making decisions as a consumer to ensure I do my best to purchase goods and items that are either useable or recyclable.
As for the minimalist lifestyle, that is still a work in progress. Minimalism is not about making a drastic decision and ridding your home of all of your “unnecessary” belongings. It’s about moving into a head space that allows you to see that it is not these belonging that can bring you happiness and joy, but experiences and people that can give meaning to life.
As the Minimalists say, “love people, use things.”