For the third installment of the “Conscientious Consumerism” series, we will explore how the process of incorporating sustainable practices can and should serve as tools to help you find more peace in a fast-paced, stuff-centric world. It shouldn’t be an overwhelming experience, but rather a journey of self discovery about what you value in life and more importantly, what you don’t. If you haven’t checked out the first and second installments, they are full of tips for sustainable swaps to help you get started.
In the wake of growing climate crisis, it’s more important than ever to be conscious of how we consume products and media. Every decision you make has an impact, and the collective power of more and more people demanding sustainable options is changing the present market. Many mainstream grocery stores now carry more varieties of plant based milks, cheeses, and meat substitutes than ever before. New and old brands alike are developing biodegradable packaging. The rising popularity of thrift stores and upcycling is creating new markets and diversifying our styles and economy. Your choices add to the collective whole and they do have the power to make an impact. You make an impact.
Madeleine Olivia is a YouTuber, activist, and expert when it comes to the process of learning how to lead a life that is more sustainable, but still functional for your unique needs. Her new book, Minimal: How To Simplify Your Life And Live Sustainably, launched on January 9, 2020. The book is a complete beginner’s guide to living a life more mindful of the how your daily choices impact the planet, and how they impact your own wellness. The 8 chapters cover topics from how to declutter your wardrobe, to the eco-impacts of food industry, to becoming a mindful traveler, to sustainable self care. Chock-full of information to help you understand the current state of the planet, and explanations for how your everyday actions really do make a difference, Madeleine answers almost every question you might have about how to start a journey into minimalism- even including worksheets and graphics to guide you along. She also writes her story through the lens of someone who has been through process, keeping the content relatable and understanding. She is consistent in reminding readers that while it is not practical for everyone to commit to everything she writes about, everyone can and should do something. Doing what you can, with what you have, until you are in a position to do better.
Minimal is a wonderful guide to understand how the process of becoming a conscientious consumer can help you bring more peace into your own life while having a more positive impact on the planet. Today, we will delve into how including mindful practices can help you to feel more connected with yourself in a world that is pushing us to move faster and faster to the next new thing.
5 ways living more mindfully of the planet also serves your best interest:
- More Personalization: The best part about switching to reusable products is the ability to personalize them TO THE MAX. Have fun with your sustainable swaps. Investing in some reusable bags to take shopping with you? There are so many options to find some that can serve as an expression of your personality. Get some in your favorite color. Get some with your favorite characters on them (I definitely have a Spider-Man grocery bag). Get ones with plant prints or as souvenirs after concerts. Same goes for reusable cups, straws, silverware, lunch bags, etc. When you rid yourself of the bland single use plastic, covered in branding, you can pick fun items that are one time investments. They will save you money in the long run, and allow you to have in little fun in the process of helping the planet.
- Taking Back Your Time: Time is the most valuable asset we have. We all have a limited amount of it to spend, but we don’t know how much that is. Life is so short. We live in a world that is pushing us to keep up with an impossible rate of change. New clothes, new food, new makeup, new movies, new books, new classes, new jobs, new, new, new. Reinvent yourself. New you, means a better you. No. It doesn’t. You are wonderful just as you are. We are, at our core, all so diverse and beautiful in our own light. You don’t need to reinvent yourself, or feel the pressure to keep up with a world that releases a new product every few seconds. Personal growth should be focused on how you feel and what actually makes you happy. Focus your energy on experiences, not things. Focus your time on what really brings you joy. The timeline society has created for us to follow is not real. Everyone’s journey through life is unique to their own stories. Very few people follow the “mainstream story” where they graduate college in 4 years, get a job, get married with 2 kids by 30, have a house, then retire at 65 after working with the same company for 40 years. Very, very few. But that is what makes life beautiful. Your life is yours to live, and eliminating the mindset that you need to keep up with the latest fads, or that buying things is what will get you to where you want to be will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but free you to enjoy your life for what it is. The beautiful story that is yours, and yours alone. Take back your time, and say no to anyone or anything that makes you feel like you are “not keeping up.” There is nothing to keep up with. There is only following your heart towards what you love.
- Healthier Finances: Slowing down in a world constantly pushing and shoving those to the side who don’t play their game of “keep up” can seem like a daunting task. What you will find in the long run, is that your ability to navigate what actually makes you happy as opposed to what makes big corporations happy, is quite a bit of money saved over the long term. Not only are take-out meals, new clothes, new decor, and consistent habits of purchasing detrimental to the environment, they keep us stuck in a pattern of spending money. Stuff does not fill the emptiness within us. Exploring our own feelings, experiences, and spending time with those who are important to us will. That is what matters. As you learn to question what products you actually like, and what you actually need, you will find yourself spending less money. These savings can be spent on experiences with your friends, checking something off your bucket list you couldn’t afford before, or just as some breathing room in case things get tough financially. Purchases you do make, should be viewed as investments. Asking questions like, “Will this last a long time? What kind of quality is it? Does it serve a purpose?” are all great places to start when deciding if a purchase is an investment in your future or something that will be tossed out in a year. Changing your consumption perspective from buyer to investor will help you save the planet while saving your wallet.
- Connecting With New People: As you delve further into your journey of conscientious consumerism, you’ll notice that there are more people than you might have thought who also care deeply about the welfare of the planet. Attending meetups for vegans, local climate protests, or shopping small can help you to meet incredible people in your area who you might have never met before. Shopping small is one way to support your local economy, and small businesses tend to have a lower carbon footprint than big business. Go into your local stores. See what they have. Talk to local artists. Follow them on social media. Get inspired by the people around you, and you might find that there is so much more wonder in your community than you could have ever dreamed. Even shopping for plant based proteins (which impact the environment significantly less than animal protein) at the regular grocery store has lead to some interesting conversations with people that turned out to become the highlight of my day. Connect with people. Come together and talk about the climate crisis. Learn about their favorite sustainable tips or brands or second hand shops nearby.
- Developing A More Balanced Mindset: When we start caring about the planet, the animals, plants, and other people who inhabit it, it becomes easier to care a little more about our own health. You are worthy of a space that is comfortable. A space that is clean, and safe, and brings you peace. You are worthy of being taken care of. To take care of yourself is an act of rebellion in a time that values working past the point of exhaustion. The earth is a valuable, living, interconnected web of wonders. That web includes you too. You are wonderful. The act of slowing down to take care of the planet is a radical step, but one that will help you see that you are also worthy of radical love. Leaving an extra two minutes early to give the baristas at the coffee shop time to fill your refill cup with your favorite coffee is a seemingly small, but powerful act. You have defied the rush of the day to carve out time for yourself. You’ve saved money by getting a refill price. You’ve eliminated the waste of a cup. You’ve taken the time to balance your needs and your wants. Balance. Knowing that the smallest acts add up to a greater impact on the planet, especially when done collectively, is powerful knowledge. In the same vein, small acts of self-kindness add up too. Forgive yourself more. Take back your time. See that you are a part of this planet, and therefore also worth the time and energy to develop.
The planet is in dire need of attention. While massive systemic change will be necessary for long lasting improvements, the choices we as consumers make everyday influence the decisions those who have the power to make those decisions. No act of sustainability is too small. Every item that is reused, every single use plastic avoided, every meatless Monday makes a difference.
Not everyone can walk to work. Living in a more rural area, it would be impossible for me to walk anywhere that wasn’t for the sole purpose of going for a walk. There are people who do live in places where walking or public transit is a viable option, and they can include that as part of their sustainability practices. Some people cannot go entirely plant based due to other dietary restrictions, cultural reasons, or limited access to food. Many people can limit their meat consumption to once per day, or to a few times per week. It’s all about finding the right balance for you and your life. It’s about rejecting a society that tells you your worth is based on the stuff in your home. Your worth is not defined by how you look, what you wear, or where you are. You are defined by the love that is in your heart. By the actions you take everyday. By the words you speak and the wonder you create. You are enough, just as you are.
No matter where you’re at on your sustainability journey- whether just starting today, or a 50 year enthusiast- trying your best to be your best is what matters most. Your actions matter. You matter. Every choice impacts this planet, and your power to make a difference is beyond measure.
Be sure to check out our previous articles on Conscientious Consumerism for sustainability tips and tricks.
For plant-based recipes and sustainable-living hacks head over to Madeleine Olivia’s YouTube Channel, and pick up her book Minimal: How To Simplify Your Life And Live Sustainably, for a full guide on the life and planet changing power of minimalism.