Green minimalism

Till now man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature.  ~Dennis Gabor, Inventing the Future, 1964

Our culture is one of consumption and wanting and never having enough.

As minimalists, we reduce wholeheartedly, ridding ourselves of the excess in our lives and striving to live simply, without the burdens of needing to need.  We eliminate incoming junk mail, we ask our family and friends not to buy gifts, we turn down freebies at the mall, and we make conscious decisions about what items deserve a space in our lives.

Minimalist does not necessarily mean green, sustainable, or environmentally-conscious, however.

Even with the simplest of living situations, you can run up a mean carbon footprint tab if you eat convenience foods over fresh, travel by plane, commute long distances by car (guilty over here!), throw away recyclables, buy imported items, etc.  It is very easy to live a life that is not conscious of the Earth and our responsibility as its stewards.

Some ways you can green up your minimalist life include:

REDUCE:

  • Reduce your consumption of prepackaged foods and fast food
  • Reduce fuel consumption and emissions and bike or walk around town instead of driving
  • Reduce emissions by traveling via train (the most eco-friendly distance travel) instead of car, bus, or plane (or purchase carbon offsets if you do travel by car, bus, or plane)
  • Reduce fuel and emissions (again!) by buying local produce, dairy, and meat – imported food means more carbon emissions to get it there
  • Reduce electricity consumption by turning off lights, using energy-conserving appliances, etc.
  • Reduce water consumption by taking shorter showers, turning off the water when you brush your teeth, etc.

REUSE:

  • Use a reusable cup to take to your coffee shop (just ask, many places are okay using your cup to make your beverage) — this reduces waste for you and the planet!
  • Use reusable canvas grocery bags
  • Reuse plastic grocery bags as trash bags in your home or as animal waste bags, or use them to wrap up your shoes in a suitcase to keep dirt off the rest of your clothes
  • Use reusable containers instead of disposable bags for snacks and sandwiches when  you pack your lunch

RECYCLE:

  • Recycle whenever possible (paper, plastic, metal, glass)
  • Recycle electronics, batteries, printer ink, and other technological items
  • Recycle (or reuse) plastic grocery bags

Are you a green minimalist?  How do you curb your impact on the planet?

Some thoughts on food

As we minimize the clutter in our spaces and minds, shouldn’t we also minimize the clutter in our food?

I’m pretty much over eating anything I can’t pronounce.

I had heard about these “GMOs” that have had people up in arms in recent months and years, but only recently have I done more digging and come up with the conclusion that I’d like to lead an organic lifestyle.  Genetically modified foods and pesticides on conventional produce terrify me.  It may be more expensive to buy some foods organically but for me personally, the peace of mind that I’m not eating a vegetable with pesticides written into its DNA is worth it.

On that note, apparently 86% of corn in the US is genetically modified (as of 2010. Forgive me for citing Wikipedia).  Yikes! Corn is in so much of the food we eat, and we don’t even think about it.  Canola and soy are also huge GM crops, and they are also in basically everything.  I can’t even imagine having a corn or soy allergy, but more and more people do as GMOs become more prevalent.

I will be instilling some minimalist virtues into my new eating habits.

  1. One in, one out – Technically this one is going to be reversed.  As I finish a non-organic/GMO/non-pronounceable food item in my kitchen, it will be replaced with a whole-food, organic/non-GMO alternative.
  2. No clutter – Buying fresh produce means less packaging, and it also means I can’t stock up on things because they will expire faster when they’re not full of preservatives.  I will only buy what I plan to eat in the next week or so.
  3. Quality over quantity – I will be paying more for a healthy food option over spending the same amount on several unhealthy food items.  Junk doesn’t have a place in my kitchen or my stomach anymore!

I’m already nearly vegan, so this is just one more way to make my friends and family dread entertaining with me!  Sorry, family. I love you very much.

A perk to this new plan of mine is that I’m seriously turned off by junk food.  If I don’t know what’s in it, I am very wary.  I am not perfect, however, and succumbed to the will of a doughnut in a work meeting recently.  For shame.

One issue I foresee is that of eating out at restaurants.  I’m not sure how I will handle that, besides not eating out at all.  Who knows what they put in their food?  I know Chipotle Mexican Grill sources organic and local ingredients when they can but I am not sure about other restaurants.  There’s probably corn and soy products all over the place!   If anyone has a good source for finding restaurants that use local/organic ingredients let me know in the comments.

Do you follow a particular diet?

Also, here’s a great source for more info on GMOs: http://www.nongmoproject.org/

Current events: Car free with six kids

I’m signed up for regular email updates from Care2.com, and this post came with a recent email blast, containing a brief story about Emily Finch, a mother of six who does not own a car and instead transports her family via bicycle.

Around the summer of 2009…Emily said, “I started looking at my life… I was living in a giant house and had a nine-person Suburban. I remember thinking, there’s no reason I can’t walk or bike around town. “I was really depressed before,” she shared, “But I was so happy after I got the bike. I just loved it.”

I find this incredible!  For the foreseeable future, there is no way I could get along without my car.  I commute 30 miles to work and 30 miles home five days a week.  My mom lives 25 miles from me.  I visit my sister who lives 85 miles away.

I could cut back around town — I do drive to the grocery store, and sometimes on date nights we just drive around and look at scenery and explore new areas.  We could take a walk instead.  I could probably bike to the store and back if I really tried.  My boss lives close to me so, in theory, we could carpool to work a couple days a week.

At least if I am driving, I have a small, fuel-efficient car.  It’s no hybrid, but it gets about 36 miles per gallon, and it’s a “Low Emissions Vehicle” and is not the most guilty of cars on the road (I see you, Hummer drivers, I see you).

How do you cut back on car use? Do you even have a car?  What do you think of Ms. Finch, who takes her kids around town on a giant bike?