20 Minimalist and 20 Sustainable Resolutions for an Eco-Minimal 2020

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It’s New Years so that means resolutions!

I know that New Year’s resolutions get a bad rep, but I really love that we have a time of year that people are culturally encouraged to self develop. Sure, a lot of people won’t actually accomplish their resolutions but that isn’t the holidays fault.

For those of you looking to make some sustainable or minimalist changes in your life I wanted to provide some inspiration and ideas. Many of these resolutions are small goals because I wanted to highlight how little actions and changes can add up to big impacts.

Especially around New Years we’re usually feeling inspired and tend to set a lot of really lofty goals. However, thinking too big will lead to disappointment when we aren’t able to achieve what we hoped to and actually hamper our ability to make long term changes. Thus it’s better to make small changes over the course of time.

Therefore this list features primarily smaller goals with the intent that different “resolutions” from these lists can be built on top of one another over the course of time. So, without further ado here are my ideas for New Year’s resolutions to become more eco-minimal in 2020.

Minimalism

  1. Get rid of one item from your home each day in January.
  2. Declutter one new area of your home each week until you’ve decluttered the whole house.
  3. Unfollow/Unfriend social media accounts that don’t add value to your life.
  4. Start listening to minimalist podcasts and audio books.
  5. Learn to say no to things.
  6. Try a capsule wardrobe.
  7. Have a packing party.
  8. Don’t pick up or accept free swag or t-shirts from events and activities that you won’t use.
  9. Create a Level 10 Life journal spread to help evaluate your values and goals, use this spread to establish goals that are meaningful to you.
  10. Create a morning routine that will help to ground and center you.
  11. Tell your friends and family that you no longer want to receive physical gifts for special occasions.
  12. Live out of the dry goods in your pantry for as long as possible. You may be surprised how many unused and forgotten foods have accumulated.
  13. End a toxic relationship in your life.
  14. Start a daily journaling or mood tracking practice.
  15. Learn to meditate. (For skeptics just know that there are many forms of meditation! It doesn’t have to be just sitting criss-cross on the floor quietly.)
  16. Institute a “one out one in” policy for items in your home. Especially if there is a type of item you tend to accumulate like purses or shoes.
  17. Calculate your average spending for the previous year and try to reduce it by 10%.
  18. Start that passion project you’ve been longing to do. Whether it’s writing a novel or starting a business consider this your sign from the universe to go for it!
  19.  Experiment with minimalist eating. It doesn’t mean cutting calories, but simplifying your eating habits as well as the foods themselves (i.e. less processing and more routines).
  20. Clear one wall in each room of your home of any and all decorations. 

Sustainability

  1. Start carrying your own silverware to reduce single use plastics.
  2. Bring your own to-go beverage cup to coffee shops.
  3. Give up plastic bags and start carrying reusable produce and grocery bags for shopping.
  4. Try bulk shopping (even if your local shops don’t allow BYO containers you can always reuse the plastic bags they have available).
  5. Commit to always searching for an item second hand before you buy new.
  6. Create a “zero waste kit” for your bag that has reusable napkins, silverware, cups, and tupperware so that you’re never unprepared.
  7. Start shopping at the farmer’s market. (If your farmer’s market has limited selection or is too expensive try just buying one item a week there, anything helps!)
  8. When you need to replace your beauty and personal care products replace them only with natural/eco-friendly versions.
  9. Try doing a no-buy week or month.
  10. Participate in Veganuary.
  11. Cut animal products from your diet. It doesn’t have to be a lot! Try just doing Meatless Mondays and you can work your way up from there.
  12. Purchase carbon offsets to counterbalance your carbon footprint.
  13. Try to reduce driving miles. This can look a lot of ways like doing as many errands in one trip as possible, carpooling, or using alternative forms of transportation.
  14. Write and sign a “Sustainable Commitment” that shows all the sustainable changes you want to make this year. Hang it somewhere prominently in your home and check items off as you accomplish things.
  15. Participate in the Fridays for the Future Climate Strike movement.
  16. Organize Terracycle drives at your school or work.
  17. Start buying locally made foods and goods.
  18. Reduce packaging waste by preferencing goods with the most minimal packaging possible. For example, buying yogurt in large tubs rather than single serve containers.
  19. Call your senators! Write to your local representatives and let them know that you are concerned about climate change.
  20. Learn to sew so that your are able to mend your clothes and extend their life cycles.

Well there she is, 40 ideas both big and small to make your 2020 more eco-minimal. Now your friends can no longer say they have “no idea” what to do about global warming.

My personal resolutions are to grow this blog (announcements coming soon), institute a mindful morning routine, reduce my consumption of processed foods, and put a zero-waste kit in my bag.

I hope these ideas have inspired you and I’d love to hear what your New Year’s resolutions are in the comments below!

Eco-Minmalism vs. Minimalism: What’s the difference?

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Eco-minimalism is a rather new term that’s been popping up more and more online lately. But what exactly is the difference between minimalism and eco-minimalism? Isn’t minimalism already eco-friendly? Why does this new term even exist?

Well fear not, I ,your friendly neighborhood eco-minimalist, am here to help. The term was coined by late architect Howard Liddell around 2000, it was originally used in the discussion of green construction projects to make builders more carefully consider the impacts of the building process, not just creating flashy environmental features.

Though when the word started being used as a lifestyle term is a bit harder to pin down, and by my personal observation it seems to have quite suddenly exploded. I’d never heard the term last October when I began exploring minimalism and environmentalism, and despite hardly changing who I’ve been following online I’m suddenly seeing the word everywhere used by creators who had been living the principles without calling it eco-minimalism previously.

Alright, with that brief history out of the way, what does eco-minimalism actually mean? In short it describes someone who strives to live a life style that is both eco-friendly and minimalistic. Because environmentalism and minimalism have principles that are easily aligned many people interested in one are attracted to the other.

Those initially attracted to environmentalism will learn that consuming fewer things is one of the best ways to reduce their footprint and those initially attracted to minimalism usually begin by wanting to minimize their belongings and then become interested in minimizing their footprints as well.

However, there are some instances in which minimalist and environmental principles can clash, and that is where the term eco-minimalism comes in.

Let me give you a common example to explain what I mean. Say you are decluttering your pens, you realize you have more than you need and want to get rid of some. A minimalist will keep only the number of pens they feel they need and say sayonara to the rest, they’re likely to throw out, donate or give away the rest.

What might an eco-minimalist do differently? The most environmentally friendly thing a person can do is use up everything they already have before getting rid of it, and an eco-minimalist is more likely to keep the pens. Why?  Donating supplies is admirable but donated items are often not used or resold and will end up in the landfill unused anyway unless given to specialized programs. The pens could be given away to friends or family but unless those people are environmentalists too they likely also have way too many pens and won’t use them. So the best way for our eco-minimalist friend to avoid these pens being sent to landfill without being wasted is to keep them.

This is the most environmentally friendly choice but not the most minimal.

Another example from my personal life. Bobby pins. I currently have a bob length haircut and plan to keep my hair this length for the next year or so. At this length I just don’t have any use for bobby pins and won’t need them anytime soon. But, when my hair was long I utilized bobby pins pretty frequently.

Should I get rid of the pins? Someone focused only on minimalism would say yes, as an eco-minimalist I say no. Sure, I won’t need them soon but I will definitely grow my hair out again in my lifetime and therefore it is worth it to me to keep the bobby pins to avoid impacting the planet in buying new pins a few years from now.

Now of course there are some complications to this. Because minimalism is often defined as striving to do only the things that add the most value to your life, if being eco-friendly is valuable to you than eco-minimalism is minimalism. No new term needed. However, I think it is still important to add this new terminology to our collective vocabulary and explore the differences.

Focusing only on minimalism is just going to look a little different than striving for both lifestyles. An eco-minimalist will probably own more, especially the first few years of their journey because they’ll be working through a backlog of whatever it is they might have previously been stockpiling if they aren’t able to get rid of it sustainably. Whether it be pens or bobby pins or anything else.

Now, if before you began your eco-minimalism journey you never fell into the trap of buying months or even years worth of a good by accident, congrats! That’s awesome!

But for most of us that is not not the case, several eco-minimalists online including Shelbizlee and Heal Your Living on youtube talk about being shopaholics prior to beginning their current lifestyles. And even if you weren’t a shopaholic, you likely just went along with consumer culture like myself and ended up with way more pens than you ever needed.

So, why is this important to talk about? Because you can definitely be an environmentalist and clutter your house with second hand goods or dumpster dive treasures. You can be a minimalist and be wasteful by getting rid of all your stuff to buy a whole bunch of new things in fulfilling a “minimal” aesthetic.

It’s important to acknowledge that while minimalism and environmentalism attract similar people the lifestyles can still clash. Acknowledging that fact makes it easier to reconcile the differences between minimalism and environmentalism; reduce the pressure people often feel to get rid of something when it’s more environmentally sound to keep it, and stay focused on the true values of the movement.

Which I believe benefits both people and planet.

Are you an eco-minimalist? Leave a comment and share a story about a time your minimalism and environmental goals have clashed.