What Do Zero Waste And Minimalism Have in Common?
There’s a debate that runs deep between the eco-friendly community, and those who are looking to live with less. It’s a debate that shows no signs of simmering down and only gains traction as more people join either side.
But there’s the hope of a resolution being found.
Why do I think this?
Because they both aim for peace, equilibrium, and betterment of themselves alongside the world.
“And who are you talking about?” you might be asking.
The zero waste and minimalism movements, of course!
Though not completely at odds these two lifestyles have some fundamental differences that have led to ongoing online debates.
I would wager that neither those interested in the zero waste or minimalist lifestyle ever imagined that they’d clash with one another. Their lifestyles seem to align perfectly, surely there would be no room for disagreements!
Well, you see, the problem is one fundamental difference: zero waste people have as much as they want as long as its sustainable, and minimalists only have as much as they need.
This may seem like no big deal, the zero waste lifestyle seems pretty minimalist as well, right?
You can be zero waste as long as you limit your purchases to that which is reusable and durable. Zero waste makeup and beauty products for example. Maybe even zero waste electronics or zero waste kitchen appliances.
As a zero waste person, you can even have a house packed to the brim full of toys, electronics, furniture, and paintings that you bought before becoming zero waste. Sure, it may require a lot of repurposing and recycling – but it’s possible.
Even just shopping second-hand can lead to a full house.
And that’s a minimalist’s nightmare.
A minimalist seeks a simple and ‘next-to-empty’ living place where they can clear their minds. The minimalist lifestyle is about unburdening yourself of your worldly possessions that could weigh you down and prevent you from reaching your inner zen.
To conclude, zero waste is environmentally conscious and minimalism is spiritually conscious.
Not entirely different …
However, they’re not completely mutually exclusive. You’ll find overlap between both sides and it’s not completely uncommon for someone to consider themselves both zero waste and minimalist at the same time!
Zero waste can even go hand-in-hand with minimalism. In fact, most people who join one, eventually join the other. There are simply too many similarities between both lifestyles, and benefits to be reaped from both sides.
How does this crossover happen? It’s simple – they are more similar than they are different. And they’re both fighting against the same thing in essence.
So, why not explore this point as we try to get to the bottom of this age-old schism?
However, before exploring this point, we should first take a look at the zero waste hierarchy which outlines the most central tenets of living a waste-free lifestyle.
The zero waste hierarchy
Here they are in order:
As we can see from the first two tenets, refuse and reduce, zero waste is fundamentally linked to minimalism. What’s more, is that almost everyone leading a zero waste lifestyle will follow these five central principles – especially those at the top.
And it works. You only have to read the zero waste blogs and watch the eco-friendly vlogs to see that there’s thousands, if not millions, of people living fulfilling lives by following these rules.
Interestingly, something you’ll often hear zero waste proponents claim is that their lifestyle helps them to be mindful, keeps them connected to the earth, and helps them to fight off anxiety or depression.
It seems that living a life of reduced consumption in a world that is prone to overconsumption can lead to inner-peace.
And do you know what minimalists claim minimalism does for them?
The. Exact. Same. Thing.
So, though the goals of both sides might be somewhat different, the result is the same. And obviously, there’s going to be some overlapping in goals and visions for the future. Especially when both sides are fighting for the noble causes of a more eco-friendly world and inner peace.
What exactly do they have in common?
So, instead of looking for differences among both lifestyles, I find it helps to look on the brighter side of things. The similar side.
That way, both sides will be able to understand and support each other and thus achieve their dreams all the faster.
Without further ado, it’s time to hop into what zero waste and minimalism have in common!
Buying higher-quality durable items so you don’t have to replace them and can own less.
Yes, I know I was just talking about how important it is to reduce your consumption but hear me out!
We all need to buy something every now and then. Even minimalists and waste-free fans. We simply can’t go through life without ever buying a single thing again (unless you like a challenge!)
Anyway, there comes a time when everyone has to pick something up off a shelf or comes face to face with a ‘buy now’ button.
But don’t fret, as many minimalists and waste-free proponents have discovered, there are better ways to do this.
How do they do it?
And I’m sure they’d both agree that the best thing to do is to wait it out. To think. To be patient while you weigh up your options.
You see, neither side is going to buy something that they don’t think will be worthwhile and necessary. And that means it must be long-lasting, high-quality, and useful.
And if this means buying a zero waste toothbrush or bamboo handbag, then so be it!
In fact, most people looking to live a reduced-clutter and waste-free lifestyle will go for products made out of strong and durable materials, just like bamboo or metal!
So, forget about plastics or weak fabrics. They’re the enemy of minimalists and zero-waste and they’ll gladly unite against them.
What’s more, you’ll find that companies selling high-quality products will very often a repair scheme. This means that they’ll fix the zipper on your winter coat or resole your shoes for free (or a slight fee.) And naturally, that means reduced waste.
Also, if a minimalist is only going to own a few things, they’re going to make sure those things are top-quality. And they usually do! Since they only buy what they need and deeply like, they very rarely need to throw anything out. They’re also much more likely to get things repaired or repurposed because not only does this save a pretty penny or two, it also allows them to keep the things they love.
And that’s important.
Why’s that important? Because it brings us on to the next point.
Minimalists and zero waste proponents value what they own.
They don’t part way with their possessions so easily, and especially not into the bin! They’d gladly see their stuff hanging up in a thrift store or second-hand shop before throwing it out.
And in a world where we tend to think of our bin as a first resort – this can seem quite strange.
However, to use what you have is one of the more sustainable and eco-friendly things you can do (not to mention budget-friendly!)
Making use of what’s already lying around the house unites minimalism and zero waste in their struggles. Not only does this drastically reduce waste production but it also means there’ll be less clutter around the house.
Both sides tend to get creative while looking for ways to repurpose day-to-day items lying around the house or items that have run their course.
Which leads me to my next point …
Less shopping in general
You’re not going to catch a minimalist happily skipping through shopping aisles and you’re not going to find a zero waste proponent there either.
So, where might you find them? Side by side in a zero waste shop where they can easily top up their glass jars or glass containers with coffee, food, spices, and sauces.
So, that’s just another trait they have in common – aversion to consumerism. They buy what they need while using as little as they need and thus produce barely any rubbish or clutter. Now if that isn’t a match made in heaven, I don’t know what is!
But if they really, really, REALLY have to … here’s what they might buy in place of those everyday items around the house.
It’s really bamboo galore these days in both communities. Finally coming onto the scene as one of the hardest, cheapest, and most readily available material around, bamboo refuses to be overlooked.
And it certainly makes itself useful since it can practically be used to make anything and everything you could ever want. Bamboo cutting boards, bamboo toothbrushes, bamboo utensils, and even bamboo pens! You can be sure none of these things will ever break on you or need to be thrown out.
And with the plastic straw debate currently looming large, the hollow and long shape of bamboo is being looked into as an alternative.
However, whereas zero waste makeup, deodorant, and zero waste laundry detergent are available, minimalists would rarely use these things, preferring a more natural approach to hygiene.
And if there’s one thing minimalist and zero waste proponents can agree on, it’s that one thing can have many uses.
You see, we’re so used to having one thing for everything we do, that we didn’t realize some things have multiple uses. One of these versatile items is the humble glass jar. Almost every household has at least one and with or without a lid, these jars can cover a lot of ground.
The best thing about a glass jar is that it can be easily cleaned and reused without much thought. Just think about it. Need a cool drink? Fill up your glass jar! Looking for an easy way to compost on the go? Bring your jar along with you.
Perhaps most familiar to people trying to live waste-free, is its use as a food, seed, or sauce container. You see, zero waste shops thrive off their customers bringing their own containers (usually glass mason jars) with them.
However, minimalists have also discovered the joy that is the simple glass jar. You see, it looks clean, simple, and there’s no clutter involved. It’s as cut and dry as anything could possibly be! Not to mention that it adds a touch of color to the simple and chic style that minimalists tend to enjoy.
So, we can easily forgive minimalists for having a towering mountain of glass jars in their homes, they’re for good use after all!
And what really ties both movements together?
Fight against overconsumption
If there’s anything that can bring people together, it’s something to fight against or a mutual dislike for something. And the zero waste movement and minimalism are joined at the hip when it comes to rallying against overconsumption.
And they have a good point, all over the world, we’re buying more than we need and throwing it away faster than it has to be. Of course, everything in this world has consequences, and overconsumption just happens to have terrible consequences for our planet.
Whether it’s food waste, plastics, cardboard, or electricals, they’re piling up in landfills all over the world and pollution our air with toxic methane gas. Our rubbish also has a pesky habit of finding its way into our water systems and oceans which isn’t good for anyone, especially not animals.
Animals bearing the brunt of our consumption habits may also be why there tends to be a disproportionate amount of animal lovers in both the minimalism community and the zero waste movement, but that’s a topic for another day!
Zero waste proponents and minimalists are doing something to change this travesty. In fact, they’re changing their whole lifestyles to be more eco-friendly, less wasteful, and sustainable.
Perhaps minimalists intend to declutter their living spaces while zero waste proponents look to live a completely waste-free life, either way, both significantly decrease their consumption levels.
Despite their many similarities, differences do arise.
Interestingly, zero waste, as much as it sounds like a simple and minimalistic term, does not necessarily mean owning zero things.
To live a fulfilling and fully-fledged zero waste life, you have to own some things that a minimalist wouldn’t be caught dead with.
Think of everything a zero waste lifestyle requires. Food storage, containers, jars, reusable bags. These items can easily seem a bit excessive to a minimalist.
Minimalism shifts focus away from material possessions and onto the more spiritual and deep aspects of life while zero waste is all about saving the environment.
And of course, what’s enough differs from person to person. We’re not all going to have the same standards for what we need and what we don’t need. While some people will just need a blanket and a toothbrush, others will need an awful lot more.
And no one should be shamed for this.
We have a right to live a comfortable and happy life, so whatever makes that happen is whatever you need. In fact, since it’s not all about simplicity, you can even go zero waste during your hectic college years!
There’s one thing they can agree on!
However, this is where zero waste and minimalism complement each other perfectly. By taking a leaf out of each other’s books and showing each other what we can and can’t live without.
It’s not exactly like setting a standard, more-so, that minimalism allows the zero waste movement to see where they’re going wrong and could be cutting back more.
While the zero waste movement gives minimalists the opportunity to review what they need and don’t need. For example, a minimalist might find owning a bag pointless but upon seeing what a zero waste proponent uses a biodegradable bag for, they might allow themselves to buy one.
All in the name of the environment.
Because some things are more important than having an empty house after all. And sometimes being zero waste doesn’t mean you should buy a whole bunch of zero waste products.
So, even in their differences, the zero waste and minimalism movements can still find some middle-ground.
And to conclude …
Perhaps you now have a better grasp of what sets these two worthwhile movements apart and what ties them together. As the world continues to grow more environmentally conscious and anti-consumerism by the day. I think it’s safe to say that we could easily see a merging of these two movements in the future. Both sides offer their own points and principles that are to be respected. However, it can’t be denied that there’s very little that separates both sides.
So, why not find out which side suits you best today, or better yet, why not take the leap and consider both! There are incredible benefits to joining both the zero waste and minimalism movement – for you and for the world. All that’s left to do is a bit more research and to find out how to get started. Why not check out other articles I have written that delve into what zero waste is, and how to get started in a zero-waste lifestyle!