April 20, 2011

LESS is So Much MORE

"It seems that if you have little in life, you have little to worry about. If you have much, it seems you have much to lose" - 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama.

With Earth week, much emphasis is put on "Recycling" and "Reusing".

Yet, I believe that "Reducing" is an immediate aid to our environmental crisis. I believe that "Reducing" what we cannot "Refuse", has had the biggest impact (and is our "most potent secret ingredient") on our family's journey towards Zero Waste.

Some readers have mentioned that our voluntary simplicity might be off-putting to those interested in Zero Waste. I rather tend to believe that pretending to lead a Zero Waste lifestyle without "Reducing" would be hypocritical. Wouldn't it ignore the core issues of our waste problem? Wouldn't it ignore the depletion of our resources for the unnecessary items created? Wouldn't it ignore the true future of Zero Waste based on quality vs. quantity? Not to mention that living with more would make the logistics of Zero Waste unmanageable and way more complicated than it needs to be. No, I do not think that our minimalism is scaring people away, quite the contrary. I think it has made Zero Waste appealing to most.

It might take some thinking ahead, some thoughtfulness, but the advantages of "Reducing" are worth it.

Not convinced yet? Here are 8 reasons to "Reduce" (examples are based on what our household cannot "Refuse" or completely eliminate):

- Reducing your meat consumption means lowering your carbon footprint, and making composting logistics easier.

- Reducing your car usage, means biking or walking more, getting reconnected with the outdoors, getting exercise and vitamin D, lowering stress, living healthier, lowering medical bills and car trips to the doctor- and also means less car maintenance and repairs, less gas, less dependence on oil, less war (hopefully) and lower gas prices. Less shopping trips also mean less temptation to spend and fill your house with clutter.

- Reducing your home size, (very involved) means reduced utility usage (water, gas, electric), maintenance fees, cleaning time, and furnishings needed to fill rooms.

- Reducing clutter (toys, knick-knacks, clothes, holiday decorations, furniture, kitchen utensils, sports equipment, etc.), means not having to organize/store/dust/clean/repair or dispose of the products not purchased.

- Reducing heirlooms, means reduced heirloom guilt related to storing or passing down such items - and reduced heirloom guilt passed on to your kids.

- Reducing your home cleaning products and toiletries, means more room under the sink, and no worrying about the toxicity or recyclability of the products not purchased.

- Reducing technology, means less frustration from the lack of technical support, less time spent researching fixes, less technology to update, upgrade, keep current or dispose of, and less toxic e-waste created. It also means spending more time outside (hopefully) and caring for the real world.

- Reducing paper load and photos, means less to print, recycle, waste (photo paper) or download, but also less to sort thru, organize, send or store, leading to savings on ink, paper, memory, storage, energy.

- Reducing magazine reading, means eliminating images that make you feel like you don't have the right stuff, and ultimately means feeling content with what you have and what you are.

- Reducing your home projects or hobbies, means letting go of unfinished projects, allowing more time to focus on your passions and aspirations.

"Reducing" makes sense beyond the obvious environmental (what you don’t have, won’t eventually go to waste), health (what you don't have, won't harm you), financial (what you don’t have, won’t cost you), and organizational (what you don't have, won’t need organizing) reasons. Above all, "Reducing" means leading richer lives, with more time doing the things you truly enjoy, and with more time spent with the people you truly care about. But it also means increased creativity and thoughtfulness. Priceless commodities when trying to save the world;)

I enjoy and benefit from this lifestyle - every second of it. I have come to realize that stuff takes us away from our roots, from the outdoors. It's only by being in the outdoors that we can truly care about the environment. With more time to spend outside, I no longer take Earth for granted.

Over the next few weeks, I will go in depth about reducing in different areas of the home as I do with my clients. It is no coincidence that Earth Week lands in the spring. Are you in the mood for some spring-cleaning?