Last week, I noticed that my social media feed was filled with friends, family and acquaintances recommending the film Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. Upon hearing the title, I was instantly intrigued and quickly added it to my Netflix queue to watch over the weekend.
The film follows the story of several individuals who found that despite their comfortable lifestyles – complete with high-paying careers and abundance of possessions – they found themselves unfulfilled. Although they were living the quintessential American Dream, something was missing. But what was it?
Pursuing an excess of things can leave one feeling stressed, drained and unsatisfied, the documentary claims. According to Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, creators of Minimalism, adopting a minimalist lifestyle can combat the feeling of burnout and "rid yourself of life's excess in favor of focusing on what's important." In short, minimalism can contribute to overall happiness.
After watching the film, I realized that adopting a minimalist lifestyle could also help reduce my carbon footprint. While I'm not ready to sell everything I own, build a tiny home or attempt to live with less than 100 things, I'm challenging myself to intentionally cut back in various areas, starting with these four simple actions.
1. Eat fewer animal products.
Here's a startling statistic: According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock industry – responsible for the production of milk, meat and eggs – accounts for one-fifth of the world's total human-made greenhouse gas emissions, polluting the environment more than transportation. Not good news for meat-eaters. In contrast, the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture is significantly less – the carbon footprint left by vegetarians and vegans is nearly half of that of a carnivore.
2. Shop local.
Instead of heading to my neighborhood chain grocery store when I need to stock my fridge, I'm considering an alternative, eco-friendly option: Shopping at my local farmers market. Why? Food that stays in the community produces less carbon emissions than food that is grown or raised elsewhere, packaged and shipped to the supermarket. Plus, buying directly from a local farmer is generally less expensive, which is a win for both the environment and my wallet.
3. Drive less.
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reported that the transportation sector produces one-third of the United States' total human-made greenhouse gas emissions, with private road vehicles being one of the largest contributors. To help cut my part of the carbon footprint, I plan to use public transportation when available, which can save up to 4,800 pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere per year. But the environment isn't the only thing I'll be saving. According to the APTA, the average household can save around $6,251 per year by using public transportation rather than driving the family car.
4. Be conscious of waste.
Did you know that the average American produces more than four pounds of waste each day? I didn't, until now. Over time, this adds up in the landfill – especially if the trash isn't biodegradable. Plus, according to the World Resources Institute, roughly one-third of all food produced annually is either lost or thrown away. To combat this, I plan to make an effort to purchase only what I need or will use within a week to avoid producing excess waste. Plus, when I shop, I'll look for items packaged in eco-friendly containers that can be easily recycled rather than plastic.