With concepts of sustainability and minimalism both on the rise in popularity, it’s a bit of a surprise that the direct relationship between the two isn’t discussed more often. After all, these two incredibly mindful practices go hand-in-hand.
When we talk about sustainability, we often approach it solely from the perspective of tangible things. From recyclable and biodegradable to non-GMO products, we focus in on swapping out what we already use with better alternatives. And while this is a major aspect, at the core of sustainability is the actual act of using less.
I’ve been practicing my own version of sustainable minimalism for years. I prefer fewer, quality items that I can use for longer periods of time. I don’t buy new things just for the sake of it. In fact, owning useless items gives me stress. I won’t even purchase a new shampoo or face cream until I’ve used up the one I have. My wardrobe is made up of classic, quality pieces that can withstand fleeting trends. And if I love something, I will wear it for years and years. I’ve found this brings an added value to everything I own. To me, holding on to an item that I don’t use is like holding on to a part of my history that no longer serves me. The things we own are a direct reflection of our lives, so in that sense, carefully curating what we own is akin to curating our lives.
As a result, I don’t have to spend a lot of my time or energy on my things. I can get ready faster. I can find what I need more quickly. I can focus more. And while I may spend more on a particular item, I spend less often – which means in the long run, I spend less time and money overall.
To me, sustainability isn’t just about the earth – it’s also about quality of life. Our energy and time are some of the most valuable assets we have, so how do we preserve them? And why is it that these are quite often the things we waste most quickly and more flippantly than anything else? In this sense, sustainability in the form of minimalism can actually be seen as self-care.
I think I really got this message when I visited Japan and could literally feel how a more minimalistic environment boosted my energy and sense of well-being. I was able to think more clearly, I felt more positive and I was able to focus in on what really mattered. Ever since that trip, I’ve carried that message with me, incorporating its practice into my own life.
To take it a step further, the concept of sustainable minimalism can really be applied to any aspect of our lives. In a world where accessibility to people is constantly increasing, making ourselves and our lives sustainable is key for survival. From relationships or social obligations that drain energy, to mindless habits like scrolling on our phone, it is up to us to clear and protect our minds from clutter.
And in a way, sustainable minimalism is the way of the future – and I’m excited to see it transpire. Sustainable cities, developed with the idea that needs of the present should not sacrifice the needs of future generations, are on the rise. Digital books hold a strong percentage of all book sales. Electric cars are becoming the norm. The transparency of how products are made and an emphasis on longevity are becoming more compelling marketing tools than anything else.
The introduction of time and energy-saving services is a key indicator that society as a whole is starting to see them as more valuable assets. After all, if we had more of these, what would we do with them? Personally, I like to think that we’d have the capacity and drive to contribute more to the world around us. And I think that’s where we’re headed.
From Harper's BAZAAR Arabia's December 2019 issue