One week, hectolitres of coffee and many sleepless nights later, we are on our way back to Lancaster. WBCSD in Mexico was a life-changing experience. We were lucky to meet many incredible people united in achieving a common goal – a better world. And while still processing all the information from the last few days, in today’s blog I will talk about a problem of consumption, or most precisely mass-consumption, and a possible solution.
The importance of taking responsibility for our actions and understanding that literally everything we do has an impact on the planet and the society was underlined many times during the conference. Acknowledging the fact of being a part of a consumptionist, “throw-away” society is one of them. The data regarding consumption are concerning. For example, the total domestic material consumption (amount of natural resources used in economic processes) increased from 48.7 billion tons in 2000 to 71 billion tons in 2010. We’re also reaching the limits of Earth’s natural resources. If we keep the current level of consumption we’ll need 4 Earths to sustain it. Over-consumption is a serious problem, closely linked to waste and exploitation of global resources.
Many people in the Western society are addicted to consumption. Some argue that it makes us happy, or that we buy in order to feel contentment, however, this feeling is fleeting and short-termed. When it’s gone we want to feel happy again, so we buy more, and the vicious cycle arises. We end up owning many things that not only add no value to our lives but also contribute to us spending too much money, and in some cases spending the money we don’t have.
Minimalism as a way of living and consuming less
The idea of minimalism was popularised by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus who call themselves The Minimalists. Unlike the common belief, minimalism isn’t about owning a certain amount of things, ditching the corporate job and living in a countryside. It’s about decluttering and finding happiness on the inside. And most importantly, it’s about ensuring that every single item one owns is adding value. The idea of being a minimalist corresponds closely to the problem of mass-consumption. By realizing that happiness and fulfillment have nothing to do with possessing and consumption, we will not contribute to the increasing number of people buying in excess.
Luckily minimalism is currently receiving more and more recognition, it’s shared extensively on social media. Hashtag #minimalism has almost 9 million photos on Instagram, there are many blogs on minimalism(1) and TED talks on minimalism have millions of views.
So how can we implement minimalism in our every-day lives? Ryan and Joshua worked out a 21 Day-by-Day Schedule towards a simpler life, websites like Zenhabits.net could be a good starting point as well.
The most I’ve ever learned about how little things matter was during a volunteering programme in rural areas of Thailand. One of the biggest problems those regions face is extreme poverty. We could think the local children don’t have much, but in fact, they have everything. They simply don’t possess much. They are joyful, happy, there wasn’t a moment when they weren’t smiling. They give a perfect example of what’s truly needed to be happy – family, love, and gratefulness, and we should remind ourselves of this every day.