The main focus around the collective minimalism movement has been on the benefits that it can bring the individual. A clearer outlook, stronger relationships, and greater freedom both financially and mentally. Undoubtedly, these are welcome consequences of buying fewer things, however I believe that the environmental benefits are being overlooked.
In order for climate change to be slowed enough to prevent the cataclysmic consequences, lifestyles need to be changed in developed countries. Simply switching to a low energy light bulb and turning the tap off while you brush your teeth isn’t going to cut it. Drastic changes need to be made in how we conduct our everyday lives.
Take for example, the fact that when measuring their carbon footprint, Apple estimate that only 17% is taken up by product usage, with 77% being made up of manufacturing. The lesson that should be taken from this is that if you want to minimize your personal carbon footprint, the key is not to use your electronic devices less, but just buy fewer of them.
This same principle can be applied to most products you buy, which have most likely been shipped from half way across the world, meaning that whilst the clothes you buy every other week from H&M don’t emit carbon dioxide directly, indirectly your purchasing them is damaging the environment.
If further evidence is needed, take the greenhouse gases that are emitted by a transatlantic flight. According to research from Environmental Research Letters, avoiding one roundtrip transatlantic flight reduces your emissions by a greater amount than switching to an electric car and recycling combined.
To simplify, buying more things, with some exceptions (i.e. solar panels) will mean you are increasing your carbon footprint. Minimalism encourages buying less and being less compelled by the consumer culture that surrounds us. Therefore, even if it is not the main objective, minimalism helps to reduce our impact on the environment, and I believe this is an idea that should be further emphasized in the discussion of minimalism.