Recommended Reading: The Great Disruption

I feel so lucky when I read a book that truly strikes a chord with me. Books have the ability to move me and motivate me to continue to live life the way that I do. The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring on the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World by Paul Gilding is one of these books.

When my life began changing due to what I was eating, I never imagined how my views of the planet would change as well. I always recycled and hated litter but other than that I was never passionate about environmental issues. What I soon discovered after becoming vegan, however, was that the earth plays a huge part in the process of our lives, perhaps the biggest part, because where would we be without the planet?

Most of us understand the ways in which we humans have been causing destruction to the earth, yet many of us don’t know the extent of the damage or what we can do to stop it. As Gilding states in The Great Disruption, “there are limits to the earth’s ability to cope with our abuse…we can be proactive and begin making changes today or we can wait until we are forced to make changes – those are our only options.”

Format I Read: Audiobook

The Good

The Great Disruption is one of the first environmental books that I have listened to or read. With that said, I was expecting to hear about all of the ways the earth is slowly perishing, which the book does provide. To my surprise, however, the main crux of book is its theory that environmental problems are the result of the world’s addiction to economic growth. Gilding states that the original purposes of economic growth were to encourage and assist individuals out of poverty. However, this origin has been forgotten by many and today economic growth is almost like a drug for many, using and abusing the earth’s resources at unsustainable rates to maintain growth.

Gilding had predicted the 2008 recession well before it happened and as you may have guessed, many were skeptical of his prediction. Gilding is an environmentalist and after realizing that he did not connect to people much when he simply laid out environmental issues, he discovered that when he could relate these issues to money or the economy people became more interested. This is one of the reasons why The Great Disruption is so intriguing.

The book goes into great detail on how in order to save the planet our entire market and economical system will need to be completely revamped. Money and growth will no longer be the goals of businesses. Sustainability and preservation of our resources will be the new models of business. Gilding makes powerful arguments that our need to react will be the same as the need we feel when called to war or a natural disaster. He also remains notably hopeful and optimistic that the world will rise to the occasion and do what needs to be done in order to save the planet and ultimately civilization.

The Not So Good

My only warning regarding this book is that if you are already a skeptic on environmental issues, you will likely find Gilding’s arguments extreme or unbelievable.

The book is written from a scientific perspective, which my mind does not always comprehend well. If you are the same way, some of the information may go over your head a bit like it did mine, however you still understand the book’s purpose.  Gilding also sites a ton of studies and references which make it hard to keep track of. If you have an academic mind you will likely enjoy this book very much.

Conclusion

I strongly agree with Gilding’s conclusion that it is inevitable that humankind will need to make great changes in order to preserve our planet and our livelihoods. Certain animal species have already gone extinct or close to extinction because of human actions to the earth. We can’t expect to be invincible to the damage we are creating.

If you agree with this conclusion in even the smallest of degrees I would highly recommend you read The Great Disruption. It will provide you with a multitude of evidence and resources that will confirm that we can no longer sit back and wait for others to solve these environmental problems. We must be a part of the solution.

Composting and Food Waste

Image source: Scarce.org

Many big cities like San Francisco have made recycling food and compostable waste much easier by providing curbside pickup on a weekly basis. I lived in San Francisco when the concept of composting was introduced to residents. Not only was I a resident, but I was also an intern at the marketing company that was in charge of the campaign to encourage San Francisco residents to compost.

When I first watched this video that the company produced, I had never even heard of composting before. The concept seemed so foreign to me. Collecting food waste and other compostable household items separately seemed like a lot of work. However, similar to recycling, once I started separating my compost from my trash it became second nature, made so much sense, and kept the trash bin so much lighter.

When we moved to Minnesota there was no curbside compost pickup. We were not provided with a compost bin like we were in San Francisco. We also do not have a garbage disposal here, therefore all of our food waste was going into the trash. This not only started weighing on my conscious, but also began showing in the amount of trash that had to be taken out on an almost daily basis. After we settled in, I knew there had to be a better way to deal with food waste.

Organics Recycling For Residents

When I was ready to tackle my food waste issue in Minnesota I turned to my good friend Google. After jumping from page to page I soon discovered that curbside pickup is actually available to some cities in my county, however you have to be proactive and set it up. Unfortunately my city was not on the list for curbside collection.

Luckily I had other options. The first was a choice to purchase a build-it-yourself compost box from the county and compost in the backyard. With winter on its way I did not feel comfortable with this option at the time. The other option was to collect my compost in biodegradable bags and drop off the bags myself at a local drop-off site. This latter option became the most feasible for us.

Once I was ready to begin composting I purchased a small 3-gallon trash container and biodegradable compost bags. Everytime we have food waste it gets thrown in this separate container. The great thing about organics recycling is that it goes beyond food. You can throw in paper napkins, cotton swabs (as long as they don’t contain plastic), hair and nail clippings. Once a bag is full we tie it up and leave it in a box in our porch area until we’re ready to make the drop off.

Collecting compost and dropping it off ourselves may seem like it takes a lot of effort but it really doesn’t. The main reason it works for us is that we schedule our drop offs around our errands and outings so that it doesn’t seem like an extra trip. Composting has also reduced our trash greatly. Our garbage container couldn’t even fully close when we first moved to Minnesota. Now we throw out at most two tall kitchen sized trash bags a week which we are working to reduce even further.

I truly believe it is only a matter of time before composting becomes a regular part of everyone’s daily lives, similar to recycling. Therefore, if you have ever considered composting, there is no better time to start. With the weather warming up and more opportunities to be out and about, you can easily fit composting around your regular daily activities and it does not have to feel like an added chore.

Other Ways to Use Food Waste

In addition to composting, I have recently discovered other ways to use food waste before composting. This gives my food additional life before being discarded forever. One of my favorite things to do with vegetable food scraps is to freeze them, and after I have collected a good amount, I use them to make my own vegetable stock. To do this I dump the scraps into a big stockpot, add some extra onions and garlic, fill up the pot with water and let it boil and simmer it for at least three hours.

My homemade stock is the best that I have ever had and it’s basically free. I used to buy two cartons of vegetable stock on a weekly basis. After a while this can add up not only money-wise but packaging-wise as well. Now I give additional life to vegetables that would have otherwise been thrown away and I save money. No vegetable is off limits when it comes to being included in my stock. I have used everything from bell pepper scraps to broccoli stalks.

Recently I have started to drink green smoothies and will throw in vegetable scraps if it makes sense with the flavor combination. For instance cilantro ends work great in a green mango smoothie. We usually also just compost the pulp from our juicer, but I now plan to save the pulp and throw it into my smoothies as well. Additionally, vegetable pancakes and veggie “meatballs” are on the to-try list with juice pulp in the future.

Composting Resources for Minnesota Residents

As you can see, there are so many ways you can use and discard food waste while decreasing the amount of garbage from going into landfills. These alternative methods – reusing and composting – take little effort and will make a world of a difference in the long run. Teach your children now that food does not belong in the trash.

If you’re a Minnesota resident living in Hennepin county you can learn more about organics recycling here. For Ramsey county residents your compost recycling information is located here. If you live outside of these two counties, or outside of Minnesota, you should be able to do a simple Google search on organics recycling in your county or state to find out what your options are.

If you are curious about everything that can be composted and additional tips on how to compost this residential recycling guide is a great resource.

To learn more about the zero waste movement in Minnesota and how you can get involved, Eureka Recycling is probably your best resource.

The Ins and Outs of Shopping Bulk Food

Image from Seward Community Co-op

Although Earth Day has passed, my view on the celebration is the same as my view of Valentine’s Day. The holidays themselves are great gestures to remind us to cherish those we love and to appreciate the planet we live on. However, if we incorporate this type of gratitude into our daily lives, we will build stronger relationships with loved ones and make a bigger impact on the planet. This would relieve us from going all out for just one day. With that said, although the celebration of Earth Day is over, I continue to strive to live a more eco-friendly and environmentally conscious life.

One way that I do this is by reducing both food and packaging waste by buying food in bulk. When I say the word bulk I don’t mean buying a whole box of granola bars or a gallon of candy from Sam’s Club or Costco. Bulk food is a completely different concept from warehouse shopping. Buying bulk food provides the consumer with an array of options, flexibility and the freshest ingredients.

What Is Bulk Food?

I discovered and started shopping bulk almost two years ago when Sprouts Farmers Market opened in the Bay Area. I love Sprouts and have had many moments of Sprouts withdrawal since I moved back to Minnesota. Sprouts is literally one of the things that I miss most about San Francisco. I have yet to find a bigger selection of bulk food than what is carried at Sprouts.

Bulk food is package free food that is stored in bins or containers. Providing food in this manner allows me to fill up the provided plastic bag or my own containers with as much or as little food as needed. Shopping in bulk has helped me to personalize my grocery experience and try new food that I may not have otherwise tried if I had to buy them in pre-packaged sizes.

The bulk food bins are continuously refilled as the food runs out. This means that if you are purchasing popular items that are refilled often, you are getting the freshest stash of those particular foods. Buying these bulk items really beats purchasing their pre-packaged counterparts which are usually filled with preservatives and can end up sitting on grocery shelves for months on end.

How To Shop Bulk

If you have never purchased bulk food before the concept can seem a bit overwhelming. Once you get the hang of it however, in my opinion it is the best way to shop and every grocery store should be made up of mostly bulk food and fresh produce. For your first bulk food trip I would suggest going during a time when the store is not busy. I personally always do my grocery shopping in the early mornings shortly after the store has opened and few people are around. Shopping during slow hours will allow you to take your time to browse the different bulk food options available and not feel rushed to decide and fill up your bags or containers as quickly as possible.

This month I have started bringing my own containers to shop bulk in order to reduce the amount of plastic bags, tags and stickers used. Bringing your own containers can make the process of bulk shopping even more intimidating because it adds an extra step. Therefore, if you are just starting out I would recommend using the provided bags. Once you’ve become comfortable with the bulk shopping experience you can take your efforts further by bringing your own containers.

If you’re a natural maven however and don’t want to wait to bring your own containers I applaud you. In this case, you will have to weigh your empty containers and write down the weight of each before filling them up. The weight of your empty container is called the “tare weight”. You will need to provide the cashier with the tare weight of each container. The cashier will then subtract the tare weight from the total weight with food to get the correct amount to charge.

To shop in bulk you simply take the provided scoop and fill your bag or container with as much or as little of each food item desired. Each item must be in its own bag or container. In addition to scoops, some stores also provide containers that releases the food by pulling on a handle. I was extremely and am still a bit intimidated by these containers. I just imagine myself pulling the handle and everything falling to the floor. Thankfully my fears have not come true and given my clumsiness level, you will also likely be fine. To get food from these bins simply put your bag or container over the “spout” of the bin and slowly pull the handle down. Food will begin to fill up your container and once you have received the desired amount you can simply let go of the handle or slowly pull it back into its neutral position.

Once you have your bags or containers filled up, each bin has its own price look up or “PLU” number on the bin. You must provide the cashier with the PLU for each bulk item purchased. You can do this by writing the number on the twist ties or stickers provided. To eliminate waste from twist ties and stickers I enter the item name, PLU number and the tare weight of the containers into my phone, as shown in the picture below. I then present the cashier with my phone list when checking out. This makes the process a bit more complicated so again, I would wait on entering numbers into your phone until you are comfortable bulk shopping.

Bulk food list entered into my phone

Where To Shop Bulk

In the Bay Area I only shopped bulk at Sprouts. I am aware that all Whole Foods stores also have bulk food. Sprouts is much more inexpensive however. Besides these two stores, I do not know of or have not shopped anywhere else in the Bay Area for bulk.

Once I moved to Minnesota I thought my bulk days were over. Little did I know bulk options here are endless. First, there is a grocery chain called Fresh Thyme that is fairly new to the Twin Cities. Fresh Thyme is almost identical to Sprouts. Fresh Thyme only has a few locations however. I visited the location closest to me shortly after we relocated but the drive was over a 20 minutes, so it wasn’t a viable option. If you live near a Fresh Thyme they are a great bulk food option.

Recently I have discovered and fallen head over heels in love with co-ops. A co-op is a food cooperative owned and operated by its members. Anyone can become a member by purchasing a co-op stock which usually consists of a one-time payment of $100 or less for a lifetime membership. The groceries sold in a co-op are usually organic and mostly local. I get all the feels when I walk into a co-op. The food is fresh, the people are so nice and the store holds so many environmentally friendly products that my heart cannot contain itself.   

If you’re in Minneapolis or its surrounding areas, The Wedge and Eastside Food Co-op are my favorites. I just discovered Seward Community Co-op online which also looks amazing. It is much further out for me unfortunately. I have yet to visit a co-op in St. Paul, but will likely make my way to Mississippi Market one of these days. Mississippi Market has various locations in the St. Paul area. Lakewinds Food Co-op is also local with stores in Chanhassen, Minnetonka and Richfield. 

Are you a bulk food shopper? Why or why not? If you are, where do you go for your bulk food fix?

Recommended Reading: Zero Waste Home

Last summer a co-worker introduced me to this video about Bea Johnson and her zero waste lifestyle. As my co-worker described the things Johnson did on a daily basis to maintain a zero waste life, and as I watched the video I viewed Johnson’s lifestyle as extreme. My introduction to zero waste happened prior to my decision to become vegan. After becoming vegan, mostly because of environmental reasons, zero waste-ing my life seemed like a logical next step.

Bea Johnson is well known as the zero waste guru. Once I was ready to start my zero waste journey I knew I had to listen to her book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste. In the book Johnson shares her story which includes a pre-zero waste portion and she provides tips and tricks to help the reader reach his or her zero waste potential.

Format I Read: Audiobook

The Good

When listening to Zero Waste Home it became clear why Bea Johnson is the face of zero waste. It seems she has figured out how to incorporate zero waste into every single part of her life. From things we often think about when we refer to zero waste like grocery shopping, to more uncommon subjects like how to celebrate holidays zero waste style. Given that I have just begun my zero waste journey Zero Waste Home gave me numerous ideas to jot down on my zero waste to-do list.

One of the best things about Bea Johnson’s book is that she outlines the strategy she uses to maintain a zero waste life. The strategy consists of what she calls the 5 ‘Rs’ which are to refuse what you do not need, reduce what you do need, reuse by swapping disposables with reusables, such as napkins and cups, recycle those things that cannot be refused, reduced or reused and lastly rot or compost everything else.

Shortly after hearing Johnson’s strategy, I came into a situation where someone was trying to give me her business card. Before Zero Waste Home I would have taken the card, stored the information in my phone and then likely recycle the card. However, in this situation I decided to politely decline the card and inform the person that I would simply send my electronic contact card to this person and she could then message me her information. It felt a little awkward refusing a business card, however it also felt liberating knowing that I would not have to decide on what to do with the card once it was in my possession. I definitely plan to refuse as often as possible in the future.

The Not So Good

The environmental impacts of animal agriculture produce more than half of greenhouse gas emissions. Johnson began her zero waste quest in order to preserve the earth and its resources. From that environmental perspective you would think that Johnson would then follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, however she does not. As a new vegan I can understand the difficulties of giving up animal products, however given that the book is written from an environmental perspective, I would expect more light to be given to the environmental impact and waste produced from the meat and dairy industries.

In addition, individuals could do more for the planet by reducing or eliminating their consumption of animal products than they would by zero wasting their homes from top to bottom and continuing to consume meat and dairy. These criticisms are not meant to discourage anyone from embarking on a zero waste adventure if they are meat eaters. I simply lay out these facts because they are precisely those – facts.

Conclusion

If you are ready to reduce clutter from making its way into your home, become more environmentally conscious and reduce your environmental impact Zero Waste Home is a great place to start. You will walk away with numerous ideas on how to improve your home and your life all the while helping to conserve the earth.

Ten Ways I’ve Adopted Zero Waste Into My Life

My zero waste journey hasn’t been quite as dramatic as my whole-food-plant based journey, but I am purposely taking it slow. In the same way that I needed to find what worked for me food and health-wise, I am gradually discovering zero waste approaches that are truly sustainable for my family and I.

The process of zero wasting my home and my life has been surprisingly fun. It has forced me to think creatively, has helped me save money, and gives me hope that my children will grow up and live eco-friendly and sustainable lives.

It’s not always easy to know where to start with zero waste, but once I began I found it a little addicting. If you need some ideas on how to start your own zero waste journey, the following are ten ways I have  personally adopted zero waste living.

1. Shop Second Hand

There’s a stigma about buying an item that has been previously owned. I used to associate second hand things with being dirty, stinky or cheap. However, when we moved and ended up selling most of our things, I constantly thought about how lucky the people were who were buying from us. Most of our possessions were in like-new condition and because we needed to get rid of them we were selling them at rock bottom prices.

I now strive to buy used before buying new when I can. Not only does this usually save me money but it also saves the planet’s resources. If you live in the Twin Cities, the University of Minnesota has a huge reuse program where everything from bikes and desks to clothes and kitchenware are collected across campus and available for sale to the public.

2. Repurpose Old or Unused Clothing

When I decided to explore zero waste I wanted to sew my own reusable grocery shopping bags. I had initially thought that I would get the fabric to make these from the fabric store. Right around the same time my sister was spring cleaning her home and was getting rid of a ton of clothing. I took some of the clothing from her and just like that I had the fabric I needed to sew my grocery bags. In addition to grocery bags, fabric from old or unwanted clothing make great napkins, handkerchiefs and dusters.

3. Replace Disposables With Reusables

We enjoy socializing and having people over for get togethers. In the past however this meant buying tons of disposable plates, napkins, cups and/or plastic water bottles. After each party our garbage container would be overflowing with waste. The amount of waste did not sit well with me. Therefore, I’ve slowly started purchasing reusables for future parties. These include mason jars for drinking cups and real plates for meals. In addition I’ve also started a cloth napkin stash and plan to sew more from unused clothing.

I am OBSESSED with mason jars. These were also bought second hand!

4. Shop in Bulk

One of the things I missed the most about the Bay Area was shopping at my local grocery store which had a ton of bulk food options at very reasonable prices. I felt that the bulk food at Whole Foods was a bit too expensive. Luckily in the last month I’ve discovered some wonderful co-ops in Minnesota with great prices on bulk food. Shopping bulk allows you to purchase only what you need, which reduces food waste. Also, if you bring your own containers or shopping bags it also reduces packaging and the use of plastic. A win-win in so many ways!

Some of my bulk food staples.

5. Grow My Own Food

This year I’ve decided to start growing some of my own food. Did you know that many vegetables can be grown from food scraps? We started growing celery and lettuce this way before we left San Francisco and unfortunately did not get the chance to eat them before our move. We started the process again a couple of weeks ago and our plants are already sprouting. There’s nothing quite like observing the power of nature right before your eyes.

Our sprouting celery.

6. Compost

Composting is one thing that every household should be doing. Compost was collected with the weekly garbage in a separate bin when I lived in San Francisco, however once I moved to Minnesota I had no idea what my options were with food waste. I knew that I could create my own compost bin, however winter was coming and it seemed like a little too much work at the time. After a little research I soon discovered that the county I live in accepts compost or food scraps at certain drop-off sites for free. Today we collect our compost in a separate bin and put it in a box in our porch area once full. We usually do a drop off once a week. It may seem like too much work, but not only is this system better for the planet it has also decreased the amount of trash we throw away dramatically.

7. A One Car Family

Unless you are living in a big city where public transportation is very convenient a car is pretty much necessary especially with kids. Since Nic and I have been married we have always operated as a one car family. I have wondered since our move whether we’d eventually get another car, but now that we are committed to zero waste we’re also committed to staying a one car family for as long as possible – hopefully forever.

8. Fix Before Replacing

As a society we are so used to replacing appliances as soon as they are no longer working. Although this way of living seems convenient, it not only puts a strain on our wallets but also on the environment. Earlier this year our washing machine started leaking. My initial thought was that we would need to buy a new machine. Thanks to the power of the internet and YouTube however, we figured out what the issue was, bought a replacement piece for under $50 and Nic replaced everything himself. The washing machine is now working fine. It was so rewarding to know that not only did we save a ton of money by not purchasing a new washer, but we also saved waste from making its way into the landfill.

9. Ditch The Business Cards

Since I began working for myself I have often had meetings or events where a business card seemed like a necessity. At first I had considered getting some cards printed but I shortly realized that they are often are a waste of resources. When was the last time you took someone’s business card out to get their contact information? Instead I created an electronic contact card for myself on my phone and I send this card to those I meet with. They receive all of my information including my email and website without the unnecessary paper.

10. Inform Friends and Family

I am so grateful that Nic and I have friends and family who all love us and especially our kids so much. Often times our friends and family want to express that love by showering us and especially our kids with gifts that are cute and sweet for the moment, but eventually end up taking space and are rarely ever seen again. When we decided to become minimalist we had to inform some of our family that although we completely appreciated their gestures, some material items no longer fit into the life we were trying to create for ourselves. Our family understood and this has helped to keep some unwanted items out of the home.

The Zero Waste Movement

Big cities across the country are known for their innovative approaches to things that affect our everyday lives. From art to fashion to food and technology, cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are all known as places where cutting edge ideas emerge.

Having lived in San Francisco for 13 years, it was amazing to witness these great feats first hand. Today when people think of San Francisco and the Bay Area most think of technology and Silicon Valley. What many people are unaware of however is that San Francisco is also a leader in something much less glamorous than technology – garbage.

What Is Zero Waste?

In the early 2000s San Francisco was able to divert 50% of its waste from ending up in landfills. Once it achieved this it continued its commitment even further by hitting a 75% landfill diversion rate by 2010. Now the City is aiming for zero waste by 2020.

At the rate that most of us consume and discard, it may seem like zero waste is an unattainable goal. However, having lived in San Francisco, and now in the Twin Cities where zero waste has not yet arrived, I know that there are surefire ways for everyone to improve. At the end of the day improvement is all that we can ask for.

Zero waste has become a way of life for some. It is the act of becoming a conscious consumer, an ally of the environment and a role model for future generations. Most of us have grown to appreciate recycling and its benefits in conserving and reusing resources. The zero waste movement goes beyond recycling however. It views recycling and composting as a last resort.

According to Bea Johnson, a pioneer of the zero waste movement, to achieve zero waste one must first refuse waste from coming into the home, reduce waste by using reusable containers and shopping bags for example, reuse resources in the home after they have served their original purposes, recycle everything that cannot be reused, and lastly rot or compost everything else. Waste should be considered in this exact order. As you can see recycling is considered an almost last option.

Why I’m Adopting A Zero Waste Lifestyle

When I first heard of zero waste living, like most people I felt like it was impossible. I thought it was great for those who had the time and energy to devote to changing their lives for it, but I simply did not have those resources to spare. Besides, as a resident of San Francisco I was already doing my part in recycling and composting all that I could.

When I moved back to Minnesota, I started to realize how much trash my family and I were producing. We no longer had a compost bin that was hauled away every week like we did in San Francisco, and get this, recycling is only picked up every other week! These new realities really opened my eyes to how much waste I was producing and I knew I needed to change. In the same way that I never believed I could change my eating habits or give up sugar for as long as I did, I recognized that as long as I put my mind to it, a zero waste lifestyle was possible.

I have just started my zero waste journey. I’ve had moments where I question whether I could really do it, but I’m taking it slow and I’m not being hard on myself if I run into obstacles or have to take a less than zero waste approach to something. I have found that the process of zero wasting my life and home has actually been fun and like most things, it’s definitely not as hard as I first thought.

The garbage we all produce in our homes doesn’t just disappear after it’s taken away by the waste management company. Think of the junk drawer or the closet in your home where random items that go barely used end up. Sooner or later we have to address this drawer or closet because if not it will eventually overflow and we can no longer hide the clutter in our lives. Our waste is cluttering the earth in the same way. Not only is waste taking up space, but it has very real effects on our health, the health of the planet and the livelihood of animals. We can ignore our garbage today and leave it for our children to have to deal with when they are older or we can start taking action so that future generations can enjoy the benefits of clutter free, waste free, healthy lives.

Recommended Reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

If you’re ready to downsize your life, live minimally and help the planet while doing so The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is a great book to help you get started.

In the book, Kondo not only gives you tips on how to organize and tidy up your home, but she also addresses the root problems like why we have so much clutter to begin with and why we can’t let go of certain material possessions.

At first, I was skeptical about how interesting and beneficial a book about organizing could be, but by the end I learned that if you take The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up seriously and really implement the exercises that Kondo provides, you will see your home and your material goods from a completely different perspective.

Format I Read: Audiobook

The Good

If you are like me and hold onto physical keepsakes such as movie stubs, hospital bracelets and other knick knacks in order to retain the memories associated with them, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up will help you become okay with letting go of these items once and for all. After listening to the book I found that I held onto way too many random items that were only taking up space in my home and collecting dust. Marie Kondo helped me realize that it is the memories associated with these items that I really treasured and those were already kept in my mind. Therefore, the physical items served no purpose and could be disposed of.

I had also always felt guilty about getting rid of gifts that I did not use. My thought was that someone spent the time and energy to purchase the item for me so the least I could do was keep it to show my appreciation. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up taught me that as soon as a gift is received it has served its purpose. Therefore I should not feel guilty about letting go of gifts I do not use because keeping them around without using them is actually doing them a disservice.

These are just examples of how the book helped me look at my possessions in a different way and how this new perspective helped me declutter my life completely.

The Not So Good

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is focused on decluttering and getting rid of items in your house that no longer spark joy or serve a purpose in your life. Marie Kondo talks a lot about throwing away items and how her clients have collected multiple trash bags of stuff to be thrown out. The book then does not consider the environmental aspects of all of this garbage. If you end up decluttering I would urge you to either donate your unwanted items or sell them before resorting to throwing them in the garbage.

Marie Kondo is Japanese and therefore she is writing from a Japanese perspective, which does always translate well if you are an American reader. This isn’t necessarily a criticism of the book, but more of a point that the reader should be aware of.

Conclusion

If you have trouble letting go of physical items or a problem continuously purchasing or bringing material goods into your home, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up could help you address these problems once and for all.

In addition, the book will show you how to decide on what to keep, different ways to organize these items and how to become a conscious consumer moving forward. With these tools in place the environmental benefit of consuming less is a true added bonus.

Seven Minimalism Tips For Everyday Life

If you are used to regular shopping trips, filling each nook and cranny of your house with decor, or are uncomfortable with empty spaces and bare walls then minimalism may seem like a daunting task. However, like most lifestyle changes, in order to incorporate minimalism into your life all you have to do is take the first step.

What should that first step be exactly? Like most transitions, the first step will be different for everyone. If you’re unsure of where to start, the tips below are some of the ways that helped me begin my minimalism journey. The process may be frustrating and uncomfortable at first, however once you begin to make progress you will find that minimalism is liberating and enjoyable. It can also help you regain control of your finances, your time and your space.

In addition, adopting minimalism helps contribute to conserving the earth’s resources. By consuming less and therefore decreasing demand for material goods, fewer of these goods will be produced, which means that more resources will be preserved for future generations. At a time where we can clearly see and feel the effects of global warming and the destruction done to the planet, there is no better time to begin your journey towards minimalism.

1. Start With Your Wardrobe

Apparel has become so inexpensive that most of us have closets overflowing with pieces – some likely still with their tags on. This was definitely me before I adopted a minimalist lifestyle. I would get a thrill when I purchased clothing at discounted prices. Half of the time however the thrill quickly died by the time I got home and the clothes piled up in the closet never to make its way out again.

When I became a minimalist I had to admit that if clothing items had not been worn within the last few months they likely would not be worn anytime in the future. I then sold or donated these items. Eventually I pared my wardrobe down to a manageable size and got rid of 80 percent of the clothes I once owned.

2. Place an Expiration Date on Rarely Used Items

Most of our homes are filled with trinkets and gadgets that go unnoticed or are barely used. These items take up space and gather dust. When you come across items that you have not used in a while put them in a central location and give them an expiration date. If you don’t end up using the items within three months, for example, pack them up and donate them.

3. Have a Yard Sale

An alternative to donating your rarely used items is to make some money off of them by having a yard sale. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” could not be more true when holding a yard sale. Before our cross country move we had two big yard sales. Unsure of whether anyone would want any of our used things, we were surprised to see how willing people were to take our items off of our hands. These people were so appreciative and some literally looked like they had discovered treasures.

4. Wait a Week Before Buying

If you get the urge to purchase something first ask yourself whether it is a necessity. Even though it may not feel like it, most purchases are not necessities. Before resorting to old habits and purchasing at the whim, I take a week or more to contemplate my desired purchases. I ask myself why I want to buy an item, how it will benefit my life, I weigh the pros and cons and I also think about where the item will fit into my home. It takes some energy to go through this process and what I’ve found is that the purchase usually ends up being unimportant and I stop the process halfway.

5. Adopt a One Item in One Item Out Policy

Once you have pared down your material goods to a manageable size follow a one item in, one item out policy. When purchasing new items also sell or donate an item you currently own. Following this policy will help ensure that goods do not accumulate.

6. Use the Public Library

Public libraries are true gems that are not nearly used as much as they should be. There are so many resources and so much knowledge contained at a library that it would take over a lifetime to utilize it all. Books, magazines and DVDs can easily take up space and clutter our homes. After watching a DVD or reading a book or magazine once, rarely did I ever watch or read it a second time. In the past however, I would have no problem purchasing these one-time use items. Not anymore. Today I get almost all of my books and resources from the public library. I get the luxury of continuous new reads and entertainment without the dust and disorder.  

7. Get the Entire Family on Board

Living a minimalist lifestyle is truly a family affair. I couldn’t be a minimalist if the rest of my family was consistently consuming. If any family members are resistant to the idea of minimalism (i.e. kids) educate them on the benefits they will reap from detaching themselves from material items. It is easier said than done, but if you can show through actions that less time cleaning toys or cleaning the house means more family time either playing together or enjoying the outdoors most individuals will ultimately jump on board.  

The Environmental Costs of Consumerism

We are currently living in a consumerist society. Ads, billboards, even friends and family are constantly encouraging us to buy more. We work to make money to buy stuff so that we can work some more to buy more stuff. More is better and overabundance is the ultimate goal.

Despite how much more we have today than the generations before us people are less fulfilled and more stressed and unhappy than their parents and grandparents were. This proves that the amount of material items possessed does not correlate to how happy one will be.

Although it often feels like material items, such as clothes, home goods, electronics and processed food simply appear out of thin air into stores for us to purchase, they don’t. They are made up of precious natural resources from the planet which are limited even more so now given our current levels of consumption.

Consumerism and the Environment

When goods are made they are first sourced using natural resources like metal, coal or gas. These resources are then taken to a factory where they are usually combined with toxic chemicals. These factories and their chemicals eventually invade our waterways and pollute the air. The more demand there is for a product the more of it will be produced. The more a product is produced the more destruction is being done to the earth.

We are consuming far more than those of previous generations. When I was growing up a three or four bedroom home with one kitchen, a living room and a basement was considered the norm. Today newly constructed homes are massive and usually consists of a kitchen with dining area, a separate formal dining area, a living room, a sitting room, a basement, a deck, and at least five bedrooms. These homes are the American dream 2.0. Yet, no one is considering where all of the resources are coming from and how much land is being destroyed to build these homes.

This is not to say that only those in massive homes have an issue. Almost everyone could likely do with less. I only paint the picture of the massive home to show what is now the norm and how our “needs” have multiplied to ridiculous extremes. When natural resources are used up to create goods, it takes the planet many many years to rebuild those resources if it even ends up doing so. If all resources are used up in one lifetime what will be left for the next generations?

Minimalism

Now that we know that we as a society consume far more than required, what can we do about it? The answer – stop consuming in excess or in other words, adopt minimalism. Many view minimalism as depriving oneself of any enjoyment or stripping oneself down to the bare essentials. However, minimalism is much more than that. As we established above over-consumption does has not lead to fulfillment and happiness. Minimalism does.

When my family and I moved across the country last year we were forced to examine every single material item we possessed. This exercise left me exhausted, frustrated and disgusted. I found that even though it didn’t look like it or feel like it, we were hoarders. I had so many WTF moments about why we had purchased certain things especially when these things had become forgotten or were barely used. I knew that after our move I could not live the same way – acquiring stuff just for the sake of acquiring it, so I adopted minimalism.

Minimalism is discovering what enough means to you. Enough is where you have your necessities covered and then also include just the right amount of enjoyment – no excess. Shopping has become known as a hobby and clothes are so inexpensive that most of our closets are overflowing with them. Yet, we still have “nothing” to wear and eventually end up wearing the same things. When I became a minimalist I got rid of 70% of my wardrobe and have not shopped since. Picking out an outfit used to take well over 20 minutes and now it takes less than five.

This lifestyle has stopped me from going to the mall “for fun” and buying things just because I want to try them or because they are the latest “it” item. This in turn creates less demand and therefore less is produced and resources are saved. Minimalism has made me realize that the massive house is not for me and will not bring me joy. It has led us to continue to be a one car family and has made me okay with bare walls and empty rooms.

If each one of us adopted a minimalist approach to consumption, we could literally alter the state of our planet, especially for our children and grandchildren.

To learn more about minimalism check out “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” by The Minimalists.

Recommended Reading: Savor

“You can do more for the planet by not eating meat than you could by driving a Prius”. I am paraphrasing, but more or less these are the words that I heard that sealed my decision to become vegan. Prior to this point I was playing around with the idea of being vegan, knew it would be a challenge and wasn’t sure if I was ready for it. After hearing this I knew in my gut it was the right thing to do.

These words came from Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life by Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung. I discovered Thich Nhat Hanh last year when I started my intentional living journey and started exploring meditation and mindfulness. Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk with an abundance of wisdom.

Format I Read: Audiobook

The Good

Savor is different from other books about diet and nutrition because not only does it focus on what you should eat to maintain a healthy lifestyle it also focuses on how you should eat. These how’s relate to everything from appreciating the food you consume to considering the environmental impacts your food and the planet face in order for you to receive what is on your plate.

Nhat Hanh is also a vegan and after listening to the book and his reasonings behind this decision, I made the leap into veganism. I haven’t been perfect but just striving for that optimum goal has helped me to stay on the vegan path for the most part. Not only have I felt better health-wise since becoming vegan but I also feel good about being able to show my children that if you care about something enough there is always something you can do about it.

Savor brings the concept of mindfulness into what we eat and how we see food. Mindfulness is the notion that we should focus on the present moment and not worry or think about anything else. Mindfulness when eating means appreciating all of the work it took to get your food to you, appreciating the colors on your plate, savoring every bite and enjoying the company of those you eat with.

The Not So Good

After following a plant-based diet Nic and I have both lost weight without having to count calories. Our goal was to become healthier and the weight loss was just a side effect of our healthier actions.

Savor really hammers in the less calories in and more calories out approach. Although this makes sense it is not always the healthiest way to achieve and maintain health and weight loss. One can eat 1,000 calories of Oreos and burn 1,500 calories in the same day, but it does not mean that this person is healthy and I doubt that this person will lose much weight. Calories in and calories out has been the approach with almost all diet fads throughout the years. If it worked people wouldn’t continue gaining more weight and becoming more sick. I truly believe we need to scrap calorie counting all together. When you eat real wholesome food, you can always eat until you are completely satisfied and your body will thank you by maintaining a proper weight.

Savor is also highly focused on weight control which, similar to calorie counting, I do not feel should be the ultimate goal. Health should be the ultimate goal and when you eat in a healthful way your body will take to its proper size.

Conclusion

If you have enjoyed any other books by Thich Nhat Hanh you will likely appreciate this one as well. However, because it is written with Dr. Lilian Cheung it doesn’t quite have the same style as that of Nhat Hanh’s other books.

This is not the best book on eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle, however if you want to learn more about the industrialization of food, how to appreciate your food and how to be more mindful when it comes to questioning why you want and crave certain food this is a good read.