Photo: Can minimalism be green?

Minimalism and green living both promise of fulfillment in the face of hyper-consumerist culture. (Credit: Steve A Johnson via Flickr)

I'm wrestling with the intersection of minimalist and green lifestyles — attracted by minimalisms promise of a clutter free home and mind, but rooted in the packrat mentality of a reusing green junkie.

If minimalists can be green, what do I do with all this stuff?

My green cleaning habits and cosmetic drawer provide inspiration. Homemade household cleaners and DIY cosmetics live up to the minimalist promise of fulfillment in the face of hyper-consumerist culture: a few ingredients combined the right way beautifully meet all my needs.

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There must be other synergies!

So despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that my home is bursting with saved bits of this that, I resolved that this year's spring cleaning will be a minimalist face lift. Donated are the pants from grade 11, our amassed mismatched kitchen cups and three boxes of books that probably weren't on the "timeless treasures" list. I've joyfully recycled a large crate of hard-to-recycle items and safely returned a couple cans of almost empty paint and a small bag of expired medications to the appropriate places.

I won't ever be a perfect minimalist. The kid's art table still offers a selection of bottle tops and bread-bag tabs, inviting creative young minds to make recycled masterpieces. And given our commitment to whole foods, I'll always have more than a minimal selection of kitchen stuff.

But I'm not scared to strive for minimalism anymore! I could even take a Be More With Less Mini-Mission.

And responsibly clearing out items we don't use often, never wanted or didn't even know we had has made room for better living.

The marriage of minimalism and green living is imperfect. But at the heart of both paradigms is a desire to live lightly. Here are my five tips for being a green minimalist:

  1. Acquire only what you need. And choose used before new.
  2. Buy the best your budget permits. Broken items are wasteful clutter.
  3. Clear out unessentials. Less stuff means reduced dust and improved environmental health. Fewer emails allows more time for baking bread.
  4. Share. The sharing economy connects communities, while cutting back on consumption and clutter.
  5. Donate. Need I say more?

Tovah Paglaro, a fellow Queen of Green

April 30, 2013

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Mar 29, 2014
1:35 PM

“Can minimalists can be green?” A resounding Yes! I am downsizing from 1600 sq foot home to a tiny minimalist abode of only 230 sq feet. I have lived summers in my tiny abode (a converted school bus) and now will be full time. Beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s definately greener then my house. Heat is substantially less, both the bus and house are passive solar, but less space takes less energy. Water has to be hauled manually so you have a greater awareness of how much is used. Waste is avoided so you don’t have to haul more. Electricity is solar so watefulness means going with out. It might sound like I’m roughing it but giving up all the possessions that cluttered my home is freeing. cChores take minutes instead of hours. I have space for things I will want and need but given up the burden of hoarding things I “might need” and giving those things to someone who will use instead. Minilalisum = reducing my possessions = reduced footprints = peace.

May 22, 2013
9:06 PM

My biggest revelation so far? After moving to the Sunshine Coast 10 years ago I find there is no longer ANYTHING I NEED from the shopping mecca of Vancouver. I fulfill my need for “retail therapy” at the local thrift stores (I LOVE $5.00 a bag day!), revisit/reuse my existing household items items and am becoming adept at sending the unused and no longer wanted to …guess where. It makes me happy and, a bonus for me (as her personal shopper ((!!))) my 16 yr old daughter was recently asked by a Vancouver boutique owner where she bought her clothes… Style is NOT about money. (One of) the good things about not having big box stores here is that everyone in Sechelt shops the Thrift Stores. It is a Saturday morning social event where people meet. I wouldn’t trade it for any Mall anywhere!

May 22, 2013
8:01 PM

OMG! If you click on the “Be more with less Mini-Mission” it then take you to Simplify Your Life all seem well then because the article is interesting and you want to minimize and frugal and ecological you continue reading the article “Find comfort and escape in the mundane ” you read more and more and then you get to the…… “shine your sink”. The idea is great however she uses everything that is NOT. Bleach, Comet , Ajax or baking soda(last on the list!) Then she uses Windex to clean the windows…….what happened to Toxic breakup? Don’t get me wrong I like the idea of minimizing your environment however not at the cost of the environment with toxic cleaners. Someone dropped the ball:( .

May 21, 2013
10:04 AM

Thank you for this inspiration. I have a closet full of hard to recycle items that is making the rest of my life full of clutter. Saving the list of 5 steps, they’re good reminders that less can be so much more. water damage Kent, BC

May 12, 2013
9:26 AM

Yes Veronika, your comment does seem too harsh. As well, very judgmental and self-righteous. Now and again people need to be reminded to get outside, to be reminded the rat-race is not all. You have no idea any one else’s lives, their challenges, their situation, how run off their feet busy they may be. And people are bombarded with being told what they should be striving for that sometimes they forget what it important. Sometimes a challenge like the 30 x 30 is just the push people need. Try being encouraging rather then so negative. And by the way, here in Canada at any time of the year, even winter, their are always people in the parks, at the beaches….so no we have not all forgotten nature.

May 06, 2013
6:22 PM

Hi Tovah, thanks for your article! I hadn’t really thought of minimalist and green lifestyles conflicting. I feel like minimalistic living IS green—only buy what you need, and donate items you no longer use for other people’s use. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure! Thanks again!

May 03, 2013
6:59 PM

I was inspired by this article! Thank you

May 03, 2013
6:15 AM


Sorry if my answer is too harsh but you people are just wannabes. If you were really interested in the nature, you would actually do something significant in your surroundings, not just ponder theoretically and philosophically and most importantly virtually on the Internet.

All these things and activites that you mentioned are totally normal things, not worth talking about BUT doing and not making a FASHION out of it! At least for the people who do not live in so developed economies such as Canada, these things are pretty much every-day life.

Have people really forgotten how to live there? I mean you have so much beautiful nature, so why do you have to make programs like 30x30. Isn’t it just natural to go outside to buy food, walk to work or go out with friends?


May 01, 2013
3:06 PM


I just wanted to say thanks Tovah for writing articles like this one! I think it’s really inspiring and comforting to know that there are people ready to make changes in order to help protect and better the environment.

Let’s keep working towards a healthier sustainable planet!!

Apr 30, 2013
9:21 PM

Love the idea of sharing more! Instituting more co-op living amongst our neighbours. Recently we wanted to make waffles but don’t have a waffle iron. We borrowed a neighbours and invited them over for a fun social breakfast.

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