Alternative Lifestyles & Sustainable Living - Less is More

Brilliant guide on how you can start living more sustainably, save money, and have more time today! Featuring top tips and excellent benefits to alternative lifestyles.

Albert Einstein, Leo Tolstoy, Thich Nhat Hanh, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Dalai Lama are all famous supporters of a more simplistic existence - many of which attributed their happiness to surrounding themselves only with the things they really needed.  

Current norms in our fast-paced, capitalistic, and often egocentric societies, place a minimalist philosophy to life as an outside the box approach. Some of the wisest people to have lived have voiced the benefits of such a way of life. Yet this lifestyle still represents a counter-movement. One which goes against the grain of today's overflowing consumption and excess. In developed countries, people's homes are stuffed to the brim with things that they can’t possibly use all of it, or even needed in the first place. So much so that much of it is just forgotten and stored away. Clothes which have been worn once, cheap gimmicks bought for a laugh, or ordered online out of boredom. We are constantly being teased by advertisers about unnecessarily upgrading electronic items, vehicles, and appliances, just to keep up with the Jones. Gone are the days of repair, reuse, and borrow. The devastating effects of planned obsolescence, trends, and fashion are being witnessed globally.  

Minimalism 

Minimalists say no to unnecessary spending, waste, throw-away culture, and overconsumption. Instead, life is filled only with the essentials, and a more stress-free, simplistic ideology. 

Many are not aware of the impact that consumption has on the environment. Huge mountains of waste exist, filled with discarded packaging, unused toys, discarded batteries, unwanted gifts, out of fashion home furnishings and clothes, discarded vehicles and electronics. By saying no to unnecessary purchases, you are no longer contributing to the creation of waste and destruction of the environment, habitats, water supplies, and many other issues associated with the production of such items. 

Purchases made by minimalists are with intention and thought. As ethical consumers, they will ask themselves many questions beforehand. Do I really need this? Was this item made in an ethical way? Was it made locally? What is the carbon footprint of its production? Is it easily repairable? What is its lifespan? Was it made with planned obsoletion in mind? 

It sounds like hard work, and indeed, business strategies hell-bent on meeting sales targeting will have you think so. But once you adopt this ethos, it really is the simpler way. By shifting the focus away from money, ego, and short-lived dopamine bursts, we can take stock of the important things in life. We should remember that just because you may need something right now, it does not mean that you need to own it in the long-term. For example, a one-off camping trip. Do you really need to buy a new tent, camping chairs, sleeping bags, a camp stove? Why not ask your neighbour who you know is an avid camper? Or ask on local social media community pages. You could always offer something in return for the favour. By doing this, you are helping to build a sense of community in your area, a spirit of money-free exchanges. Plus, chances are, you will most likely make a new friend at the end of it. 

Sustainable Living 

As we bare witness to the consequences of depleting the Earth’s natural resources, it is becoming more and more evident that humans must change. Sustainable living must become the norm. If collectively, humans can reduce their expenditure on unnecessary items, consumer demand will fall. With lower demand, production of these items becomes costly, and supply must be reduced. The ripple effects would be seen globally, and in particular across the fossil fuel industry, plastic production, transport, shipping, and also a reduction in deplorable sweat shops, and the use of child labour. 

The latest IPCC report has given us 3 years to change the current course of our planet. It really is now or never. 

It may feel that our fate lies in the hands of world leaders, politicians, international corporations, and scientists - to a certain extent this is true. But there are things that we can do to help our planet, and ourselves.  

Benefits of a Simpler Life 

The benefits of a simpler life are well documented, but not widely known. As the concept continues to grow in popularity, people find that a simpler life allows more of the one thing that money can't buy – time! The gift of more time allows people to prioritize family and personal relationships, dedicate yourself to a hobby, new or old, and connect more with nature and the outdoors. A simple life also allows us to embrace creativity, thinking of alternative ways in which to spend your time.  

Simplifying your life also generally means dealing with less stuff! That overwhelmed feeling brought on by clutter, stress, distractions, they are a huge drain on our mental wellbeing. Freeing up your home, and life can be liberating, it can improve concentration, sleep, and both your physical and mental health.

Gardening
  • Increased self sufficiency

Small changes towards a simpler life will most certainly lead to living a more self-sufficient one. For example, changing your car to a bicycle. This free’s you from the financial burden of owning a car and covering the maintenance, taxes, and petrol – not to mention the environmental and health benefits! 

Growing your own herb or vegetable garden is another way you can become more self-sufficient, connect with nature, and increase the biodiversity in your area. This can be done even in a small space such as a balcony, or on a larger scale in a local community garden. If this doesn’t appeal to you, even planting a fruit tree, which is very low maintenance, is a step in the right direction.  

Having more time for creativity will allow you to spend more time on crafts or handmade items. Again, this will allow you to make beautiful items for your home, but without having to buy from a shop. Developing these skills also allows for you to mend items easily, recycle, and engage children with fun new activities. 

  • Financial Savings 

Leading a simpler life tends to result in the need to spend less. The obvious reason being that if you only buy the things you really need, your monthly outgoings will reduce. This lifestyle also goes hand in hand with reduced consumption of electricity. Owning fewer electrical items, and watching less television is much more sustainable, and of course you will reap the benefits in your energy bills. Alternatively, you could consider installing solar panels. Going off grid has many advantages, and can even offer financial reward. 

  • Less Waste 

Plastic pollution and now microplastics is one of the Earth’s biggest problems. Some 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into oceans annually – most of it completely unnecessary. 40% of all plastic waste is from single use packaging, frustratingly, great sustainable alternatives exist, but are wildly underfunded and under supported by governments propping up the oil industry. Additionally, only 5% of all plastics are recycled globally, and even then, the recycling industry is facing growing criticism for not actually recycling items at all, and shipping mountains of it off to developing countries to (not) deal with. By simply buying less, and making smart consumer choices, we can massively reduce our contribution to global waste. 

Steps to Begin Your Simpler Life 

Starting on your journey to a simpler, more intentional life may seem daunting. However, you may find that you are already taking some of the right steps already. Simple living looks different for everyone, and does not have to take one form. Below we outline a few beginner steps for curious simple lifers to try. 

Cook at home and drink water – This one might sound the simplest of all, and even a little condescending! But most of us don’t realise the impact our takeaway food orders have on the planet. By cooking at home, you reduce the use of plastic packaging, utensils, plastic bags, and also the carbon impact of the actual delivery service. Not only that, but homemade food tends to be much healthier, and less processed. 

Invest in some food containers, freeze leftover food and enjoy again another day. Try to only buy local produce, and in season fruit and vegetables. You can reduce food waste in many ways, and many anti-food waste apps now exist to help you achieve this.  

Another top tip is to ditch bottled drinks, and stick to tap water. Investing in a water filter allows you to keep your water cool in the fridge, and ensures your body is getting the best hydration it needs. Less sugar, and less waste. 

Buy used/second-hand goods - Many people don't consider to purchase things which have previously been owned. Perhaps they think it is too difficult, or there is a stigma involved in buying used products. Times are changing! 

High streets are now full of shops offering all kinds of used goods, which are usually as good as new. You can find furniture, clothing for the whole family, home furnishings, toys, books, electronics, basically everything! Not only is this more sustainable, but the prices are much cheaper than buying new, and often the proceeds of your purchase goes towards a worthy cause.  

In the process of decluttering your home, you can donate to these stores any unused or unwanted items. You don’t even need to go shop to shop anymore. The popularity of sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Ebay, and many local buy-and-sell groups and online community pages allow for the easy sale, purchase, exchange, or even give away of everything you can imagine.  

 

tiny home 2

Communal living/Shared expenses – Alternative lifestyles have been enjoyed by many different kinds of people, for many years. There are lots of benefits to this type of living, for example, the strong community found in ecovillages, or the financial advantages of tiny homes.

Sharing with others has always been a great way to live better. We aren't suggesting you pack 5 essential items into a tiny case and live in a remote jungle! But renting out a spare room, or moving into a shared home is a great way to split the costs of bills, food, and other purchases. It also divides responsibility of tasks in the home, and increases social interaction. All excellent benefits.

After Thoughts 

Better World Info is your must-have guide to alternative lifestyles and simpler living. You can find access to excellent news resources on the topic, platforms to help with simple living, examples of people and projects advocating the simple life, advice on downshifting, and an extensive guide to sustainable cities.

Those who are open to the idea of a simple existence, who recognise the trappings of commercial giants, endless billboards, or those who just want to know how to lower their finances, stress levels, and enjoy a little more free time, can start to invest in the things they really enjoy. The things that allow us to feel true happiness – without excessive spending.

Let's say no to anti-consumerism and simple living as alternative – lets made it the norm, and start making small changes today.

Better World Info is not just a platform for alternative lifestyles. It is a unique resource and powerful tool for people who want to make our world a better one. This huge non-profit participatory website focuses on global issues such as peace, human rights, environment, and social justice. They aim to provide essential trustworthy and reliable information on global affairs, and facilitate the sharing of knowledge to reduce ignorance and hate. They also connect NGOs, campaigns and organisations, and direct the attention of people worldwide towards positive ideas and change.

 
Article by Nina Göttfried, translated and edited by Rachael Mellor

Image 1: Untitled by ‘I Do Nothing But Love’ is published under Unsplash license 

Image 2: Untitled by Priscilla Du Preez is published under Unsplash license     

Image 3: Tiny House by Linnea Sw from Flickr 

Alternative life - life with little money by Nina Göttfried is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

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