Over the course of my journey to ethical living, I’ve been asked a lot of questions regarding minimalism, environmentalism and Christianity, and how they all work together. Thus, I thought I’d just throw all my thoughts into one blog post to answer those questions from my perspective.
First, let’s get some definitions out of the way so we’re all on the same page.
Minimalism: Simply put, it’s a lifestyle of buying and consuming only what is necessary. I love The Minimalist’s explanation!
Environmentalism: “advocacy of the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment; especially : the movement to control pollution” (Merriam – Webster)
Zero-Waste: ZW is basically the next step of being an environmentalist. We say we care about the earth, but what can we do in our daily lives for the sake of the environment? As a ZW, we believe in reducing the waste we send to landfill. That means not purchasing things that won’t bio-degrade, not purchasing products with chemicals harmful for the environment, reusing everything that we can, and recycling what we can’t re-use. It means being mindful of our impact. Most things we throw away either end up in a landfill or in our water sources!
Christianity: There are soooo many different sects and denominations in Christianity, so I will just speak on my behalf. I am not all Christians, and all Christians aren’t me, so this is really just a personal testimonial of my idea of Christianity. As a Christian, I believe in The Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), who created the universe with purpose. I believe sin entered the world through our exercise of free will, and I believe God sent Jesus Christ to restore human’s relationship with God, and create a legal right of passage back into relationship with God (Read the book of Romans, I’m definitely not explaining it as well as the Apostle Paul!)
For me, Christianity is my relationship with my savior. It’s not a set of rules or a fear tactic to make me live as a better person. It’s simply recieving the love of God and loving God in return.
ALL RIGHT. Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s dive in.
How Minimalism and Zero Waste Work Together
Before I ever discovered what “zero waste” was, I began practicing a lifestyle of minimalism. I initially started living minimally because I couldn’t afford to do otherwise, so I challenged myself to see how little I could survive on. Then I realized that by intentionally choosing to have less, I became liberated! I didn’t feel pressured to buy into trends and succumb to marketing tactics to buy the next cool gadget. I realized I didn’t need those things to find joy, and in fact, not having those things actually freed up my time to pursue the things that really matter, like my hobby of writing, building relationships with people, and spending time with God.
On my minimalism journey, I decided to challenge myself even further by quitting all chemical products. To me, if I really wanted to have less, I had to learn how to survive without lotions, perfumes, all the different cleaning products, etc. That’s when I discovered the zero waste movement, and the dangers of plastic. I had no idea how much plastic and waste our society consumed, and even further, I didn’t know that plastic never breaks down! It can only be recycled so far and after that it must be sent to a landfill, or it ends up in our water systems. I was in shock, embarrassed, horrified and convicted all at once. I was in shock that no one seemed to know about this issue (including myself), embarrassed because I didn’t ever think past recycling, horrified that the government is letting this happen, and convicted to do something about it. That’s when I began pursuing a zero waste lifestyle!
Minimalism led to zero waste for me, because to be a minimalist means you won’t be consuming as much, therefore you won’t be wasting as much. Likewise, being a zero-waste practitioner, you won’t be buying as much and consuming (because everything you’d want is probably plastic or packaged in plastic). These two lifestyles work hand-in-hand, and each gives way to the other.
Many people have asked if these two lifestyles interfere with each other because typically when someone starts on their minimalism journey, they want to throw everything away. In that case, yes, minimalism would be the opposite of zero waste. But minimalism should be about not purchasing more than you need. If you’ve already accumulated a lot and want to get rid of everything, re-gift it to someone in need! After you’ve found people to take the things you no longer need, donate the rest. Donating actually fits perfectly in the zero waste model because it means new products don’t have to be created, and instead, someone else can re-use your no longer needed items.
Minimalism, Zero Waste, and Christianity
This is another topic that has seemed to stump a good amount of people. Many people have asked me how being a minimalist and living zero waste play into Christianity. This shocked me upon first realizing that people actually didn’t know that you could be a Christian and practice these lifestyles… actually, my belief is that Christianity should encourage these lifestyles!
Minimalism & Christianity
If you know the Bible at all, you know that Jesus was always traveling during his time of ministry. That meant he had the clothes on his back, and enough food for the road. That’s it. There are also verses upon verses where Jesus commands his followers to leave everything behind to follow him. That’s because Jesus knew how distracting consumerism can be, and he knew how easy it would be for us humans to try and find our identity in the things we own, rather than who He created us to be.
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” – Mark 10:21 NLT
There are also verses that tell us to store up treasures in heaven, and not on earth, because life on earth is temporary.
Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. – Matthew 6:19-21 NLT
I believe minimalism is vital to Christians as it provides an opportunity for growth, humility and discovering your identity in Christ. All of us cling onto things in hopes to establish our identity, and it’s not healthy.
Pursuing minimalism means you have to let go of things, which can be challenging and very humbling. Sometimes in the process, we find ourselves not wanting to let go of something, which then begs the question “why?”
Why is it so hard for me to let go of name brand bags like Michael Kors and Coach? Is it because I find my identity to be more appealing when I have nice things? Is it because I want people to perceive me as being wealthy? And so on.
Minimalism forces growth and self discovery in a way that we wouldn’t otherwise experience it, and the experience has brought me closer to Christ.
Zero Waste & Christianity
Zero waste is another topic that’s been brought up in reference to Christianity, and again I believe zero waste completely aligns with the values of Christianity. Zero waste is an environmentalist movement, and as Christians, we are called to love God: This means we love everything about God, including the things He created: people, the world, animals, and creation. If you love someone, would you walk into their house and trash it? Probably not. You’d offer to help them take care of it, clean it, prepare it for guests and more. To me, Christians should be the most passionate about the environment because the earth is the Lord’s*, and as humans who were given dominion over the earth*, we should care for the earth and steward the blessings* we’ve received with the utmost of care. We honor God by caring for what He has created*.
Why I Care So Much
I believe practicing minimalism and zero waste leads to finding one’s true identity in Christ, and experiencing freedom from the need to consume consume & consume & consume. Living in freedom is my number one passion because for so long, I lived in captivity. I was captive to so many things: my mind, depression, anxiety, alcohol, shame, guilt, validation from everyone, consumerism, marketing, etc. When I finally experienced the love and mercy of God, I experienced a freedom like never before. Finding my true identity in Christ has helped me grow through a lot of the things I used to be held captive to, and it’s brought me so much closer to God. I can now live a life of joy and freedom that I never could have dreamed of before. My hope is that you might begin to find your true identity in Christ when you start on your journey to minimalism and zero waste. That’s why I do what I do. I desire to see a generation step into freedom to live out their calling in life.
* Click the links for scripture reference.