A popular lifestyle trend, advocated by many who profess to live responsibly, is the voluntary simplicity movement. In its raw form, minimal living requires that we eschew material wealth, and look to a standard of living that involves the least amount of possessions. Simultaneously, the environmental movement demands that we create the smallest eco-footprint that we can, guarding the environment preciously. Both lifestyles appear to have much in common, yet, oddly, there is only a nominal effort to blend the two together.
There is vociferous opposition to the eco-friendly concept by those that seek to deny the reality of climate change. The anti-tree hugger groups gravitate toward the argument that, since global warming is a myth (or, at best, not caused by human actions), there is no need to spend effort on protecting the ecology of the earth. These people miss the point of being eco-friendly.
I live a modest lifestyle, yet do not begrudge those that have wealth and show it. The premise built into the anti-environment people’s argument is that, if what they do will cause no serious harm, then there is no reason to discontinue being disrespectful and selfish regarding pollution problems. Extrapolating that argument to the middle/upper income situation then, I should be able to simply take what I want from those who have affluence, simply because it will have no monetary impact on them. Even more to the point, I should be able to walk into the anti-climate change proponents’ homes and dump whatever garbage and pollution I want in their back yard, because the filth will not impact on the environment. The fact is, whether or not my actions harm the environment, I should act responsibly as much as possible, including taking care to not impact on others’ enjoyment of the world around them!
Living a green lifestyle simply says that I want to enjoy this earth, but that I do not need to be wasteful to do so. I want to take only what I need on this globe, not what I want. I choose to live cleanly and simply, as much as possible.
Those that embrace the minimalist approach to living often are labelled as harshly as “tree huggers” by those that think that we choose to live this lifestyle because we have nothing, and want others to do the same. I have been told that most of us choose this way of living because, if we have little in the way of material wealth, we don’t have to work as hard to get it. In essence, I am being told that I choose voluntary simplicity because I am lazy! It is an intriguing label, given that a) I have developed multi-million dollar businesses for others, b) have owned (and sold for pennies) a business that grossed $1.6 million in its second year of business, and c) living minimally takes a lot of conscious effort and (the horror!) work. Voluntary simplicity says that I do not need material wealth to generate huge enjoyment out of life. Indeed, it offers a richness for which money cannot be bartered.
Both minimalism and environmentalism seek to embrace living consciously and enthusiastically, but without taking huge bites out of that which is available to consume. By doing so, more is left for others to enjoy. This idea that “lean” is an ideal to aim toward is not radical, nor impossible. It is realistic, and hugely gratifying. Similarly, “going green” is a fantastic journey, allowing us to take Robert Frost’s road less travelled. He was so correct when he claimed that doing so “has made all the difference.” Will the world be greener because of me? Who knows? Will my efforts at living with less pay dividends for others? Possibly not. Neither matters. The lean and green living concept offers an option that combines, for me, the epitome of what I see is my duty. Nothing more, nothing less.