Your minimalism matters

 Do it for the future you want to live in.

Do it for the future you want to live in.

I read on a forum recently someone saying that they didn’t care about shopping ethical fashion or sustainability on an individual level because they believe it should be the government’s responsibility to take action on this front. Personal actions, they argued, are meaningless and translate to zero change, and thus they didn’t care whether a garment was made ethically.

Well excuse me but that’s a load of BS.

This argument reeks of complacency, of someone absolving themselves of the responsibility they have to actively make the world a less bad place. “Don’t care. Not my problem.”

How disgustingly short-sighted.

It’s true that you personally taking a shorter shower, refusing a straw, or buying a locally-made pair of pants alone won’t save the planet. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do those things, and talk about doing those things proudly. Because when you make a point of modeling the behavior that you want to see, it sends a message to your network that those things are important.

It may feel like a drop in the bucket, but until enough drops are in the bucket, no one at an industry level is even going to pay attention to the bucket.

A recent article on Slate argues “Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Still Matters.” It’s true. Not because you alone will stop climate change, but because you signaling that these are important things means other people will start paying attention.

When campaigns focus only on easy consumer tweaks and say nothing about policy, they imply climate change requires little real effort and that consumers can fix this crisis alone. But when individuals supplement policy efforts with substantial, sustained, and wide-ranging action, they inspire new social norms… More importantly, social norms can spark collective action and move the needle on policy.

When you talk to your friends about slow fashion or minimalism, it’s telling your friends that this is something you value, and that it should be something they value. If enough people value something, that’s when policy change happens.

Research on social behavior suggests lifestyle change can build momentum for systemic change. Humans are social animals, and we use social cues to recognize emergencies. People don’t spring into action just because they see smoke; they spring into action because they see others rushing in with water. The same principle applies to personal actions on climate change.

So your minimalism matters. If you believe, as I do, that our culture needs to slow down on the consumption front, then model the behavior of slowing down. Show your friends what it looks like to be more mindful of shopping and buying patterns. Talk about your efforts to be happy with fewer things.

Also, vote. Vote at the voting booth, and vote with your wallet. We still live in a world where money talks, so make sure your money is talking about what you value.

It does make a difference.