Monday, January 19, 2009

The Less You Own The More You Have

aaah! the frustration of trying to minimalize. Lately, I've been dropping off a few grocery bags a month full of clothes I no longer wear: all apart of my lax, down-shifting endeavours. "Down-shifting" you say? Well I just heard the word first myself not long ago when the sense of it all embedded itself in my brain! There are a few definitions such as living on less but I think of it as downsizing consumerism and minimalizing posessions. The concept of what we need to live in a post-industrial society is deeply invested in consumerist ideals. The standard needs to change! Not lowering the standard-of-living per se but changing it. It's about re-evaluating our mind set of the criteria of what makes life enjoyable and worth while. But it is also how we can reshape our needs and dependencies without having to abandon all of our worldly possessions and to set up shelter at the base of any sacred mountain of our choosing. Most of us don't have the strength, let alone understanding of or motivation for that kind of life! We just have been saturated with MOREMOREMORE mentality when we should be meditating on a LESSISMORE framework. Recent blog posts on downshifting - a path to simplicity highlight some of the key issues surrounding down-shifting:
"As individuals and humans we are all interconnected in a series of interdependent systems."
This is a concept that is always inherent to the sustainability issue. If it was understood that everything in the environment, the system of nature and its relationships, was infinitely connected and dependent on each other for any kind of healthy existence than we would all be in a better place. DOWN WITH APATHY! I'm not telling you to necessarily throw away your television or give all your clothes to charity. But making small changes one day and one action at a time can make all the difference. Blah blah you've heard it before but that it can make the MOST difference is what needs to be acknowledged. To create a real shift in necessity and ecological impact, the smallest choices on an individual level are where the average person should begin.

On the downshifting journey of course there will be moments of confusion and evaluations of lifestyle. "On a deconsuming pattern, changes will happen and withdrawal symptoms for many will be heartfelt." This is a challenge but it doesn't have to seem impossible because it is so much easier than anyone might imagine if the mind - which it is all in - can expand to consider, sometimes radically different possibilities of living. Of course our individual actions also directly correspond to our actions as a group of humans, explained in a global context in this video that articulates "without some readjustment on our lifestyles we can no longer sustain such a demand on the planet's resources". David Suzuki also reitorates that there are lots of things you can do right now at your own home.

Vegetarianism is certainly one way that you can immediately and drastically reduce your ecological footprint. It helps also to put a perspective on down-shifting. As a relatively new vegetarian I've completely changed a set of food choices I've left unquestioned all my life. Seeing the benefits individually, environmentally and ecologically of removing unnecessary selections from my diet has lead me to perceive all the other possibilities. It's true that we only wear 10% of clothes in our closet - thin out what you don't wear and don't think you'll need. Heard of thrifting? That's another word for recycling clothing! One of my favourite down-shifting activities include having a "clothes party" with friends when you just bring along the items you no longer wear and exchange with others. Make a decision that will influence your future decisions of buying - ask W-H-Y-? Never buy another plastic water bottle again if you can help it! This includes investing in a water canteen, (one paradoxical consumer choice that can actually fight consumerist ideology!) Recycle, Recycle everything. Cereal and tampon boxes. Shampoo bottles and electronics! Call your municipality and become aware of all of the recycling opportunities. Go online and do some research of how to furthur reduce your ecological footprint! Any of David Suzuki's books or websites are a great place to start. If you can't recycle something you want or think you need, evaluate where it will end up in the future and ask yourself how every decision you make will effect the environment. Bring cloth shopping bags with you if you think there is any chance of purchasing items. If you forgot them and if it is possible then kindly decline the plastic shopping bag at the store and carry what you've bought or shove it in your purse! Of course, walk instead of drive if at all feasible.

These are some easy steps I've found simple to work into my life. Maybe you will too. Small stuff is big stuff. These have been notes of a fairly new and lax but conscious down-shifter, wish me luck - I challenge you (and myself) to live green or greener!

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