Give up Your Stuff: 5 Tips for Simplifying Your Life to Lessen Your Carbon Footprint

Stuff.  Whether it’s clothing or furniture, it all has an environmental footprint. You might not think about it, but the use of natural resources for raw materials;  the use of energy for manufacturing, shipping, and selling; and the upkeep of it once you own it all, factor into this footprint. The first step in embracing a more sustainable lifestyle is to let go of your stuff and simplify your life. We’ll get you started with five eco-friendly ways to lighten your physical—and environmental—load.

1.Clear out the e-clutter—Start with those ancient electronics. Do you really need that old turntable, now that you stream music online? If you’re not currently using it, you really don’t need it. Try giving it away on Freecycle, selling it on eBay or Craigslist (someone might want it for parts), donating it to a local charity, or recycling it. Electronics donation and recycling is a great way to help conserve resources and natural materials. Find e-cycling locations in your community here.

2.Clean out your closet—Those jeans haven’t fit you for years and acid-washed is never coming back into style (thank goodness). Somewhere out there, someone can make good use of your old clothing, whether it’s to clothe the needy, use as costumes for a school drama, or upcycle into something useful. You can go all Marie Kondo here and evaluate each item of clothing to decide if it brings you joy, or you can take a simpler approach and just donate anything you haven’t worn in the past year.

3.Organize—Once you’ve gone through your masses of stuff and decided what you want to keep, it’s time to figure out what to do with it all. Start by sorting it into three categories: Stuff you use every week (like cleaning products), stuff you use at least once a year (like holiday décor), and stuff you need just in case (like that car battery charger). Keep the things you use most often easily accessible, so you don’t forget you have them and re-buy them unnecessarily. Store the things you use once a year in labeled boxes in a storage closet, so you’ll know what you have but not trip over it all the time. And keep the rest of the stuff in the basement or attic, where it’s available but not cluttering up your main living space. If you know where things are and can get to them easily, you’re less likely to waste money and resources buying more than you need.

4.Downsize—If you’re rattling around in a big space full of stuff you rarely use, it might be time to downsize to a smaller home. A smaller house requires fewer materials and less energy to build, less energy to maintain, and can accommodate a lot less stuff.

5.Take the 30-Day Challenge—To help maintain a simpler, more eco-friendly lifestyle, think long and hard before making any new purchases. If you’re out of toothpaste, by all means, go buy a fresh tube. But if you’re pining over something non-essential, make a conscious decision to wait 30 days to see if you really need it. Chances are, you’ll find that you can make do with what you already have, and avoid the environmental cost involved with the manufacture and purchase of yet more stuff.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to live a simpler lifestyle and reduce the impact of your carbon footprint on the environment.

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