Vegan Minimalist Lifestyle
“Walk lightly in Spring; Mother Earth is pregnant.” ~ Native American (Kiowa) Proverb
The native Americans always believed (and still do) that it’s important to tread lightly as we go through life and respect the land instead of ravaging it.
Yet this is the complete opposite of how we live today. Instead of treading lightly and respecting nature, we destroy the earth by taking what is natural and turning it into something unnatural like taking down a forest and building a huge shopping mall, or constructing a multi-storey car park or digging out a massive tunnel for traffic.
And as we strive to achieve more, produce more, have more and build bigger and “better” things, we forget that we are meant to tread lightly upon the earth.
We don’t even consider our environmental foot prints and how deep and destructive they are as we mine the earth for all it’s natural resources, cut down forests, destroy natural habitats, pollute rivers, oceans and lakes, turn rainfall acid, put holes in the ozone layer and pollute the very air that we breathe.
And the saddest thing of all, is that we are completely aware of how destructive we’re being and how we’re destroying our planet, but for our own selfish reasons, we just won’t stop.
The problem is that it’s not just one thing that we’re doing that’s causing all the destruction where we live, it’s our whole greedy way of life.
So what’s the solution?
How can you start walking more gently on the earth?
Begin with Mindfulness
The Buddhists say that mindfulness is the answer to all our ills. They say that if everyone was mindful, there wouldn’t be harsh environmental impacts, or wars, or disease, and no anger.
Mindfulness means being aware of every single action you take, whether it’s washing the dishes, eating a meal, walking in nature, sitting on a train, or working at your job. Whatever it is, you need to be mindful of every single movement you make and every word that you speak. If you watch the Dali Lama, he moves and speaks slowly, always thinking before he does or says anything.
Buddhists believe that when you walk mindfully, aware of every step you take, you massage the earth. When you walk without mindfulness, you damage it.
How would your life change if you gave thought to everything you did, every tiny action you performed throughout your day? Can you see how this would force you to slow down, think carefully and act more ethically? Would you scream at you kids all the time if you looked them in the eye first and considered how much your words will hurt and upset them? Would you make your bed every morning in anger at having to do it again, or would you take your time and make sure your bed was neat and clean and ready for a peaceful night’s sleep?
Mindfulness has certainly changed many lives for the better, but what else can you do to slow down and live more minimally without damaging the earth?
Minimalism Saves the Planet
Some of the other things you can do to help save our dying planet could be to buy greener products, buy a greener car or recycle more.
And while these things certainly help, an even better and lighter way to live is to live a life of less.
This is minimalism.
But a life of less doesn’t mean you have to “do without” things that you want. What it really means is that you consume less, use fewer natural resources, pollute less, own less stuff and reduce your carbon footprint on the earth as much as possible.
Minimalism is a philosophy of living with less wants which makes it an easy way to live more sustainably because it means using less which means buying less. And if you think that means you’re going to live a life of “no frills” you’re wrong. You see, the way we live now is to buy lots of things, and then store them away and forget about them or decide we don’t want them and put them in the recycle bin or give them to a charity store. Either way, it’s a complete waste of money. Living with less, simply means to not buy what we don’t need or aren’t going to use.
And if you’re worried that living with less means living an uncomfortable life, you’re wrong. Look at it this way, when you go on holiday you take the bare essentials with you. You take only the clothing that you’ll need plus a few other things like books, cell phone and perhaps a computer. If you have kids, they take their favourite toys and leave the rest behind.
So what happens when you’re away? Do you miss all the stuff you left behind? Is your existence miserable because you only have a few clothes and a few other items? Or do you not miss all your other stuff at all? The fact that you can live comfortably without all your worldly possessions with you proves that you don’t need it all.
And a life of living with less stuff and less wants, also means that you live with less stress. Because you own less you have less to maintain, insure and look after which makes it easier and reduces stress. And because you want less, it takes away stress even more.
The Buddhists believe that wanting is suffering, and they’re right. When you don’t want anything and instead are grateful for what you do have, it makes life so much simpier and pleasurable.
Vegans Helping the World
It’s not just how you live that you can minimise, it’s also what you eat. You see not only do we buy things we don’t need, we also eat things our bodies don’t need. Everyone knows that the western diet is literally killing people, and yet most people continue to eat highly processed, fatty foods and then wonder why they feel lethargic and tired all the time.
A plant based vegan diet is not only good for our waistlines, it also helps the planet because it takes 10-times less land to grow crops than to raise animals for food. This means that if an acre of land with animals grazing on it will feed 100 people for a year, an acre of crops growing will feed 1,000 people for a year. Can you image how much land would be freed up if everyone ate less meat?
Also there is a huge amount of pollution produced from factory “farms” with not only the methane gases produced but also the huge amount of slurry from faeces and urine. In fact, factory farms are one of the worlds biggest polluters, much more than all the cars on the road combined.
And a plant based vegan diet is not only slimming and helps the planet, but it’s also delicious and varied. You can eat salads, bean burritos, bean and avocado nachos, pasta dishes, vegetable lasagne, soups. Once you start searching for vegan recipes you’ll be amazed at how much you can eat AND stay slim AND well fed.
It also helps if you eat mostly organic. Organic food is not only better for the planet, it’s also more nutritionally dense and fills you up more so you eat less.
Other Ways to Live Minimally
Being mindful and changing your diet to a plant based vegan diet are not the only ways you can minimise the way you live and tread lightly on the planet. You can try some of the ways below too.
Buy less stuff. We’ve already partly covered buying less stuff. Naturally it helps the planet if less products are produced and less factories are needed. But there is also more joy when you buy less.
It’s easy to think that going to a shopping mall and buying a lot of things will make you happy. The media is mostly to be blamed for this misbelief. They talk about shopping “therapy” and use phrases like “shop till you drop” and make it sound really exciting. But the opposite is true.
It’s much more satisfying to go to a shopping mall and walk out with very little, or even better, nothing at all. And what’s even more satisfying is to not go to shopping malls in the first place. Not only is there temptation to overspend, but the air in there is poor quality and germs are spread really quickly.
A house with room to live in, is more enjoyable to be in than a house full of unwanted, impulse-bought items cluttering it up. How much more would you enjoy your home if it only contained the few things you need and the things that actually bring you joy? It’s no fun opening a cupboard and finding it stuffed full of things you don’t use while you search through it for the one thing that you want. It’s far better to have clean tidy cupboards with only few items in them.
So next time you go shopping, stop and think before you buy something. Think of where you’ll put it once you get home and how much you’ll use it or what you’ll use it for. When you think more logically like that, you’ll be less tempted to buy most things.
Eat less. Most people eat far more food than they need. In America, 2 out of 3 people are obese. Just think about that. Obese. Not just overweight. HUGELY overweight.
And not only is everyone eating too much, but we’re also throwing away food that we don’t eat. We buy so much that we can’t eat it all. Many people go shopping and buy a week’s worth of groceries, then they go home and order a takeaway and eventually end up throwing away the groceries they bought.
Not only is this financially bad, but also the groceries would have made a much more healthy meal than the takeaway food. Your body doesn’t need pizza or fried chicken or donuts or soft drink.
Over-eating also means that much of our natural resources are wasted because of the production and transportation of so much food. And it’s not just the food producing factories that are the problem. It’s also all the packaging that goes into landfill and the rain forests that are cut down to make room for the grazing cows that places like McDonald’s want to turn into a hamburger.
And junk food is a terrible thing to eat. It’s food that is ridiculously high in calories and fat, yet has little fibre or nutrition so you always need to eat more of it to feel full. That’s what happens when you saturate your body with fat, salt and sugar laden foods.
Even eating at home can be bad for you and the planet if you’re eating large amounts of processed food that comes in heavy, or non-recyclable packaging.
And the saddest thing of all, is that all the overweight, obese people are actually starving because their bodies aren’t getting the foods and nutrition they need.
Don’t buy packaging. It’s quite insane how much packaging some products come wrapped in. If you want to see how much packaging you’re buying and throwing away, just take a look through your garbage bin or recycle bin and see how much is in there.
You can help save money (and the planet) by being more aware of how much unnecessary packaging you’re buying. Usually when you buy a product that’s heavily packaged, you’re paying a lot of money for the packing as well because it is always factored into the price.
So when you shop for anything at all, take a look at the packaging it comes in and if it’s too much, choose something more lightly packaged instead, or better still, aim for ZeroWaste (http://zerowastehome.com).
Drive less. So many people use their cars unnecessarily. I know some who will drive for two minutes to get to somewhere they could have walked to in 10 minutes. They spend more time driving out of their garage and reversing down their driveway then they actually do on the road. So it probably would have been easier to simply walk.
If you have to go somewhere that isn’t walkable, there are alternatives like car pooling or cycling. There is also public transport or you can consolidate the number of trips you take in your car.
Or if time isn’t an issue you can spend an hour or two walking somewhere. When my kids were young we used to walk for an hour to go to a river to feed the ducks and have a picnic and then we’d walk an hour or two home stopping at a supermarket along the way to pick up a few groceries. We all enjoyed the trip and we all slept well because of all the fresh air and exercise.
You can also try staying home more if you want use your car less.
Buy a smaller house. It’s surprising how many people live in a house that is way bigger than they need and buy furniture to fill rooms that they’ll never use.
Having a smaller home not only means that you’ll need less stuff to fill it, but it’s also cheaper to heat in winter and cheaper to cool in summer, and your mortgage will be considerably less too.
Even if you have a large family, you still don’t need a huge house because there’s nothing wrong with kids having to share a bedroom or converting a garage into a TV room.
Grow your own food. It’s always better to have a small house on a large plot of land than a large house on a small plot of land.
Having a garden means you can grow your own food. There’s nothing nicer than bringing food into the kitchen straight from the garden and eating it fresh.
Fruit trees can help shade the garden too, as well as providing year round nutrition. And vegetable beds don’t have to be fancy or take up a lot of space. It’s surprising how much you can grow in just one bed.
I know people who make vegetable beds by simply placing old bricks around the area they want to use and then digging the ground over in the middle.
Compost bins also make sure that nothing is wasted from the garden and everything can be composted and used to feed the soil in successive years.
Growing your own food can be quite addictive once you get going and you see how easy and cheap it is.
If you save all your old jam jars you can use them to bottle what you grow or bottle what you make.
I have a whole cupboard full of jars of soups, sauces, tomato paste and more that I’ve made from our own garden produce. It’s chemical free and full of goodness and also handy to have when I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to cook. I can just get out a jar of pasta sauce, boil up some paste, drain it and pour over the sauce and I have a quick and healthy meal ready to eat in minutes.
Growing your own food is what is known as a money hobby because not only is it fun, it saves you money, or makes you money if you sell your surplice to neighbours or local stores.
So Where Do You Begin?
A vegan minimalist lifestyle is a mindset, not a laundry list of things you should or shouldn’t do so there’s no right or wrong way of going about it.
If you want to improve your life by making it richer and fuller of the things you want, you can start anywhere.
If growing your own food appeals to you the most, start there. If de-cluttering your house is what you want to do the most then pick a room to start with.
The choice is up to you.
We all benefit when someone turns their life around and starts to eat well, live minimally and treads more lightly on our earth.
And our life and the planet benefits greatly when we try to live closer to nature and respect where we live.
“When the blood in your veins returns to the sea
and the earth in your bones returns to the ground,
perhaps then you will remember that this land does not belong to you.
It is you who belong to the land.”
~ American Indian proverb.