How Environmentally Friendly is Minimalism Really?

I fell in love with the minimalist aesthetic. Then I realized what was wrong with it.

Kelsey Gilchrist


Photo by Alyssa Strohmann on Unsplash

A brunette with perfect winged eyeliner gestures to a single clothing rack beside her. I only wear 32 items of clothing, she tells the camera proudly. All year.

The ensuing video consists of short clips of her modelling each item. A pair of tan culottes from Everlane. A single set of black Aritzia leggings. A taupe cotton maxi dress from Reformation (ethically made! she chirps).

She showcases the clothes in front of an impeccable backdrop, which is apparently a corner of her actual home where she lives. Against the crisp white walls are two plants, one placed on the floor, and the other perched on an elegant wire stand. There is also a simple wooden stool. And nothing else.

I have become obsessed with videos like hers. I watch them one after another, gawking slack jawed, as elegant women model their pared-down wardrobes, which all fit on a single, aesthetically-pleasing rack in their perfectly styled minimalist home. They have lush, beautiful houseplants they never accidentally overwater and kill, and real mid-century modern furniture that they bought from a dealer, not the fake Structube versions I haggled over on Facebook Marketplace. Their kitchens are lined with open shelf storage, each shelf immaculately styled with ceramic dishes and glass jars brimming with dried beans and roasted nuts and ancient grains. Everything is earth toned and elegant — not a single item out of place.

The minimalism trend has been growing for years now, and with it, so has the popularity of minimalist influencers. They can be distinguished by the neutral colored décor in their homes — which is somehow both extremely sparse and incredibly chic— and their capsule wardrobes, made up of a small amount of staple pieces that can be mix and matched at will.

Minimalists live by the principles of owning and using less. The are committed to buying only what they need, investing in fewer, better quality pieces in their home. Everything they own also has to fit with the minimalist aesthetic — earth tones, natural materials, plants, and simple shapes. The influencers will tell you they pick neutral…