Could Maximalism be Good for the Environment?

At face value, maximalists may appear to be materialistic and downright wasteful, but the truth is that this aesthetic could not be further from these things. What may look like a person that is materialistic, is actually a person who deeply values and cherishes the individuality of their belongings, and what appears to be wastefulness is just the opposite. This “wasteful” person is actually someone who takes in clothing and furniture off the street and out of thrift stores, giving them a home rather than letting them end up somewhere worse. While the maximalist style places a special emphasis on the ideology of more is greater than less, there is a misunderstanding about how the maximalist always seems to come into “new” clothes. Maximalism actually presents a more environmentally aware lifestyle than, say, minimalism, because of the means with which maximalists use to gain more possessions and pieces for their homes and wardrobes. 

The main misconception about maximalists is that they are constantly buying new things. However, the misunderstanding lies in the word “new.” Most maximalists actually shop second-hand. Thrifting and garage saling is far more economically feasible for the everyday maximalist than buying something brand-new every time they are struck with creative inspiration for an outfit. Shopping second-hand is good for the environment because most thrift stores will throw out much (if not all) of what does not sell, ergo, adding to the waste that fills landfills. Shopping at these stores helps by minimizing the amount of waste that ends up there. Not to mention, that when maximalists shop, they are more likely to select multiple pieces to style with, as the aesthetic revolves around the concept of more over less. 

Furthermore, shopping second-hand decreases the demand for manufacturers that produce new clothing and goods. This is beneficial for the environment because, in reducing demand for new clothing, maximalists help prevent these manufacturers from overproducing goods. This is a problem that occurs when there is more supply than demand. This is a negative thing because excess goods often also wind up in landfills. However, by gradually reducing the demand for new goods, as the maximalists do when they thrift, they help signal to the producers and manufacturers that demand is decreasing, which informs these companies that they need to produce less. 

Reducing the production of goods helps the environment too. Not only by reducing the amount of overstocked goods and garments that fill landfills, but by minimizing the amount of non-renewable resources that get used and destroyed during the clothing production process. The large-scale production of garments relies heavily on electricity, and their distribution involves the use of fossil fuels to fuel all trucks, planes, and ships that may be used to move new products around from place to place. Not to mention the pollution that gets created as a byproduct of said transportation production. Synthetic dyes and fabrics are known for contributing to water pollution. The extent of synthetic materials and dyes is explored in a research paper by Rita Kant. In said paper, Kant details the ways in which the many chemicals in synthetic clothing escape into the environment through production, but she concisely sums up the effect on water stating, “If allowed to flow in drains and rivers it affects the quality of drinking water in hand pumps making it unfit for human consumption.”

I mentioned before that many maximalists use second-hand shopping as a means to curate their eclectic style, but another means of doing this (that also just so happens to minimize waste), is by upcycling. Many maximalists have adopted the environmentally friendly practice of upcycling clothing and items. A hallmark of a true maximalist is the ability to breathe new life into something, whether that be an outfit or a space. One way that maximalists do this is by upcycling their belongings. This could be something as simple as styling a new look with grandma’s hand-me-downs, to something as elaborate as altering and embellishing an old Halloween costume until it’s suitable for everyday use. By reviving old pieces, maximalists further reduce their carbon footprint by minimizing personal waste and the amount that they throw away and donate. 

Understanding how maximalists come into their possessions adds a whole new layer of awareness to the style and culture. It isn’t simply about getting as much as possible, but about reviving clothes and expanding their lives. This mentality is one that many maximalists carry and it does far more good than bad. Because maximalists are known for shopping second-hand, and for re-wearing clothing in new ways, maximalists are actually promoting a more environmentally conscious world for fashion.


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