How to live Zero Waste when your Partner doesn't.
Updated: Mar 4
Most of us have a partner. They share some of your values as that was the reason you were attracted to her/him in the first place. But unfortunately, they don’t share all your values and you wish they would live just as sustainably as you and make more conscious choices. How do you live sustainably when your partner doesn’t care as much as you do without failing into the trap of eco anxiety?
Let me start with that everyone is on their own journey and that they do (hopefully) the best they can do and what they are comfortable with. Don’t judge their journey when it is at a different chapter compared to yours. Just keep in mind where they have come from and how much progress they have made through their journey and be grateful for every baby step your partner makes.
Change what you have control over.
I haven’t purchased paper towels in years. Once we ran out, I simply refused to purchase new ones. If my boyfriend wants to use paper towels, he has to purchase them himself. But I pointed out where our cloth towels are and where to put them so I wash them. In the beginning, he was annoyed (creating a new habit (whatever this new habit is) takes effort and will obviously encounter some resistance when it was not your choice) but by now he doesn’t know any better. He grabs them often and is ok with using them especially because he does not have to wash them. The same goes for dishwashing soap, dishwashing sponge, bowl covers, basically lots of household items….
Give the right example
I have been using a safety razor for quite some time now and just the other day my boyfriend suddenly asked; how do you like using the safety razor? My first reaction was a bit skeptical as I have talked to him about this several times as the disposable ones he has been using for years are incredibly expensive but he kept using them anyway. As it turns out, the costs of disposables finally were high enough that making a switch to something cheaper/more sustainable was an option to him. So, I suggest he tried mine once and he was sold. He is really happy with it, although it took some time to get the result he wanted, and now he can get an even smoother shave than he did with disposables so he won’t which back anytime soon.
The switch to a safety razor took quite some time but once he saw me using one, a tiny seed was planted in his brain that this was also an option. It only took over a year for him to finally come with the idea that he could use one as well. So, just continue your own journey without being too pushy towards your partner because people are more swayed by actions than words. This became much more clear to me when my boyfriend asked me about the safety razor.
Ask your partner to try it once.
Not everything he tried he continued to use. I have asked him to try my shampoo bar once and if he didn’t like the result he could continue to use his own shampoo. As it turns out, the shampoo bar I use makes his scalp itchy so, he won’t continue to use it. Unfortunately, because of this negative experience, he is no longer open to trying a different shampoo bar as according to him, all shampoo bars make his scalp itchy.
Even though this one example wasn’t successful, I continue to ask him to try out a more sustainable alternative. Some are successful like the safety razor, others like the shampoo bar, tooth tablets, or a reusable coffee filter are not (he does compost the used coffee filter and grounds). I just continue to try without being annoying. If I try too hard, he will get annoyed so won’t even consider and I will get disappointed so I try to avoid reaching that point.
Pick your battles
Even though I have the most control over the household item we use as I do the groceries and sometimes simply refuse to buy unnecessary disposables like paper towels, I wouldn’t do this for everything. If I suddenly stopped buying toilet paper and put cloth next to the toilet, it would cause some friction to say the least. So, what do I do? I switched to another sustainable alternative like toilet paper from recycled paper from the Good Roll. This also caused some friction as these we not as soft as the ones he was used to but at least he is ok with using this one.
Another thing that bothers me about my boyfriend is that he still eats meat but we compromise. I am not going to ‘forbid’ him to eat meat (that will not end well for our relationship) but I will no longer purchase meat for him. I have also asked him that if he wants to eat meat, he would purchase organic meat. ‘Luckily’ he has kidney issues which demands a low protein diet meaning he can’t eat lots of meat, even if he wanted to, he couldn’t. He is also ok with a lot of the meat alternatives we try out. Fortunately, most meat alternatives nowadays taste great and he even purchases new meat alternatives for us to try out that he found in our local supermarket.
So, this is what I do with my partner to make our family even more sustainable. We are far from the perfect zero-waste household but that is ok. Even continue to make small changes throughout our life and we make our homes more eco-friendly with these small steps.
Do you live with someone that is not a partner but more like a roommate? Check out this post for more tips.