What happens when you are scrupulous about reducing, reusing, and recycling… but the rest of your household isn’t? This was the issue with Recyclebank reader Katherine, who wrote to us about her excessive trash-producing, water-wasting, harsh chemical cleanser-using housemate. “How would you suggest that a household with roommates get together to make sure everyone is on the same page where green action is concerned?”
Good question, Katherine, and we’re sure it’s one that is not uncommon. After all, people come in many shades of green, and some folks just haven’t given thought to how their everyday habits can impact the planet. Plus, in some cases, the sustainable choice is the one that’s a little more effort on your part. But even if someone doesn’t share your beliefs in being eco-conscious, there’s no denying that being environmentally responsible benefits everyone in the long run. So if you’ve got a spouse, a housemate, or a child who is reluctant to go green, use these ideas to get them to see the light.
- Arm yourself with knowledge. Pick the few areas that matter the most for you, and prepare some information and research about why making a change in the household is important. Whether it’s buying mostly organic food, conserving water, or recycling more of your waste, do your homework to explain exactly why changing habits is important and how it can benefit the environment.
- Make it as simple as possible. It’s easier to change someone’s habits (especially if they are reluctant) if you make it easy for them to adopt the new habit. This might mean shouldering more of the burden, at least at first. If you want certain nontoxic cleansers used at home, then buy them and stock the broom closet with them. Have the recycling bin in an easy-to-reach area, and offer to take the recycling to the curb yourself. Find easy ways that they can be green, and gradually introduce changes into the household routine rather than expecting a complete overhaul of habits.
- Find out their objections. Sit down and discuss what’s preventing your roomie from being more eco-friendly in a neutral and non-confrontational way. It could be that your spouse or roommate doesn’t think that eco-friendly products work as well as conventional ones, or that they simply don’t have the time to compost vegetables. By knowing what their concerns and issues are, you can try to work together to find an agreeable solution.
- Show what’s in it for them. Again, a little advance research pays off. Do some calculations and show how much you’ll save on the utility bills if they’re more careful about turning off unnecessary lights and taking shorter showers. Explain the environmental health benefits of eating organic and unprocessed foods. It just might be the motivation that’s needed.
- Know when to let it go. Finally, if you’ve tried various options and you still haven’t convinced your housemate or spouse, you might just have to drop the issue and do what you can on your own (I know people who root through the trash to pick out recyclables that their housemates carelessly toss). You can decide for yourself if it’s a cause so important to you that you’d prefer to find a new roommate, or if you can simply do your own part and turn the other cheek when you see the sink running full-blast while your roommate brushes her teeth!