Trying to live more sustainably is a thing. No, I don’t mean the latest trend (though kind of), I mean it’s an investment – of time and energy! And most of the efforts we take to live sustainably happen at home. So how do you live sustainably when your partner (or roommate) just isn’t on the same page?
Before we get too far and you think my husband doesn’t care about sustainability, let me set that record straight. Interestingly, he has increased my interest in sustainability over the years, but when I decided to start living more sustainably a little over a year ago, we realized that I’d surpassed his comfort level of sustainable living.
He was nothing but supportive of my research and even some changes I wanted to make around the house, but he wasn’t interested in trying silk floss or toothpaste tablets. And to say he was hesitant about my turn to eco-friendly diapering and using cloth diapers would be completely on point!
But then obviously we haven’t gotten to where we are now with just my efforts!
How to Live Sustainably When Your Partner Doesn’t Care
As most of us who’ve turned to more sustainable living, it was a process. We started to hear facts, opinions, and just learn more about what sustainable living means. It wasn’t overnight. It wasn’t immediate. And to be fair, we probably glossed over so many truths we’d heard for years until that tipping point.
So while we get wind our sails to change our way of life, our partner didn’t have any of that build up. We just can’t expect to take the months (or years) of learning and transfer it to someone else with a few conversations over dinner – no matter how fabulous you are!
How to Get Your Partner Interested in Sustainability
First of all, we need to give our partners time to get to the place we’re at! For us, I started to talk to him about ways to live more sustainably. It might be a passing comment about something I’d seen or heard. Occasionally it was something I’d noticed around our house (much easier for me since I was home far more than he was at the time).
Our conversations were open, however, not judgemental or definitive. In my relationship, just as in my blog and Instagram, I have posited the shift to eco-friendlier living as a learning process and one with slow and deliberate steps.
So as he did dishes one night, I’d tell him that I’ve been seeing dishwashing blocks of soap and brushes, suggesting maybe we could try them one day (we still haven’t)!
Other things, however, he was immediately on board with. If there is one useless thing to know about my husband, it’s that he DETESTS mail. So when I told him I wanted to declutter our mailbox by unsubscribing from a bunch of lists, he was VERY supportive.
I’m pretty sure I still did all the unsubscribing, but he was patient with the piles of mailings and catalogs on the table until I got around to doing it. And he was more than happy to watch C while I did the unsubscribing!
He also caught on to using our electric composter with no work whatsoever, adding food scraps to our bucket each day!
The thing is, besides being patient, is to also find things they care about. Find things that make life easier (like less mail). Look for ways to cut back (saving time or money) by using a reusable thing.
Our turn away from single-use paper products has been a long time coming, so it was a easy step for us to stop using paper towels. But things like getting him to use clean beauty products – deodorant, bar soap, etc. – has taken time! And that’s ok.
ALSO. I’ve had to force myself to look out for the sustainable practices he ALREADY does. He’s the reason we drink French Press coffee each morning. While his reason for that was enjoyment and pure flavor, it nevertheless is a much more sustainable way to drink coffee.
He always uses a glass or refillable bottle to drink water rather than anything single-use. He always eats leftovers with me, so we can avoid more food waste. He’s great about using our own bags when we grocery shop. And probably a billion more things I can’t think of right now.
Each of our paths is going to look different (even if we live in the same house), so don’t miss what’s going right just because it’s different than what you were thinking!
Don’t Underestimate the Power of One
So, here’s the big thing. If your partner just isn’t ready to be all-eco, all-the-time (heck, I’m not even that good), don’t diminish what you can do on your own!
One of my first steps, was to start shopping the refill store and buying more bulk foods and spices. I started refilling my lotion bottles and the laundry soap. I bought spices in bulk (in reusable bags I found on ETSY), started going to the farmers market, and was still using my reusable cup at coffee shops.
Since I’m the one who buys most of C’s clothing, I started buying second hand and looking for more eco-friendly kids clothing brands and stores!
I also started cutting back on my own clothes shopping and looking into sustainable brands at Nordstrom when the time came for new items. Even my search for how to find clean beauty brands and sustainable packaging was a long slow process, but one about which I’ve felt very good!
While your patient efforts to encourage your partner to make sustainable changes will take time, don’t give up on the changes you can make and do have complete control over!