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If you’re in the process of transitioning to an eco-friendly lifestyle, you might not find that everyone you live with is quite so enthusiastic. I know we’ve certainly faced this problem in our household.
It can be extremely frustrating to make such a conscious effort in reducing your waste and improving your sustainability when the rest of the family isn’t following the lead.
I found the biggest barrier in others following these eco-friendly changes was lack of education. I don’t mean that patronizingly! But they just didn’t know why they should become more eco-conscious, or how to go about it. And that’s ok. We are even now still figuring things out together. Once we started to have more conversations around the environment, sustainability and ethical purchasing, we were able to grow together towards a lifestyle we are all more comfortable with.
But having those first conversations was the key.
We began openly discussing what on earth this whole ‘eco-friendly lifestyle’ thing was, whether or not we even cared about it, and eventually how to make some changes in our household.
There were five main factors that made the transition easier for my family…
1. Get Educated about Eco-Living
Perhaps you’ve spent hours reading blogs and articles, watching documentaries and scouring newspapers to educate yourself about climate change and sustainability. This knowledge is probably fuelling your desire to change how things are done in your household.
But people don’t like change. You can think of a thousand reasons to stop using disposable cutlery for summer BBQs. That doesn’t mean your husband can.
“The quickest way of convincing your loved ones to make the effort of changing their habits is helping them understand The Why.”
Why should your husband bother packing up the leftovers in washable beeswax wraps instead of clingwrap? He’s had a long day, after all, and the clingwrap doesn’t need to be washed and left to dry.
Why should your kids bother learning to compost their food scraps? All they know is the scraps end up the bin each night and go somewhere far away where they don’t have to think about it again.
Why should you bother taking family trips to the bulk store, armed with produce bags and jars?
Help them learn why!
There are some fantastic resources out there for educating the whole family, but because I’m a sucker for a good book, I thought I’d share these gorgeous looking kids books with you:
‘Not for me, Please!‘ by Maria Godsey. This cute book is perfect for kids and adults, and your older ones can also learn some statistics and facts about living green.
‘I Can Save the Earth! One Little Monster Learns to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.’ by Alison Inches. As your kids will discover in this gorgeous read, there’s nothing worse than an eco-disastrous little monster. Luckily, Max the Monster changes his ways, and shows your kids how they can, too!
‘The EARTH Book‘ by Todd Parr is a classic in the kids-recycling-books realm. Printed on recycled materials and non-toxic soy inks, this is a super cute broad-reaching educational book for little ones.
Any one of these beautiful books would be a fantastic way to get the conversation going with your little ones. And maybe your hubby, too!
Make educating the family fun! Gather the whole family with popcorn and snacks for an eco-movie night! Or grab the dog and kids for a walk along the beach and discuss the plastic waste you find in the sand. Teach them how the plastic got there, how harmful it is and what they can do about it!
This ‘education step doesn’t have to be a lecture. In fact, please, please don’t make it a lecture because that just won’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried.
2. Get Everyone Involved in the Eco-Friendly Journey
Now that your family is fuelled with desire to change their ways to save the environment, get the whole team involved in implementing some changes! Don’t make this a one-person-leading-the-way mission, while your family follows on half-heartedly.
Sit down together and work out the key areas you want to cut back on your waste. Perhaps for your family that means starting with three main areas. Perhaps it means ten. Set some common goals together by asking your spouse and children what they think are the biggest ‘problem areas’.
Generally speaking, some key areas you might want to consider working on are:
Food-waste. Most families throw out around $1000 in food waste per year. That’s around 4 million tonnes. You can jump over to this site for some more (scary) statistics.
Single-use plastic. By 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish. That’s ridiculous. Let’s educate our kids and stop this cycle.
Automatic consumption. Most homes are filled to the brim with stuff. Stuff you don’t need. Stuff that doesn’t make our lives better, easier or happier. Teach your kids that weekends are for parks and beaches and reading and bike rides. Not shopping centres. #rantover
These conversations are a great opportunity to allow your kids to take some ownership in the home based on their interests. Get them involved and allow them to take some responsibility!
If one child loves crafts and DIY, spend an afternoon making DIY beeswax wraps with them. This is the perfect time to explain single-use plastics, food-waste and ‘reduce, reuse, recycle.’ The pride they take in this special activity together should encourage them to help use the beeswax wraps to wrap up leftovers and vegetables at dinnertime.
If another child loves being outdoors, either you or your spouse can work with him or her to create a compost station. There are some fantastic composting kits around (this one looks amazing!) and you can start to explain the lifecycle of plants and vegetables. Side note: this gorgeous book looks like a great way to have that conversation. Or, even better, set up a worm farm! Because let’s be honest, most kids love to get involved in something that’s at least a bit ‘icky.’
3. Make Eco-Friendly Living As Easy As Possible
While we consciously try to reduce the waste in our household and create a more eco-friendly environment, we definitely aren’t zero-waste. This means we do sometimes have soft plastics that need to be discarded of thoughtfully.
However, when we first started considering our soft-plastic waste, we had no idea what did and didn’t count as soft-plastic!
Enter the Soft Plastic Diagram.
One piece of A4 paper was stuck above the bag we collect our soft-plastic waste and voile! The whole family knew exactly what couldn’t and couldn’t be collected.
The lesson? Make it easy for your family. Spell it out for them if you need to. We all lead busy, sometimes hectic lives, and if it’s too hard to work out whether the headache tablet packaging can or can’t go in the soft-plastic collection, your spouse/kids are just going to throw it in the rubbish.
4. Don’t Nag… Ask Nicely.
Ahhhh, the old nagging habit. I never expected I’d be one of those partners that nags their man, but, here we are. What can I say? I’m working on it.
But I’m trying to remember that the experience of going eco-friendly in your household should be one that is uplifting and bonding as your work together to reach a common goal.
It shouldn’t be a chaotic disaster of yelling at your husband because he bought home kombucha packaged in a plastic instead of glass bottle. That’s not fun for anyone. He was just trying to get some more probiotics into the family’s tummies!
If you do notice some habits creeping in that are the opposite of sustainable, gently remind your loved one how else they could go about it.
Remember, it’s not what you say. It’s how you say it.
5. Don’t Expect Eco-Perfection
I like to believe that human beings do their best. But sometimes we stuff up. And that’s ok. I have noticed that particularly in the zero-waste community there can be a bit of pressure to get it right 100% of the time. But if you put that pressure on your loved ones, the whole thing will just become fraught with tension.
“Reach for progress, not perfection.”
Look at the moments your loved ones ‘don’t quite get it right’ as opportunities. Opportunities to open up conversation (not to nag. See above.) Opportunities to ask questions. Opportunities for both of you to learn something new.
And note: this applies to you, too. You’re part of this waste-fighting team. You’re not the leader of it. You’re going to mess up sometimes, too. I sure do! But as they said in High School Musical we’re all in this together.