Zero Waste Families
Thank you to Debra Wallace from Zero: Our Journey to Zero Waste for this great quest post!
Single woman Lauren Singer transitioned to zero waste in six months. Bea Johnson had two kids and a husband and probably also rocked the transition (I’m speculating here). I do know that some of us have frozen-asian-food, gummy-bear-eating husbands to contend with. Or children old enough to object to reusable toilet paper. Or children young enough to leave our homes and come back with foam stickers and glue sticks.
How does this work when you’re passionate about something and your partners in life don’t share your convictions?
Every healthy relationship has give and taken and it’s super important for us to remember this as we’re saving the world from certain self-destruction. Just as we wouldn’t want a friend who just joined a cult to try and indoctrinate us into their altered reality, we shouldn’t do that same favor for anyone who happens to be in our zero waste path.
When we approach our loved ones, how are we doing it?
My husband, Jason, and I have been happily married on most days for the past 13 years. We have five biological children, two adopted children, we lost a son when he was 10 and we’ve lived through five miscarriages and a PhD program. We juggle a lot.
As I’ve asked Jason to do things like use cloth diapers or bring reusable shopping bags, I’ve thought about the push-pull of our marriage. For us it works something like this – I share a new thing I’ve learned about why something is horrifying, we have an I’m-married-to-a-PhD-style debate, he’ll agree with me and we move along. Then he comes home with a box of individually wrapped fruit snacks, because he likes them. I get frustrated, remind myself that he does the grocery shopping (thanks Jason!!), and we repeat the discussion. On a good day I’m respectful about it.
But honestly, the conviction isn’t his.
So I’m learning to focus my efforts not so much on talking about the many merits of zero waste living, but rather on replacing everything our family loves with something zero waste that’s even better.
When we first started cloth diapering I really thought that it would be a sacrifice. It turned out that my husband and I both ended up LOVING cloth, both for the convenience of never having to go to the store to buy more and because they almost never leaked. My husband even started reaching for cloth when he still had a choice between the two.
On his weekly trip grocery shopping he much prefers reusable bags to disposable ones because they fit more items and are more comfortable to carry.
And when he accidentally tried out reusable toilet paper (family cloth) when I didn’t replace the toilet paper in our bathroom because I wasn’t using it, he liked it better!
What about children?
My kids are the same way. If I replace something they love with something better, it makes no difference to them. For example, it took me four or five tries to make bread my kids would eat without commenting about store bought bread but now they don’t even think about it.
Lest I seem on top of it, let me assure you that there are areas of regular waste in our lives. I still haven’t been able to rid our house of cliff bars because I have a five year old who’s a cliff-bar-atarian and literally vomits if he tries new food. If I have them for him, then the other kids want them too. I’ve tried to make homemade Kind peanut butter granola three or four times and couldn’t bring myself to eat the second bite. And my mother-in-law still brings over several gallons of chocolate milk for the kids in single use plastic each week and I haven’t even tried to redirect her because I know it won’t go well.
In the end…
So if you’re the force behind the thing you want, some discussions, trial and error, persistence, patience, trial and error, persistence, more discussion, patience and persistence are in your future. Once you conquer one area (bread!) there’s likely to be another (cliff bars! chocolate milk!) – it’s why this thing is called a journey. And the more people you have living in your house, the longer and more drawn out this process is likely to be.
On the other hand, if you have a lot of children your influence could ultimately be far greater in the end and you may find yourself saying things to your kids that you would never say to an adult, like, “Bring this ceramic mug to church honey, styrofoam cups are from Satan.”