Living a Zero Waste Lifestyle with Roommates
I was a senior in college last year when I started my zero waste transition. With that came me having to navigate how to implement this new lifestyle not only my boyfriend but arguably more important, my roommate.
I was lucky that my roommate was one of my best friends who also cared about the environment. That being said, she certainly wasn’t as passionate about it as I was so I had to learn how to navigate this situation with her from how I used to live to how I wanted to align my new found values with my actions.
Flash forward a year, I’m now a working gal living in a 4-bed apartment with 3 roommates I met on Craigslist.
Although this might seem like the beginning of a horror movie, my roommates are awesome people and I love living here.
But once again, I am the most extreme sustainability nut in this apartment. So needless to say, I’ve cemented a way in which to approach being zero waste with roommates.
Communicate your transition/lifestyle
Depending on whether you’re living with people who’ve known you pre-zero waste or not, you might have to tackle this a little differently.
But at the core of this lies a pretty safe assumption, your roommates will have questions.
I suggest you explain what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how that will change your actions, especially how that will affect communal areas.
For example, “I’m trying to produce zero trash because I want to help save the fishies in the ocean and our climate as a whole. In doing so, I will stop using paper towels and will be using fewer paper towels and instead will be opting for cloths”. I'd suggest making this sound less stale, but you get the picture.
If you’re trying to implement major changes to the apartment (like getting a compost bin), you’re going to need to support from the other people paying rent too.
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Share your knowledge and Stuff
Going along with the paper towel to cloth example, offer to let your roommates use them too.
Make it easier for them to get engaged and ultimately on board with your actions.
More than paper towels, cleaning supplies, and kitchen gadgets, I have a composting service come pick up a 5 gallon bucket from my house two weeks.
Although I’m the only one paying for it, I’ve told my roommates why I’m composting and told them they should put their organic materials in too.
While they don’t always do it, I have seen some of their eggshells and coffee grounds in there which is a start!
Remember that sharing is caring, and as a great movie once said, “we're all in this together”.
Realize that you can only control your actions
I remember that when I first started going zero waste, I became frustrated with the number of paper towels my bff and roomie used despite the bin of reusable clothes I had offered in the kitchen.
I had just spent weeks watching documentaries, reading news articles, and listening to podcasts about the horrendous effects humans in the past century have had on the environment and I was fired up (no pun intended). Coming home to see a pile of barely used paper towels tossed into the bin infuriated me to no end.
I’ve since learned to chill.
Although you might be passionate about this subject, your roommate might not be and that’s ok. They’re on their own journey and hopefully, your influence will rub off on them, even if it’s slow.
Understand that you can only change your actions, not those of roommates, friends, and family.
Pushing too hard to have them adopt your lifestyle will only lead to resentment.
But don’t feel discouraged.
You’re direct actions are making a difference and although you might not be able to convert your roommates to zero waste warrior like yourself overnight, you might be surprised to see them implement a few small changes.
For example, my roomie stopped buying plastic straws and used my metal ones! Any help is better than no help.
RELATED: Easy Zero Waste Swaps
Make it fun!
There are a lot of fun things you can do with your roommates to show them that being zero waste can be exciting and fun to do together.
Keeping it lighthearted and doing something together will show your roomie that being implementing zero waste changes is quite easy.
Keep separate spaces
To help me stay motivated (and organized) I have my own space in our communal kitchen and bathroom (yes sadly there is only one bathroom but on the plus side this has never been a big issue).
I love being able to open my cupboard and see all my glass jars lined up with my bulk goodies or my fridge shelf to see my meals prepped and ready to go in glass containers.
Having my own space to do as I please and make my own even in a communal area has helped me stay on track.
Really, it’s the little things in life.
Wrapping it up!
Living with people is not always to easiest. Living zero waste with people might then seem too burdensome, but I assure you that’s not the case! I hope this helped you figure out how to approach the subject with your roommies :)
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Hi, I'm Taylor
Amateur adult. Zero waste zealot. Personal finance fiend. Spicy food supporter. I’m an mid 20’s gal living in Denver, Colorado. My love of the outdoors has cultivated my zero waste lifestyle, which inadvertently fueled my passion for personal finance. Cheers to everyone interested in lessening their footprint while growing their wallet!