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How to influence your roommates to live more sustainably

How to influence your roommates to live more sustainably

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Spoiler alert: it’s not that hard

Spoiler alert: it’s not that hard

How to influence your roommates to live more sustainably
So, you’ve been working hard for mother nature and doing a great job. You’ve successfully formed the habit of always taking a reusable cup with you for takeaway coffees, have spare shopping bags in your spare shopping bags and a medicine cabinet filled with a bamboo brush, biodegradable dental floss and toothpaste tabs. You’re killing the game!

But even with all this success, your roommate still drives her car to the corner shop, eats steak for breakfast and keeps a stash of plastic straws in the kitchen drawer. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy. The bad news is, we can’t force anyone to make huge changes in their everyday lives – not even our roommates – but the good news is we can help to gently nudge them in the right direction. Below are some of the changes I made in an effort to influence my roommate, who, for legal reasons, I have to say “doesn’t” eat steak for breakfast.

1. Leave judgement at the door

As the old adage goes, “you attract more bees with honey”. Whenever you’re approaching someone you care for about making any sort of change, it’s always best to approach them with kindness. If you step up to them with violence, chances are you’ll get violence in return. Instead of: “The sound of steak sizzling in the morning is really starting to get on my nerves!” try: “I love you and I know you mean well but I really need to speak up here. It would mean so much to me if you joined me in making small, sustainable changes in our shared space. What are some changes you think are realistic for you to make?”

I’m really fortunate to be best friends with my roommate, so this conversation was pretty easy for us to have. I already know her really well and helped her with suggestions on how to approach reducing her carbon footprint. If you’re unsure on how to approach this in your particular situation, start by asking them what changes they’re willing to make and help to guide them from there. Which brings me to my second point…

2. Offer up an olive branch

Everyone loves gifts! One great way to get the conversation going is to start out by buying your roomie something like a reusable cup. If you can’t afford gifts, try offering up some of your time. Instead of taking the car, offer to walk with them to the store and take a couple of reusable bags along with you.

If your roommate feels supported, the idea of making a big change might not feel so overwhelming for them.

In my case, I started buying oat milk for our apartment and would wake up and make us both oat milk lattes in the morning (I know, I’m a gem) After a while, my roommate started buying oat milk for our apartment too and we slowly phased out buying cow’s milk. Listen, she still eats cheese, but I’ll take my wins where I can have them.

3. Lead by example

This and the second point are kind of interlinked. It was through buying certain vegan foods that I slowly introduced my roommate to a taste for the stuff. It’s a little sneaky doing things this way but she also wasn’t complaining when I would make us Beyond Meat burgers for supper. More than anything, it’s a win-win situation. If reusable bags just so happen to be in the house, whoever is living with you will probably end up using them too. It won’t magically fix everything, but it will definitely make a big difference. This is why you need to…

4. Accept that you can’t completely change them

This is the part where I put on my Iyanla hat and offer you some general life advice. No one is perfect and we all have our blind spots. That’s why it’s so, so important to give each other grace and meet each other where you’re at. Try and find specific areas where you can successfully and sustainably make changes. Leave the rest alone. I can’t be around all day to watch my roommate like a hawk to make sure she carries her reusable cup everywhere she goes or declines an offer for a plastic fork when she’s grabbing a stakeaway, but I can influence her by encouraging us to have meatless Mondays every week. Or always keeping a dairy alternative in the fridge which she’s welcome to. I also know that my roommate is a reasonable person and will always make changes to things that are important to her.

5. Help them find their “why”

Any recent vegan or vegetarian will tell you that finding their “why” really helped them stay on course with changing their diets. The same is true for those on a zero-waste journey. It could start off small. Maybe the existential threat of climate change is enough for you to want to make big changes in your everyday life, maybe you’re doing it for health reasons.

For me, I gave up dairy the day my friend referred to milk as “cow tittie juice”. We all have our journeys. Engage with your roommate and help them find their incentive too. With love and patience.

So, you’ve been working hard for mother nature and doing a great job. You’ve successfully formed the habit of always taking a reusable cup with you for takeaway coffees, have spare shopping bags in your spare shopping bags and a medicine cabinet filled with a bamboo brush, biodegradable dental floss and toothpaste tabs. You’re killing the game!

But even with all this success, your roommate still drives her car to the corner shop, eats steak for breakfast and keeps a stash of plastic straws in the kitchen drawer. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy. The bad news is, we can’t force anyone to make huge changes in their everyday lives – not even our roommates – but the good news is we can help to gently nudge them in the right direction. Below are some of the changes I made in an effort to influence my roommate, who, for legal reasons, I have to say “doesn’t” eat steak for breakfast.

1. Leave judgement at the door

As the old adage goes, “you attract more bees with honey”. Whenever you’re approaching someone you care for about making any sort of change, it’s always best to approach them with kindness. If you step up to them with violence, chances are you’ll get violence in return. Instead of: “The sound of steak sizzling in the morning is really starting to get on my nerves!” try: “I love you and I know you mean well but I really need to speak up here. It would mean so much to me if you joined me in making small, sustainable changes in our shared space. What are some changes you think are realistic for you to make?”

I’m really fortunate to be best friends with my roommate, so this conversation was pretty easy for us to have. I already know her really well and helped her with suggestions on how to approach reducing her carbon footprint. If you’re unsure on how to approach this in your particular situation, start by asking them what changes they’re willing to make and help to guide them from there. Which brings me to my second point…

2. Offer up an olive branch

Everyone loves gifts! One great way to get the conversation going is to start out by buying your roomie something like a reusable cup. If you can’t afford gifts, try offering up some of your time. Instead of taking the car, offer to walk with them to the store and take a couple of reusable bags along with you.

If your roommate feels supported, the idea of making a big change might not feel so overwhelming for them.

In my case, I started buying oat milk for our apartment and would wake up and make us both oat milk lattes in the morning (I know, I’m a gem) After a while, my roommate started buying oat milk for our apartment too and we slowly phased out buying cow’s milk. Listen, she still eats cheese, but I’ll take my wins where I can have them.

3. Lead by example

This and the second point are kind of interlinked. It was through buying certain vegan foods that I slowly introduced my roommate to a taste for the stuff. It’s a little sneaky doing things this way but she also wasn’t complaining when I would make us Beyond Meat burgers for supper. More than anything, it’s a win-win situation. If reusable bags just so happen to be in the house, whoever is living with you will probably end up using them too. It won’t magically fix everything, but it will definitely make a big difference. This is why you need to…

4. Accept that you can’t completely change them

This is the part where I put on my Iyanla hat and offer you some general life advice. No one is perfect and we all have our blind spots. That’s why it’s so, so important to give each other grace and meet each other where you’re at. Try and find specific areas where you can successfully and sustainably make changes. Leave the rest alone. I can’t be around all day to watch my roommate like a hawk to make sure she carries her reusable cup everywhere she goes or declines an offer for a plastic fork when she’s grabbing a stakeaway, but I can influence her by encouraging us to have meatless Mondays every week. Or always keeping a dairy alternative in the fridge which she’s welcome to. I also know that my roommate is a reasonable person and will always make changes to things that are important to her.

5. Help them find their “why”

Any recent vegan or vegetarian will tell you that finding their “why” really helped them stay on course with changing their diets. The same is true for those on a zero-waste journey. It could start off small. Maybe the existential threat of climate change is enough for you to want to make big changes in your everyday life, maybe you’re doing it for health reasons.

For me, I gave up dairy the day my friend referred to milk as “cow tittie juice”. We all have our journeys. Engage with your roommate and help them find their incentive too. With love and patience.

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