Dating can be tricky at the best of times but what happens when you find yourself with someone who doesn't share the same passion for a planet friendly lifestyle? Here are some stories from the 1 Million Women team about the joys and heartaches of trying to convince your partner to live light on the planet.
It can be tricky dating someone who doesn't share your passion for the environment. Lots of people I know who are keen activists and environmentalists have a partners who are somewhat indifferent to the big environmental issues the world faces. And you know what? That's actually okay. It doesn't make them bad people it just means they are different people with different priorities. It can sometimes be hard to reconcile in a relationship though and its important to support each others projects, passions and dreams.
I've been dating my boyfriend for about 5 years and it's pretty much taken that long for him to slowly get on board with being plastic free. He's spent years fondly mocking me for my weird DIY's and my excitement about plastic free packaging but he's honestly coming around! A family friend recently gave him a boomerang bag and you'd swear it was his only child he's that protective of it. I think the main reason for this change is just leading by example and being kind and accepting of your partner. Everyone is at different stages of their journey and behaviour change takes time. That doesn't mean you can't call them out for using a plastic bag but nobody likes being yelled at so try to stay calm and explain why it's important to you instead of flying off the handle.
Also, another hot tip: Don't give them Kombucha that still has a bit of scoby in it. It (literally) won't go down well!
It hasn't always been easy having a partner who's ethics (or slight lack there of) don't exactly align with mine, but I don't think I'd want to have it any other way. Especially working in the environmental space, I find it useful to have that person I'm so close to, popping my enviro bubble with a reality check on what the real world is like. It reminds me that what I'm doing is important.
But at the same time, it can be pretty frustrating. It's the worst thing in the world when you pour your heart out to your partner (maybe through angry tears sometimes, oops) about why you care about these things so much, and then the next day, you see them doing the same behaviour once again. But I've found through years and years of battling through this, that the thing that works the best around not only my partner, but pretty much every person I'm close to, is to lead by example.
Sometimes it's not enough to just tell people why they need to change - they need to see how they can change. And if they have someone giving them a demo every. single. day. of a way that they can be better, then that's what will get them over the line.
My boyfriend for instance knows that if we've forgotten our bags, I would prefer to walk 2km with arms full of a stack of groceries that I have to balance the whole entire walk home, than take a plastic bag. He doesn't love this way of transporting goods himself, but he understands the lengths I will go to in order to keep another plastic bag from being used, and he's since become the 'Oops-we-forgot-our-reusable-bags-what-do-we-do-now Solutions Master'. Now, he'll look at our pile of groceries and begin assessing the situation before we even get to the check out - and by the time we're there, will have found a used plastic bag in one of RedCycle bins, or gotten us a box. One way or another, plastic bags do not enter the house by our hands.
That's one of the examples of when doing good things for the environment is a little less convenient. Other times, there's an extra benefit to doing good, that they can't ignore. And that's when it saves you money. My partner is a pretty big fan of free stuff, or at least cheap stuff. Earlier this year I furnished my entire new place for under $1000 - which he didn't think I'd be able to do with that budget. But I did, because a lot of things were either free that I found at Council clean ups, second hand off e-bay or gumtree, or things I found out my friends didn't want any more. Buying second hand, or even saving other peoples' unwanted but prefectly good things, is so much better for the planet than buying new, and SO much better for your bank account. Boyfriend is 100% on board with this.
A key thing that comes with this tactic of basically soldiering on and waiting for your partner to slowly follow your example is having a support network that lifts your chin up when you can't keep it up any more. You could find out if there's a local group of volunteers doing things nearby, or you could join an online zero waste community. Maybe even just touch on it with your friends - you never know who could be a closet zero-waster! Sometimes it can be weird reaching out, but it's worth it, these are the people who will feed your Earth loving soul and keep you going, changing lives and changing the world one eco-action at a time.
Partners in many ways are our sounding boards. We can test out our ideas on them and try our hand at changing their behaviour (for the better of course!). Suffice to say, partners are great testing grounds for 1 Million Women ideas and passionate environmental monologues.
I wish I could take credit for all of my partner's planet-friendly switches but that wouldn't quite be fair to him. Full disclosure, nine-ish times out of ten, he will jump on board and happily go along with a DIY or new planet-friendly-living idea. His mum is an OG thrifter and recycler. She still makes trips to the 'recycling room' in their apartment block and saves a whole assortment of perfectly usable goods to repurpose them - anything from a wok to a side table that would otherwise have ended up in landfill. Lucky for me, it means he's been exposed to these waste not want not ways for a while. This has not however stopped the occasional scrunch of the nose, raise of the eyebrow or unsure glance from time to time. But this hesitation is okay. When he doesn't love the idea of me walking along the street picking up stray rubbish or the concept of a menstrual cup doesn't quite make sense, it creates the opportunity for a conversation and I get to test out my skills.
Recently, of his own accord he paid to have his shoes repaired instead of buying new ones (despite the expense which could have almost amounted to the sum of a new pair of shoes) and he happily reported to me the other week that he brought his own container for his lunchtime sushi to avoid a takeaway, plastic box. He even forwarded me a kickstart for a brand of milk hoping to develop a glass bottle system after listening to me comment on several occasions how I wished I could opt into an Australian glass-bottle milkman service.
Flashback to just six months ago and I would probably be getting more of those raised eyebrow - scrunched nose combos. Maybe, he would have gotten here on his own but I'd like to think that my consistent influence has pushed him down this path. My latest mission has been lobbying him to switch to an ethical super fund and while this one is still a work in progress - we'll get there.
For the most part, my partner is very supportive of my low-waste, low carbon behaviours.
He gets on board with most of my actions - whether it's flicking off appliances when we're not using them, always using a reusable water bottle and refusing plastic bags at the shops. One day he even came home from work and proudly exclaimed that he got his teammates on board to buy (and use) reusable cups for their morning coffees! And although I'm almost certain he finds it gross, he doesn't question the fact that I snip my nails and hair into our (indoor) compost.
Other times he hasn't been so supportive.
One time he came home to find I was using one of our cooking pots to boil (sanitise) my menstrual cup. He was quick to vocalise his disdain with a simple "that's your cooking pot now!" (Don't worry, I clean the pot completely before and after use.)
Another time during Plastic Free July, I made my own toothpaste using coconut oil, bicarb soda and salt. When our store-bought tube of toothpaste ran out, I encouraged my boyfriend to try my DIY concoction. After trialling the homemade recipe, through a grimace he told me that he was "putting [his] foot down on this one!" and would be "buying normal toothpaste!"
I have to give it to him for giving it a try though.
Typically my partner tries to be on board with recycling, reducing waste and reusing as much as he can with his recent passion being making money recycling plastic bottles he so diligently picks up every day and using that money buying plants/plant pots. Yay go green!
However he had his times of being sceptical. I remember the time I picked up few old crates from the streets (the owner was about to throw them away and I chose to offer them a home), did a little makeover and voila! Got our very own storage boxes and bedside tables. . He seemed really sceptical of the aesthetic and wondered if they were even useful. That is until guests came over and admired their beauty! Guess who ended up repurposing damaged crates as plant pots? You bet he did!
Pretty recently I was carrying a load of soft plastics to our local Woolies, walking in penguin steps (meaning I literally walked like a penguin as I kept on moving with that load forgetting my carrying bag at home (I mean could I be more ironically forgetful?) Anyway. I could hear him saying "I wonder if this Woolies have a REDcycling thing" which to me sounded more like "hey you look absolutely funny, this is our neighborhood, let's do this at someplace else (somewhere really really far where no one knows us).
I'm so glad I didn't listen to him.
1 Million Women Founder and CEO Natalie Isaacs has written a book! It's part memoir, part toolkit on how you can change the way you live to fight the climate crisis. You can pre-order it now from this link if you're in Australia, or this link if you're outside Australia.