How to Reduce Waste Living with Your Parents

In 2021, sustainability is the closest it's ever been to mainstream. Almost everyone understands we have a plastic pollution problem, and that’s made many of us to rethink our waste and take steps to reduce it. With so many resources online, nearly everyone can participate in this lifestyle... if they want to.

According to a market research study from 2019, over half of the U.S. population said they would change their consumer habits to benefit the environment. Millennials are more likely to hold companies accountable and unlearn chronic consumerism. Gen Z is squashing climate deniers left and right. Young people not only want change, but they aren't willing to settle for anything less. Isn't that pretty incredible?

The point is, young people are leading the way. But how can they lead the way when their parents are making a vast majority of their purchasing choices for them? As someone who shares low waste tips, I receive questions on the daily looking for advice. How can I reduce waste when I still live with my parents? How do I get them on board? Help - I want to eat more plant-based but my parents make my meals! We don’t have time to waste, so here’s some tips on how to prioritize sustainability while you’re still under your parents roof.

1. Communicate your "why"

It’s important to sit your family down and talk to them about why waste reduction, climate action, and environmentalism as a whole has become important to you. Show them the videos, articles, and social media posts that made you think harder about changing your actions. Explain that you can't wait until you move out, because we're running out of time. If they know how important it is to you, they may get on board easier.

2. Start small

Don’t expect your family to prioritize sustainability as much as you do – you may be the reason they even know what that word means! Start with small steps that are easy and convenient to help get them on board. If you start simply, they won't feel like they're sacrificing anything. Incorporating reusable grocery bags, water bottles, and bar soap are a few really easy places to start. If you are all already doing that, level up to choosing dish towels over paper towels or shopping less and less for things you don't need.

3. Learn together (documentaries – fam!)

Next time if your choice to pick for family movie night, suggest one that will help educate them on this topic. Watching Gamechangers with my mom was a breakthrough!

Before she used to be worried about nutrient deficiency and I haven’t heard a peep since. Films have a certain way of storytelling that is just plain effective. Here’s a list of my favorite suggestions based on what you're into!

  • Plant Based Eating: Gamechangers, Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy

  • Ocean: Chasing Coral, The Cove, Blackfish, A Plastic Ocean (?),

  • Extinction – Racing Extinction, Sea of Shadows, Coextinction

  • Climate Change – David Attenbrough’s A Life On Our Planet, Before the Flood

4. Progress over perfection

Don't be too hard on yourself, or those around you, as you're learning how to reduce waste. It's a steep learning curve, and there very well may be some things you just can't do. That's okay! There's so many things you can do, so try to focus on that. Two of the most impactful things you can do don't require you to buy anything. Writing a letter to your state representatives to prioritize environmental projects can make more of a difference than you think. Ask your family to do it with you! Another one is emailing a company that you want them to be more environmentally friendly in a certain way. Maybe it's switching their packaging from plastic to paper, or considering their emissions during shipment. Companies take customer feedback seriously - so let them hear it!

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