Have you felt any of these?
* My loved ones still use plastic, what do I do?
* I get anxious when my mother gets home groceries- all packed in plastic bags with one more big plastic bag holding it all up.
* I try to tell people to not give me gifts, but my friends and family do that, wrapped in shimmery plastic gift wrapper.
* I am being forced to buy clothes for my sibling’s wedding. I could have rented, borrowed or bought second hand. But family doesn’t find it okay.
* I don’t want to take flights, but my family keeps pulling me to their air-way planned trips.
* I want to start making compost but my father doesn’t approve of it.
* My mother and house help team up against my idea of using bioenzyme and other natural cleaners.
It all feels like they don’t care about me, my feelings or anything literally. I want to do something to reduce waste and be more environmentally conscious. But nothing seems to be working as my loved ones think that I am just overreacting about waste.
I have come across all of these directly or indirectly. Believing and acting according to something that your loved ones don’t relate with can be a bit daunting. A lot of us are constantly told, “Tumhare akele k kuch karne se kuch nahi badlega” and repetitions of this can being a bit too much to handle. This constant conflict between your inner voice and so many voices around you can be pretty demotivating.
But do we need to stop practicing what we believe in or is there a way we can deal with it? While there is no one solution that fixes all problems, there certainly are some ways we can sail through it. Let’s talk about some of them that I have found to be useful in my journey.
1. First of all, acknowledge that you took sometime to reach where you are in your journey. It wasn’t the first time that you saw someone picking trash that changed your mind. May be some years of sub-conscious thinking, some visuals, facts & figures that were unusual or unthinkable shifted your thoughts. GIVE THAT TIME to your loved ones. They will not be able to change the way they think and live overnight because they haven’t had the realization you have had.
2. We are a part of a SYSTEM THAT ISN’T VERY SENSITIVE towards other fellow lives. Many humanitarian feelings in our minds have been sedated with the growth, development and competitive spirits of this world’s system existing for years. Don’t limit your work to spreading awareness, SENSITISE your loved ones. This can be done through deep conversations and your actions.
3. Know about THEIR MENTAL BANDWIDTH. At times, we may become insensitive to our people because of our difference of opinions. But try to understand their mental state before even starting a conversation. Know if they are prepared to absorb any harsh reality at that time. If not, give them time and space or alter your conversations suiting a lighter approach.
4. DON’T FORCE. This goes a long way. Human brain tries to repel when forced to do something. If you don’t want to eat a pack of chips, don’t eat. But you can’t force your family to not do that. Try to speak with them and offer them some alternatives. May be offer them to get fresh chips from your local vendor packaging-free or may be pop some corns at home.
5. ACKNOWLEDGE AND APPRECIATE their efforts. We keep complaining that our loved ones don’t follow our logical, practices that are good for us and our planet. But how about checking if they already have some good practices. My mother-in-law, always used to wash and dry plastic bags for reuse even before I started my low waste journey. I have learnt it from my father to put some kitchen scraps to plant pots directly. Although he didn’t have a compost at home, he did take some efforts. They did all of this because they valued resources. Tell them that they are doing great work by saving resources and you are learning a lot from them. They will get a push to do better.
6. TALK TO THEM BEFORE OR WHILE MAKING CHANGES in your lifestyle. Involve them as if they can help you. For example, ask elders of your house if they have ever used a toothbrush or toothpaste alternative ever. If they know something that you can use. They may end up giving some good suggestions. Remember, they may be knowing a lot through generational wisdom and old memories.
7. Involve them while making alternatives and also involve with them in their activities. Most of us don’t really know the process our market bought products are made or the ingredients. When we make our products, we build a relationship with them. May be making reetha shampoo can make your mother nostalgic about her childhood and she feels like using it sometimes if not always. It is fine if they use alternatives only sometimes. If snacks are being made at home, try to engage in the process and learn it. This creates AN ATMOSPHERE OF CO-LEARNING where in you all are learning from each other and not dictating terms or giving mere instructions.
8. STAY PERSISTENT. Go slow and steady. If you keep making drastic and sudden changes, chances are your family won’t be able to accept it and you may feel the urge to go back. Think well, prepare yourself and then slowly go ahead. This helps because if you are not persistent on your journey, others may not take you seriously.
9. DON’T EXPECT PERMANENT CHANGES IMMEDITELY: If your loved ones choose conscious option once, it doesn’t mean, it is a permanent shift. You can motivate them but it is fine if they choose ubtan powder once a week instead of soap. At least they are getting familiar to the experience.
10. STICK TO YOUR WASTE ONLY. I tried to reduce every bit of plastic coming to my house but after a point it became difficult for me to handle it alone. As others were not as keen as me, I ended up doing most of it. This also means I hoarded a lot of dry waste. This upsets the atmosphere at home. So, after a point I started segregating my waste separately. Say I travelled and have a bus or train ticket with me, I would save it separately but won’t insist others to do that. Or say your family is ordering food from restaurant but you don’t want to get that plastic waste home, cook something for yourself. I do this all the time. What matters is me having a good meal time with them and not eating the same food.
11. Find a community and also familiarize your family with them. It would be good for them to know that you are not the only one doing “weird things” and there are more like-minded people. My Mumbai Zerowaste community gets called as the “Kachre waale” gang at my place. Haha. But I love it.
12. DON’T HESITATE. YOUR CONFIDENCE MATTERS. While pulling out that dabba for packing the leftover food from the restaurant you may attract some raised eyebrows. But let your confidence change that into curiosity and a reason to start a conversation. Go for it confidently, as you are aware that wasting food is not cool. And using your container to pack that leftover food is even better because not only that saves that food from being wasted but also saves an unnecessary container being used and wasted.
13. TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH. This is a journey you want to be on for your lifetime. It isn’t a temporary shift. So, it is utmost important to stay away from conversations that drain your mental energy. Engage when you can but don’t be burdened by it. Enjoy the journey yourself so that others feel like joining you. Remember you are not making sacrifices but are choosing better for yourself. It is a gain in the long run. Find a similar community around you. If it doesn’t exist create one. It helps immensely. These are some of the ways I chose to have me coexist with family, friends and low waste lifestyle. We aren’t a perfect low waste family but my husband now chooses gifts gardening tools or edibles like dry fruits, cookies and pastries from bakery to ensure they are packaging- free. He carries dabbas to the shop. Or experiences like music shows and a dine- out meal as my birthday gifts over clothes and accessories that I don’t need. My mother-in-law is not fond of composting but keeps most kitchen scraps separately so that I can add them to compost. We set up a compost unit from an old plastic drum with my father. He is happy to see the scraps
providing food for his loved plants.
I am sharing this with you all to let you know, there is possibility to see change and more importantly to co-exist. We don’t need to let our relationships suffer because of our low waste lifestyle. After all Low Waste Lifestyle is all about valuing what we have, humans or resources!
Feel free to connect with me and may be rant about your experiences @slow_n_conscious_living on Instagram. I may be able to help you connect with some like minded community.