Written by contributor Katie Kimball, of Kitchen Stewardship.
This time of year, many of us find more time to spend with our extended family than usual. As much as family time is a blessing, it”s also often fraught with tension as people who don”t usually live together are thrust upon one another for a day, a weekend, or even longer.
Certainly our lives aren”t as complicated by family gatherings as, say, Chevy Chase”s fictional family in National Lampoon”s Christmas Vacation, but nerves can get frayed when everyone doesn”t see eye to eye.
I know it stresses me out to see the rampant waste that occurs when our big extended family gets together for a meal and present-opening. “Recycling” seems to be a foreign language. I always wish there was more I could do to spread the eco-friendly love.
Does your family “think green?” Perhaps it”s a legacy passed on from one generation to the next in your family (like I hope to start with my children). If so, you”re one of the lucky ones. I think many of us find that family members use the earth to their advantage for one reason or another:
They may be reticent to “newfangled” eco-friendly habits because they”re simply set in their ways, they may not think it”s important, or as is too often the case, your family members and mine just might not think about it at all.
Here are my simple tips for how to share the love without being a pest:
1. Show how it”s easier
In our fast-paced society, it”s practically a given that everybody loves to save time. Some earth-healthy habits are actually easier than the alternative:
- Bake potatoes without foil – just put them on a cookie sheet and poke a few times with a fork
- Glass dishes dry better in the dishwasher than plastic
- Cleaning glass with microfiber cloths and just water, no chemicals, is super quick and easy
2. Prove it”s cheaper
Photo by Epsos
A great many conservation strategies save more than just energy and resources: they keep dollars in your wallet, too – always a super selling point when sharing ideas with others:
- Have a recycle conversation – I know my mother-in-law was surprised to learn that if we downgraded the size of our trash can and added recycling, we ended up saving a few bucks. She might even call to do the same. In our old community, recycling was free (part of taxes) and garbage was by the bag, so we saved tons of money by recycling everything we could.
- Reusing and repurposing anything is always frugal, sometimes even free – glass jars, plastic bags, other containers for storage, Why I Have Empty Ziplocs in my Fridge, and more.
- Lots of ways to save money and energy with the dishwasher – no heated dry, the light cycle, and using less soap to name a few
- Vinegar and baking soda as homemade cleaners are super cheap, and often also quite efficient (An eBook packed with homemade cleaning recipes on a budget: Clean Start)
- Making food from scratch is usually cheaper and saves tons of packaging (My Top 5)
- Obviously finding techniques to avoid wasting food also saves money (statistically the average American throws out something like $600 of food per year).
3. Just do it for them
Photo by Steven Depolo
Sometimes the best way to help others save the earth is just to step in and do it. I know, this sounds like the line where I get pushy, but these are the sneaky ways that folks will hardly notice, and if they do, they won”t likely care:
- – Just yesterday my husband”s cousin raved about the chapstick I gave in stocking stuffers last year. She said, “That stuff is seriously the best. I might have to order some – you know there”s a website on there?” I just smiled and said, “Yeah, I know, it”s great.” I could have told her how good for you the 3-ingredient lip balms are, too, but it wasn”t even necessary. Sometimes quality speaks for itself.
- Offer to take recycling in for them, for in-town family – especially paper, since it”s easy and doesn”t involve much thought or rinsing anything out
- Host the party and use real dishes
- Sign up to bring the water, and bring filtered water from home instead of individual bottles (this item fits category number two as well)
- Write everyone”s names on their plastic cups so at least each person only uses one for the day. Sometimes, saving the earth is just that simple. You could also offer to collect the recycling from a big party or get together or just do it on the sly.
Does your family share your green consciousness? If not, how can you share the earthy love with them without being a bother?