At the time of writing this, I’ve been working in climate change communications (my day job) for seven years. But it pains me to say that I’ve only recently started taking composting and the zero-waste lifestyle seriously. I felt awakened one day, almost like when some of my middle-aged friends woke up after turning 50 feeling relentlessly interested in Civil War history and went straight to the computer wide-eyed to learn everything they could.
It started with my thinking of ways to lower my living expenses, which reminded me once again that money and environmentalism are nearly inseparable. Saving money (like growing food instead of driving to the grocery store) can often help save the environment. Less consumption, happier planet.
But as I went down the rabbit hole of ways I could do my part for Mother Nature, I also remembered that many environmentally-friendly decisions tend to come with less convenience. For example, if I wanted to stop getting lactose-free milk in a plastic container, then my options (as I could see them) were:
- Find where I could get lactose-free milk in glass bottles:
- At a nearby farm? Hard to do if you live in Los Angeles…
- At a farmer’s market? Maybe…
- At a smaller grocery store? I’d need to research them all! There’s one in San Francisco that carries milk in glass bottles, but that’s far…
- Build a time machine and go back to the 1950s? Ugh…
- Find where I could get refills if I need to stick to plastic.
- Buy a cow or goat, but those take many, many resources to keep alive, especially the cow.
- Stop drinking milk altogether and make an alternative, like nut milk, although I might miss out on certain nutrients.
Some of you might have figured out a solution for yourselves, but I started to feel overwhelmed by the shift I’d need to make from a convenient, wasteful life that continues our addiction to plastic and fossil fuels to a less convenient, less wasteful life.
So, what does this have to do with your relationship? I’m glad you asked, friend!
After some time, I realized that a behavioral shift was nothing new to me, at least on a smaller scale. By that, I mean that anyone who’s ever been in a successful relationship knows that you need to make behavioral shifts to keep each other happy and thrive.
By that, I mean that the relationship itself (or the planet itself, in this scenario) is greater than the sum of its parts, so you need to take yourself off a pedestal and do your part. Do the goddamn dishes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Pick up your partner’s cold medicine when he’s sick in bed. Attend that work function with him if it means the world to him. (And hopefully he’ll return the favor if you ask!)
By that, I mean it’s less about convenience and more about making a goddamn effort.
The United Nations recently put out what the authors describe as the most accurate and comprehensive report on plant and animal extinction, finding that one million of the estimated eight million plant and animal species are at risk due to human influence.
While some days in our relationships seem insurmountable, whether you’re fighting over whose turn it is to destroy the umpteenth ant infestation in your kitchen after a long day at work (speaking from experience) or going through a divorce, I’d argue that our planet’s inhabitants are in much deeper shit. Respectfully, I’d say that worrying whether or not he’s going to propose or if he’s going to make time for date night, while understandable, is a tiny ailment compared to what’s at stake in the greater scheme of things.
So, whether it’s the only planet that gives you love and life (because, hell, Jupiter won’t) or the man with whom you choose to team up for the long haul, just remember that a worthy effort often takes baby steps. Shift your mindset, shift your behavior, make a difference.
Could you or your partner be making more of an effort to preserve your relationship? If the time is right, talk to a certified relationship coach to help you navigate those rough waters.
Want to jump on the zero-waste bandwagon? Here are some resources to learn more:
- Wild Minimalist: 5 Tips for Getting Started with Zero Waste
- Trash is for Tossers: A Beginner’s Guide to Zero Waste Living (Ps, It Doesn’t Happen Overnight)
- US Environmental Protection Agency: Sustainable Materials Management: Non-Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Hierarchy
- Zero Waste Bloggers Network: 10 Ways To Start Living Zero Waste