Family unwilling to change | My Plastic-free Life

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Family unwilling to change
Topic Rating: +1 Topic Rating: +1 (1 votes) 
February 10, 2013
11:52 am
Forum Posts: 6
Member Since:
August 27, 2011
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I was helping my parents put away groceries this morning, and I need to rant.

My family seems hellbent on polluting the earth. (Mostly my mom, but as she does, so does my dad and sister.) My mom double bags her produce so that she can get extra plastic bags, sometimes even puts extra empty plastic bags in the cart. She uses them as trash bags and throws out the trash daily, even if the trash can isn't full. At home, we have plastic bags filled with more plastic bags, more than we'll ever need, even with the trash being thrown out daily. Yet my mom always hoards more and more.

My family uses paper plates exclusively for meals, even though we have real plates. This is to cut down on time washing dishes, which doesn't make sense to me because plates are the easiest thing to clean (they're flat!), and it's only three additional plates to wash.

For the dishes/cookware that are washed, my mom dries them immediately with paper towels. Which defeats the purpose of having a drying rack, and we have unused dish towels as well. (Not plastic-related, but my mom also uses powdered bleach at the sink daily. Yeck!) All cleaning (kitchen counters, bathroom, car windows) is done with paper towels.

We have lots of lidded food containers, both plastic and glass, but instead of using them, my parents will put leftover food into ceramic bowls and cover it with plastic wrap. The few times they choose to use tupperware, they go for the plastic instead of the glass, even though I've warned them about chemicals leeching.

My mom also drinks exclusively from bottled water because the fridge dispenser is too cold for her. Yet, especially during the winter, the bottled water is still too cold for her, so she'll pour bottled water into the kettle to heat up. Because we have boxes of water bottles, the rest of my family uses them often as well.


Despite many attempts to get them to change, they just won't. The only thing my mom does that's green is she doesn't flush the toilet to save water. But that's one method of conservation I wish she wouldn't practice, but she won't change that no matter how gross it is! 

February 11, 2013
6:16 am


I understand your frustrations. The best advice I can give you is to make the changes yourself rather than saying anything to her. For example when she is washing the dishes, you should grab a dishcloth and start drying the washed dishes for her. When it is getting close to dinner time, you might set the entire table with "real" dishes. When the meal is over, you could get up immediately and wash the dishes for her without saying anything. When you go to the store to buy things yourself, carry your own bags with you. You could offer to be responsible for the household trash. Then you could replace the bags only as needed.

February 11, 2013
7:13 am
Charlottesville, VA
Forum Posts: 54
Member Since:
August 29, 2011
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Oh Erich, I hear your rant.  And I know what you mean, as my dearest friend and housemate (her part is the upstairs, completely separate, fortunately) is the same way as your Mom (except for the toilet bit).  All you can do is grit your teeth, show by modelling your own good behavior, and maybe your dad & sister can be the ones to take the lead in the house, instead of your mom.  Hey, show her this post you were concerned enough to write!!!

Eve Stavros

February 11, 2013
8:25 pm
Forum Posts: 8
Member Since:
November 17, 2012
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Must be difficult! It took a long time for me to come around to an earth friendly, healthy approach to home keeping... what started the change was cost savings. That, and reading some remarkable blogs (again, first those focused on ways to cut costs). Sadly, it didn't even occur to me for the longest time that there was a better way to do things that was both cheaper and kinder to the environment. I may have come around sooner, had I had someone setting an example in my own home, and that's where you could *maybe* help: setting an example. Take over once in a while and do things your  way. Of course there are limits, depending on your family dynamics, but maybe just once in a while do a dinner, clean, etc. and do it how you'd like it done. Without any preaching, just set an example.

The good news is that you're aware, and that is wonderful! I just wish I had been as aware as you much earlier in my children's lives.

March 2, 2013
2:34 pm
Forum Posts: 6
Member Since:
August 27, 2011
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Thanks all for the tips and encouragement. Like jonnie said, there are limits because of our dynamics (for example, our schedules mean I'm usually last to eat dinner), but I definitely could take more charge when possible. 

It's extremely frustrating, but I guess the first step we could take is with ourselves.

March 11, 2013
1:56 am

Hi there. I know how frustrating it is when you see others acting in ways you wish they wouldn't, but the best advice I've been given is not to preach, but quietly lead by example. I know that's very frustrating, when you want to jump up and down and shout and scream, but I do believe that it is the best way.

You need to think about why your mom does all of these things. Mostly people use plastic or disposables for the convenience - and it sounds like your mom loves convenience - and hates washing up! Paper plates - saves washing up. Paper towels - saves washing cloths. Plastic wrap - less to wash up. It also sounds like she likes the house to be clean and tidy, so uses paper towels to dry and put away dishes straight away.


I think you should focus on this convenience aspect, and lead by example. You don't say who is responsible for washing and drying dishes, but I'm guessing it's your mom. If you want change, you need to take responsibility for this. You need to take it upon yourself to do the washing up. And yes, it is a tedious and never ending job! Plates might be the easiest thing to wash up, but when there's a stack of other stuff it must be tempting to look for shortcuts. And if you aren't prepared to do it yourself, then you can't judge your mom for trying to shorten the task.

Rather than trying to make her see your perspective, try to see things from hers - think about why she does things the way she does. Then you can think of solutions that will help her whilst achieving what you (and the rest of us!) want to see.


I hope that helps!

March 12, 2013
8:49 am
Chelsea G

Beautiful advice, thanks for sharing!

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