Family unwilling to change | Plastic-Free Discussion Board

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Family unwilling to change
February 10, 2013 - 11:52 am

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.

Eve Stavros
February 11, 2013 - 7:13 am

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!!!

February 11, 2013 - 8:25 pm

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

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!

Chelsea G
March 12, 2013 - 8:49 am

Beautiful advice, thanks for sharing!

Natalia Voegele
March 23, 2019 - 7:51 pm

I saw this post and felt I have to resurrect it. My family are not as bad admittedly in some ways as the original poster of this topic, but in others, they’re just as bad. I get so tired of attempting to explain why I choose to do things the way I do. My mom cannot stand the fact that I use reusable pads and the cup. I have heard the lecture about switching back to plastic pads many, many times. She usually always forgets to bring her reusable grocery bags to the store, so I allow her to borrow some of mine, if we go shopping together. When I was a kid, glass, aluminum, and plastics were recycled. I went to the dump and recycling center many times as a little girl with her. Yet, when she married her second husband, she forgot all about that and did not recycle anymore. Thankfully now, that small part has changed, as she’s no longer with him. I purchased her a set of glass containers for reheating leftovers and such in, several years ago, for Mother’s Day. Do you think she ever uses them? No and when she gave me leftovers to take home to my apartment, they were almost always in her plastic containers. I have warned her several times about plastic containers leaching chemicals into food.


My dad does not recycle much, if at all and burns most all of his garbage, including plastic 2-liter bottles, wine bottles, etc. When we have Christmas gatherings at his house, we eat off paper plates, for the most part. It is so, incredibly sad to me to see all the waste generated by the gatherings!!! I rarely see him otherwise so I am not aware of what they do in their day-to-day lives.


I do not know what my brother and his wife do for recycling and such. However, they are going to be having a baby in June. It is their first and I wanted to purchase them cloth diapers, which are good for the time length that the baby would spend in diapers. Plus, it would save them a ton of money. I talked to my mom about it and she said she thinks they will not go for it. I will speak to my brother’s wife soon about it. If she will not go for it, then I won’t spend a few hundred dollars on diapers. However, they’d be much better for the baby, there wallets and the environment. I want to give the kid something which would directly benefit it for a long time to come and would not be plastic. I am sure there will be enough plastic the child will be chewing on, . It is sad to me.


All of this is just one of the many reasons why I moved to Ireland. I am so, incredibly grateful to be away from my family and their wasteful ways!!

Take Care,


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