Thursday, January 28, 2010

Going Green: What Happens When Your Family Doesn’t Agree?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about family members having very heated arguments and strife because one person is more green or a Greenzilla than the other members of their family prompted by the recent New York Times article Therapists Report Increase in Green Disputes. Does this happen to you? How do you cope?

Maybe more understanding of differences or a compromise is order.

Husband and I have different green living hot buttons. We try to focus on the green areas where we agree - there are a lot. Although I’m sure Husband thinks I go to more extremes than he does. Once Husband chided me once for driving to the other side of the city to buy a green upholstery cleaner to clean his car when there are a slew of stores that sell cleaners closer to home. I told him that I did it for the safety of Blitzkrieg who rides in that car and then Husband was OK with it. When it comes to the well-being of our dog, we are a united front.

In other words, we’re absolutely insane about anything that has to do with Blitzkrieg's health and safety. Yes we are dog people.

It also helped that the grocery store sold the most awesome double chocolate chunk muffins and I gave him one, BTW.

Most of Lisa’s creative reuse projects end up being stuff for me!

Husband and I try to be understanding in the areas where our hot buttons differ. In the interest of martial harmony we have a rule that one of us can't be sarcastic or yell if the other sometimes forgets or slips up in the others area of focus.

For example, if Husband forgets and puts something in the trash that goes into the recycling he appreciates a friendly reminder as I fish it out of the trash and put it in the recycling. Screaming and yelling at him doesn't work, only makes him mad at me, and the next time he forgets it might be more for spite.

He’s hot, he wears a kilt, and he recycles. Husband was the one who suggested that we give recycling a try in our then new home because we have to take all of our recyclables to a city dumpster

Of course it probably doesn’t help that I regularly change the what to recycle/keep to reuse rules on him. I’m always on the lookout for a place that will recycle what our city program can’t or collecting something for a creative reuse project. At this point, Husband doesn’t put anything in the recycling bin in the garage anymore. He leaves it on the counter next to the door “on deck.” A bit annoying but I really can’t blame him.

We are understanding and compromise  in other areas of our marriage so why not this? He doesn't bash me for not joining him in his hobby of running (the only way I'm running is if it's to a shoe sale!) I refuse to bash him because he once in a blue moon he gets a fast food lunch at work or brings home a bottle of water from a race. Since I had a serious case of heat stroke, I'd much rather him drink water from a one use bottle when he runs out after running a 10K than refuse it end up in the hospital like I did.  Being different from each other is what makes life interesting - in the end  we support each other. I attend every one of my husband's races and cheer him on (and hold his reusable water bottle) and he was just as excited for me when I  was recently interviewed by 10TV for our energy saving efforts.

Our common areas of focus are:
  • Not wasting things in general
  • Getting a second reuse out of everything as much as possible
  • Saving money (so we have extra to spend on... see below)
  • Anything that deals with the health, safety, and well being of our one eyed rescue dog Blitzkrieg
My areas of focus are:
Husband’s areas of focus are:
“We are lucky to live in a place and time where food is plentiful”, Husband says. “It is a crime to waste food.” I make sandwiches and toast with bread heels now. I didn’t before I met him. And don’t even think about asking Husband to cut the bread crusts off your sandwich. “Waste food in front of me and starving children in India are the least of your problems. Expect a history lesson,” he warns.

Did I mention that Husband and I met as historical performers and regularly go to history museums for fun? The man knows his history. Expect a long and detailed speech. Pack a low waste lunch.

However more often than not, we work as a team. Husband brings things home from work to recycle in our bin because his office doesn't. Sometimes he brings me things because he thinks I can get a creative reuse out of it - and I do. Some girls get flowers I get garbage.

We are big researchers. Often we take point counter point arguments just for interesting dinner table discussion. Sometimes it backfires. When I wanted to turn up the heat on our hot water heater because the plumber said that it would solve some of the problems we were having with our dishwasher, I had to practically give Husband a term paper with footnotes as to why it was a good idea and that would actually save us natural gas. (My Energy Star rated dishwasher uses less water and heats the water in a shorter amount of time. The water needs to start off at a higher water temperature in order to remove all of the food and grit from the dishes and dishwasher.)

Another thing that helps keep the peace is to have more than one way to do something. When Husband forgets his reusable shopping bag, I have about 5 different things I can do with the plastic disposable bag he brings home. When I accidentally knocked the top off of the miso paste in the refrigerator and it dried out, instead of Husband getting upset at me about throwing away wasted food, we put it in our compost bin.

So what about you? Do you have any experiences with spouses, partners, or family members differing about the green living thing? What works for you? What doesn’t?