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Going zero waste when you aren’t independent and still live with your parents can be a hustle.
If you wonder how to be zero waste when living with parents, remember that the most important thing is to focus on yourself and the things under your control.
Switch to reusables, don’t buy new things, choose second-hand, eat more plant-based, don’t waste food, reuse items, walk and bike more, etc.
While you can’t control and change others, you can always encourage your family or friends to be less wasteful.
In this article, I will share how you can do that.
I saw a big difference in my parents’ behavior by applying some of the tactics below, so I hope the ideas will help you, too.
Without further delays, let’s begin.
How to go to zero waste when living with parents: 17 tactics and ideas
Even if you can’t make your parents stop using single-use items, the best you can do is reuse everything you can.
- Keep single-use utensils for picnics outside.
- Reuse water bottles – you can do fun projects with them, like a DIY planter, piggy bank, bird feeder, etc.
- Reuse plastic bags for groceries
- Use plastic or aluminum containers as pots for plants
- Reuse glass bottles as reusable water bottles
For more suggestions, check my article with 24 things to do with plastic containers.
2. Don’t waste food
Your personal food waste may be an easy one to address.
Try first to eat whatever there is, before you or your parents cook something new.
And always try to use and eat first the fruits and vegetables that are close to getting rotten.
Additionally, bring a reusable container if you are going out to a restaurant for a family dinner.
If someone has leftovers, you can take them in your reusable container instead of wasting them or getting them home in a single-use plastic container.
3. Say “No” to unnecessary presents
Another thing is that you are in charge of.
For Birthdays or other holidays, you can write down a list with a couple of ideas or things (or experience gifts) that you would like to get.
In that way, you will avoid getting wasteful or useless presents that you don’t need.
4. Sustainable gifts
On the same note, when you give a gift to someone from your family, consider some reusable or sustainable products, DIYs, or even experience gifts.
Just make sure that the person will use the gift and that it won’t be another item to collect dust.
5. Talk about the benefits of zero waste
Often, if a person sees a financial benefit from an action, they are more open to try it.
That’s why you can tell your parent that many zero waste habits can save money by:
- Stopping meaningless shopping
- Investing in long-lasting AND reusable products
- Not wasting food
- DIY-ing a couple of things, etc.
Start a conversation with your parents and tell them that zero waste is often cheaper and can save money.
You can try to calculate how much you can save as a family for a year by ditching unsustainable or single-use items that they use daily.
Share your calculations and findings with your parents. That might encourage them to change some of their habits.
6. Create activities together
Usually, most parents will be happy if you suggest to them to do something together.
For example, you can have a Sunday afternoon making various DIY cosmetics with your mum. Some ideas include:
Or you can have time with your father and go somewhere on bikes, or teach him to cook or eat plant-based burgers he never tried, etc.
7. Prepare lunch for school
Instead of buying snacks might and things wrapped in plastic, you can bring your lunch to school.
In that way, if you get pocket money for school, you can save them and buy some reusables, or sustainable products, like:
- Reusable water bottle
- Reusable food container
- Bamboo toothbrush (and use it with this easy DIY tooth powder)
- Shampoo & conditioner bars
- Menstrual cup (OrganiCup)
9. Walk or bike when you can
Driving a car produces a lot of emissions, and you can easily reduce that.
Instead of asking for a ride, consider biking or walking.
If you have to travel somewhere, then consider getting a train, a bus, or carpooling.
10. Watch documentaries
You can watch with your parents some thought-provoking environmental documentaries.
Keep in mind that they may not change their views or opinions completely.
However, your parents may become more open-minded and keen on reducing their waste and changing some of their habits.
A few great documentaries that I can recommend are:
- A Life On Our Planet
- Chasing Ice
- A plastic ocean
- What The Health
- The True Cost
For more ideas, check my list of 26 great environmental documentaries.
11. Rent formal clothes
If I can go back in time, I WILL rent my prom dress and not buy it.
It is not that I don’t like anymore, however:
- I don’t see any occasion on which I will wear it
- I don’t think it will fit me anymore
It is widespread that people buy formal clothing, like prom dresses and suits.
But honesty, it is a massive waste of money. Take a look at some renting options, such as:
- Rent The Runway – US-based. Allows you to rent unique pieces using its massive directory of brands and styles.
- Hurr Collective – UK-based. Offers a vast choice for clothing rental.
12. Set up a composting system
Composting requires more effort, but it is a fantastic way to deal with food waste if you are open to trying it.
If you have a yard or even a tiny balcony, you can set up a composting system.
There are a few different composting methods that you can choose from:
- Composting with worms – Get a container, and add worms (red wigglers) to your compost bin. It is similar to what would result if you bury food scraps but in more controlled conditions.
- Bokashi composting – Here, the kitchen waste gets fermented, and it is another excellent composting solution.
- Compost tumbler – You need a bit more space for this one, but it is excellent since it can compost your household waste faster in less than two weeks.
- Countertop composting – Get a bin and collect the food scraps. Once it’s complete, find a place to stash your scraps or look for drop-off locations.
- Freezer composting – Collect your waste (in the freezer), then you should find a place to drop off your organic scraps.
- Blender composting – Known as” cold composting,” the final material won’t be complete. However, it will be easier for the earth to absorb the raw materials. You will need a powerful blender.
- Farmer’s market – If you have a farmers market nearby, talk to someone from there. Often, farmers collect organic waste since they have their compost piles or even animals and will be happy to get your food scraps weekly.
For more details on each composting method, check out my article.
13. Get bins for recycling
My parents don’t recycle.
So, to make them do it, I try to make it easy for them to recycle.
You can do the same, by getting recycling bins and writing what you can throw in each.
Always look up your local recycling guidelines to find that out since recycling rules vary from place to place.
If the recycling in your city sucks (it does in mine), try to find a waste disposal place nearby.
Call them and see what their monthly rates are on a recycling pickup.
14. Find an organization & get involved
See if there are environmental organizations that you can join.
You can volunteer for clean-up activities, and learn more about conserving energy, saving water, recycling, etc.
If you can’t find anything locally, you can be the one to create some environmental initiatives or events.
15. Offer help
Offer to take care of groceries and only buy in bulk with your containers.
Or if this isn’t possible, go together with your parents and bring reusable shopping and produce bags with you to avoid getting plastic ones.
You can also offer your help with the cleaning of your home.
You can DIY one or two multi-purpose cleaning products and use them every time you help with cleaning.
16. Cook for your family
I’m not living with my parents, but I visit them for long periods, and it feels very frustrating to see how some of them are eating a lot of meat and animal products.
That’s why, whenever I have the chance, I cook for my family.
I buy all the groceries (plastic-free), and then I make something very delicious & vegan for them.
You can try to talk with your parents and suggest helping with the cooking. You can pick one day of the week in which you will be in charge of the food.
Most parents will be happy to get some help, so they will let you do it.
17. Lead by example
Sometimes it is pointless to try to change someone.
If you tell someone what to do, you will immediately notice other people’s reluctance to make even the slightest change.
This is because usually, no one likes to be told what to do, or even worse – people don’t like to hear that they are doing something wrong.
If you try that, it will often lead to arguing and useless confrontation.
Instead of doing that, you can lead by example and focus on the things you can control.
While it can be tough to live with your parents, don’t break your head about it if they have very wasteful habits.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is focus on your journey.
While trying to encourage your parents to waste less may seem almost impossible sometimes, I assure you that you can do A LOT more than you think.
Just try to be okay that you probably won’t convince your parents to be on board with all the changes you would like to make.
And that’s okay.
They may need more time to adjust to all the new things. With time, they might get used to all the changes and be more mindful of waste.
How to live low waste with your family? Do you have other tips on encouraging your parents to waste less?
Let me know in the comment section below!