How to describe zero waste with family?

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Lisa Lisa
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How to describe zero waste with family?

How do I approach this zero waste thing with my family? I've shown them this blog and they are accusing the blogger of being paranoid and unrealistic when she's really not and I've started with my bathroom so far and plan to do the same with my bedroom as well as other parts of the house. Plus, we live in Atlanta, GA where there is so much waste, especially in surrounding areas of the city! Plastic and other disposables are everywhere, for example. There's too much consumption of new things, etc. The local farmers markets are not real and they don't sell real produce, meat, dairy, or other items for example. Everything is commercially grown and wrapped in plastic including the seafood which is not freshly caught but manufactured, whatever it is. Is it possible to go zero waste and plastic free in Atlanta in general? I mean, the thought of bringing reusable stuff to restaurants, grocery stores, or even retail stores would cause people to think I'm weird because most people where I live are not that eco (and health) conscious at all. I notice that they just buy whatever and waste it! I would like to buy bulk organic foods from grocery stores but I'm always feeling that it's expensive when it is not and plus, there's no other organic bulk items such as soap for instance where I live. And most of the organic items sold in my local grocery stores are so fake as well, especially the personal care products! This is kinda driving me nuts. Do you think it would be impossible for me to navigate through the Atlanta area zero waste and plastic free or not?

Anyway, me and my dad plan to move to Florida (Port Charlotte), despite money problems, and I think it would be easier to apply this zero waste thing while I'm still in Georgia (Atlanta). I mean I would imagine that there would be some people not using plastics and other disposables in Florida because of the oceans and eco systems, especially the Everglades. Don't get me wrong. I mean going zero waste and plastic free can also apply to the coastal region of Georgia as well as the Florida-Georgia border.

Other that that how can I explain this thing to my family, despite their habitual use and buying of disposable things, especially at stores like Big Lots or Walmart, for example?
Catherine Sultana Catherine Sultana
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Re: How to describe zero waste with family?

I am probably going to respond in several messages, so I thank you in advance for your patience.

I hear several things in your message. First, you are a member of a family, and a community where you see much work to be done and are feeling overwhelmed with the magnitude. So, first, start with yourself, which you have begun. Next, break the overwhelm into manageable pieces.

With respect to family and finances, can you locate receipts from last month or some how determine your family's spending habits for both money and time? How many hours are spent driving to from the big box stores, as well as wandering the aisles? What did they spend their money on? Once you have some idea of the magnitude you then have a problem to tackle: How else could they spend that time and money? Did they have access to those things at a thriftstore? Are there hobbies/activities they complain to not have time for? Come up with a plan and goals including money/time savings. People respond to less effort required, lower cost, less inconvenience (or at least those stand out according to my reading the posts here...). Come up with ideas which you think your household could implement with these benefits in mind . Call a meeting when everyone is feeling neutral (no recent arguments, for example).

You mentioned moving, here is a great opportunity to reduce the family's stuff and make plans for doing things differently in your new home. Can you contact the Florida visitors bureau and the city you think you're moving to for information about recycling, thriftstores, food co-ops, farmers markets? They may have initiatives you aren't seeing where you live now.

As to persuading others, consider locating "the story of stuff" or any of Bea's online youtube videos or Beth Terry's. Set up family movie night and get them to watch with you. Share how it affects you if you think they will be respectful and empathize with your feelings. It may wake them up to the situation, seeing the effect on you.

This is a tremendous gift you can bring to your homelife, hold a view of your longterm goal while promoting small, doable changes. I would say not to focus too strongly on the community at this point but show by your actions how your family can join you in persuing Zero Waste. Actively engage them in deciding new ways of doing things: How can we reduce our single use plastic, for example, can be asked while you hold up a bag of that week's accumulation.

Just some of my immediate thoughts, hope they help you move forward.
Catherine Sultana Catherine Sultana
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Re: How to describe zero waste with family?

In reply to this post by Lisa
Here are some practical ideas that came to mind:
1. Start bringing your beautiful tote bag with you and refuse plastic and paper shopping bags when shopping. Offer to bag up the groceries with your parents so they can see how natural and easy it is.
2. Pick 5 items they regularly purchase in packaging (cake mix, cereal, frozen dinner, mac and cheese in the box, canned fruit, instant lemonade, for example). Show bulk or scratch alternatives and show cost AND nutrition comparisons. In my case, I found that making applesauce in my crockpot didn't take lots of time, used 5 apples and a splash of OJ and cinnamon to make a quart AND tasted better (and probably is better for us) than store bought. 5 organic, non-gmo apples came from bag that cost $3.99 and the jarred variety usually costs $2.00 on sale. So not much money saved, but superior experience for that $2.
3. Do similarly with non food items, ask them "what are the costs of using paper towels, plastic wrap, dish sponges?" Then show examples of their replacements: rags, repurposed pasta sauce jars and flat plates to cover bowls, and dish rags. Outline how to incorporate new habits by using the replacements and tell them about benefits such as not spending money on things that just get thrown away. Figure out how much of these things they buy and use over a year and show how much they will save by using replacements. If they don't care about environment, don't spend your time covering that in detail.
4. Take out chemical based cleaners commonly used and show how water, vinegar, castile soap and baking soda can clean just as well. Show how the various mixtures measure up cost-wise. See a pattern here? Talk about ease of use, financial benefits.
5. If. you're not confident you can persuade them, consider joining a ToastMasters club and bone up on your presentation skills. You may plant a few seeds in your fellow toastmasters, at least. Family is sometimes most resistant to new ideas and suggested changes from the younger generation. You may have more success persuading friends, and that would be great, too. Finding like minded individuals will help ease the strain of seeing all the waste around you. Hope these help get you started.
Lisa Lisa
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Re: How to describe zero waste with family?

I'd do number 5 since I can't persuade my family, esp. dad since I have to obey him and please him. He hates the idea of me being around like-minded people. If I talk to him about joining a local toastmasters club, he'd disapprove, unless it's within my church.

Other than that, my family wants everything their way and I completely have to agree with them or they might hate me and kick me out. Also, they think organic, non-gmo stuff is always expensive when some of it is not. My dad isn't open to buying produce from a local farmer's market. He says it would be difficult to tell the price and that we should strictly go to the grocery instead. I have to agree with him on that as well and I can't speak up about what he buys or I'm in big trouble with him because he's my dad. What do you think?
Catherine Sultana Catherine Sultana
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Re: How to describe zero waste with family?

I hear your frustration! So, make a plan for how you're going to move on when you're of age (I'm assuming you're still a minor). In the meantime, make a journal of what they could do differently for each aspect you see. That will help ease your frustration and it will be helpful down the road should they develop an interest...So do the things you can that don't require the family to make changes. Try to participate in grocery shopping to do the most you can for selecting bulk, unpackaged produce, for example.  Take up making bread. Guess they have you over a barrel and until you can move out so you're just stuck for the time being...Hoping someone else on here can pitch some useful ideas your way!

Are you in school? Try setting up a club or joining a group to help your school do more Zero Waste...that would be a good source of support too.

Right now it seems like all the power is in their hands but when you're out of their home and on your own, solving your own problems you will get to decide how much you rely on them and the amount of time you spend with these people and from what you write here, they shouldn't be too surprised to see very little of you.
Lisa Lisa
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Re: How to describe zero waste with family?

I'm not a minor and I'm not in school either. I'm unemployed (30s) and I have to live with them until I get married to someone they want, meaning someone who fits in with them and meets their expectations. In other words, they won't go zero waste like they do. They don't like anyone who does zero waste no matter how understanding and considerate they are. It's just that they think of them as not only extreme but immoral liberals since my family is very conservative. Anyway, they won't let me live on my own, especially in Atlanta where we live which means I have to please them all the time which can make me anxious and depressed. Bulk is expensive where I am right now, according to my dad even though other people don't agree with him on that since he is narrow-minded and restricts us to those who he agrees with and agrees with him only. Zero waste makes my family mad and they want me to be a doormat for them when I don't seem to want to.
Catherine Sultana Catherine Sultana
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Re: How to describe zero waste with family?

Wow, hope you didn't take offense at my thinking you were a high school or college student!

I think there is something pretty conservative of ZW in that (in my mind at least) it resembles frugality. Are your parents motivated by saving money, conserving resources, being self sufficient? I know on the surface organic produce is expensive but when combined with using cloths and castile soap for nearly all cleaning tasks, buying used clothes, having minimal possessions, those costs are offset. Shopping 1x per week, using a list, eating everything you buy all help to reduce food expenses.

As to the psychological impacts of your situation, since you're unemployed, can you get to the workforce center to try to improve your skills and possibly get a job? Or, are they against that, too? Not many men are keen on marrying someone who cannot contribute to the household income, but that's just been my experience. Or would be attracted to a depressed fiancee, for that matter. Do you have any older relatives who could advocate for you? From what you relate, this is way more than a lifestyle issue for you. Can you get to a women's shelter? For example, you aren't too old to join the military or the PeaceCorps, but you would need some skills for the latter. I am sure even where you live there are some community resources to help you out of your situation.

If you feel you really cannot leave, are they against your volunteering in your community? If not, I would suggest that you locate a group you'd like to help and use that experience to get some daily relief.  I hope I'm not talking out of order here.
Lisa Lisa
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Re: How to describe zero waste with family?

I can only volunteer in the Catholic church rather than the rest of my community because since my family are conservative Catholics, they are worried about me meeting non-conservative, non-Catholics who will influence me to disobey and disrespect them by attending their churches, etc., and joining their religion as to why they want me to marry someone who shares their beliefs. Just for protection from these people where I live. Actually, I made a mistake about being unemployed. I work as a volunteer graphic designer for an online non-profit organization right now and I don't expect to get paid since it's just volunteer work in order to gain experience and skills I need for a paid job since the job market in my field where I live is highly competitive in which I need to have the best portfolio. As for ZW, it's difficult to explain to my family and they misunderstand it.
coldswim coldswim
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Re: How to describe zero waste with family?

This post was updated on .
In reply to this post by Lisa
IMO you need to get away from your reactionary, emotionally and politically suffocating  family.  That means generating income.

 Continue boosting your C.V. and portfolio to improve your job skills. You have an interesting opportunity being in graphic design to combine those skills with your interest in zero waste. You may have to start doing career related things on the down-low and keep it from your family in order to get away from them and boost your career opportunities.  I'm sorry but they sound like a nightmare.  If it were me, I'd probably change my name after moving out so they could never find me!

Can you make graphics/videos/presentations to show at different venues describing zero waste and its personal and larger environmental effects?  Even those can be volunteer, but it might get you started in your community to educate people about the benefits.  There is also clearly a need for it, meaning nobody else is doing it where you live, so you could develop the niche and it could take off in directions you don't even realize. Take your presentations to local colleges and high schools, since students are generally more receptive to anti-establishment ideas than many adults.  Try community centers, meet-up groups, start your own meet-up group, do whatever it takes to make contacts outside the religious community and with likeminded zero waste people or people open to it.  Call recycling organizations and ask to speak to groups or employees there and give your presentation.  All of these situations could provide contacts for more work, income, or opportunities to continue spreading the zero waste message.  

Do ZW as much as you can personally - capsule your wardrobe, use minimal personal products, if you have the ingredients around make your own products, etc.  If you can make your own products, use that as part of your presentations - show people how inexpensive and easy it is.  Work on generating income so you can live elsewhere - even if it's something like a roommate situation with others or a single room occupancy low income type of place.

It sounds like you've reached the end with trying to teach your family about ZW.  I'd give up that ghost and focus on saving yourself at this point.  You need contacts away from the churches, contacts for work, volunteering, and housing opportunities.  

I'm sorry about your family, but IMO independence of thought and action can't be contained by religion and should not be controlled by others.  But then I'm a communist atheist and anti-religion. :)  Good luck and keep us posted!  
Stephanie Stephanie
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Re: How to describe zero waste with family?

Hi Lisa,

I agree with coldswim on the ideas to improve your portfolio, but maybe start with community groups that you are a part of and will not upset your parents. Starting small while you live at home will hopefully develop your skills and keep things calm at home. Look at local businesses who might need new graphics and offer your services, eg. a freebie logo. I forget the business term but it's basically offering a useful freebie to improve someone's business but then they'll come back to you when they see it works for paid work. Or offer a consultancy service? This should hopefully give you a local, and approved customer base to set you up.
With the internet you could also look into other places you could work with in a similar vein but in a more mail order type way. You say your parents are strict but you're working with a non-profit, could you look at other non-profits to work with, develop relationships with? I'm thinking those that help children, or women's refuges, anything that fits with the Christian ethos of helping people. Surely your parents can't object to that?
Developing your own skills and setting up a business is a really exciting time. Use this to plan your ZW journey moving forward. Work as an ethical and ZW business and advertise yourself as such. Then as people as what that is then teach them by stealth! When you feel more confident in your skills and yourself then you can go all out at whatever you want.

We'll all be here to offer moral support so keep us posted and good luck with it all!

Stephanie
Stephanie Stephanie
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Re: How to describe zero waste with family?

Another thought, could you work with/set up a community improvement group within your church? One of those that goes litter picks, visits elderly care homes, plants gardens on waste land etc. Set up the meetings so they are ZW, eg. homemade snacks. Then when you have the group established maybe sound them out about ZW, you've read about it and what are their thoughts. The people who are usually interested in this kind of thing are environmentally friendly minded and this may be a way to form a support group and spread the word without stressing yourself and your parents out. :)