Straw for One: Casually Teaching your Spouse about Sustainability

Yesterday, Gabe and I were eating at Chipotle. It was about 10 p.m., and I was half-way through my vegan burrito when, out of the corner of my eye, I see Gabe finish his burrito and start flattening the foil wrapping on the table. He carefully spread all the crinkles out and began folding it carefully into the size of a pocket square that one might put in the front pocket of a suit.

I was very confused. I laughed and asked why- and he said he wanted to reuse it.  It was the cutest thing ever, and I couldn’t believe he did it.

We don’t use tin foil at our home. Or plastic wrap, or Ziplocs. I don’t ever miss those things, but Gabe does. And yet, he still refrains from buying them even though he grew up using them and feels they make packing food easier. I didn’t realize until last night how much he has picked up from all the times I bring up sustainability in conversation.

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Gabe and I have been together for almost 6 years now, and married for 2.5 of those. We are complete opposites in many areas like this. It makes life interesting, but we (especially Gabe) respect each other’s differences and try to appreciate what each of us brings to the metaphorical table.

That being said, sometimes one of us is adamant about something that the other one couldn’t care any less about. I am extremely passionate about most aspects of veganism (though I am not vegan anymore), I am passionate about protecting people and protecting animals, and I am passionate about anti-consumerism. Gabe, on the other hand, is pretty resigned to the state of the world. He cares, but he’s talks like he is sure Global Warming is going to happen with or without his carbon contributions.

He believes veganism is right, that no one should use plastic grocery bags or straws, and that Black Friday shopping is ridiculous… but he loves meat, and never remembers to use our cloth grocery bags. 

Thankfully, he has never had any objection to my minimalist sensibilities. In the weeks preceding our marriage, I gave him the task of reducing his possessions by half before we moved in together- and he rose to the challenge. We have been equals throughout our whole marriage in keeping only useful and meaningful possessions. It has honestly enriched our life together because both of us reformed our compulsive shopping habits before we joined our lives together.

 

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I believe we should do our best, and I’ve learned he really believes that too. The more I talk about what I’m learning about sustainable living, I see that certain aspects really resonate with him.

Below, I want to share with you all the ways I try to casually bring up eco-conscious living, improve his health, and lessen our cumulative carbon impact 🙂

 


 

In fall of 2017, I went vegan…and I also tried to get Gabe to eat every vegan meal that I made. That didn’t last. His favorite foods are meat, cheese, honey, and butter xD

Granted, we watched What the Health documentary on Netflix, and he was fully convinced that a vegan or plant-based diet is great for people, animals, and the earth. But, my cooking + his hatred of vegetables made it a hard sell. After 4 months, my efforts actually had a boomerang effect- he went back to eating poor-quality animal-based food, but with even less of whole foods included than before I’d tried to turn him vegan.

2018 was a hard year. I watched him eat enough junk food that I would cry because I feared the health problems that would come with it if he didn’t stop.

But a couple of months ago, I really started working on not nagging him about the bad things he was eating. Once he didn’t feel controlled, we were able to talk about the foods that he does like that are better for him and more sustainable. I was also pleasantly surprised that he opted for more seafood and less beef on our last trip out of town 🙂

Here are some other ways he has joined me in more sustainable living:

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CBD oil instead of ibuprofen

I am a big fan of full-spectrum CBD since March 2018 when I began using it to combat menstrual cramps. I purchase it from CBDistillery and it has helped my menstrual cramps without fail. I thought this would be one of the many low-impact things that I do alone- but I was wrong.

My husband suffers from headaches several times a month due to working on construction sites and in building remodels. He usually comes home from work covered in dirt and wood shavings. All that is hard in his sinuses, along with stressful short lunch breaks, and makes a good environment for headaches.  Within a few months of my keeping a bottle of CBD around and telling him about the dangers of ibuprofen, he was reaching for that instead of ibuprofen. And, he was getting relief 🙂

 

palm-free body soap & natural deodorant

This one may seem small, but it was actually a big one for Gabe. Before I found a sustainable bar soap that he liked, he could use up a full set of Dove Men’s Care products every month (shampoo, conditioner, body soap, deodorant). Upon moving in with him, I prompting threw all of those products straight into the dumpster…not the most sustainable thing to do, I know XD

Since then, I’ve tried to moderate my expectations. And, package-free soaps aren’t necessarily better just because they are Zero-Waste. We settled on something easy, accessible, and palm-free: Simple Truth brand bar soap. I’ve brought up several times in the last year (casually as I could) that palm oil production causes many elephant deaths. Gabe takes that seriously, and knows if the grocery list says “soap”, it means this Fair-Trade, palm-free option.

In addition, we also found that he loves the smell of Every Man Jack  deodorant. It includes cetyl alcohol…but you can’t win ’em all. 50% post-consumer plastic packaging, recyclable, plant-based, aluminum free, it is definitely a more sustainable choice than Dove.

 

Zum mist instead of car fresheners

Working on construction zones as he does, my husband’s car does not stay smelling fresh. It prompted him last year to begin buying the little hanging tree air “fresheners” almost weekly. I informed him that, given my history of hormonal trouble, it was dangerous for me to ride in the car with him if I would have to smell the off-gassing from the scented tree. I didn’t mention the phthalates, formaldehyde, or the leukemia-causing benzene that it most likely contained. I even restrained myself from mentioning that it must contain petrochemicals.

The concern for the safety of my health was all it took for him to look for a new air freshener. 🙂 He fell in love with using Zum brand room spray- and now comes home from work smelling like lemons 😀

alter, mend, and make clothes

I have been altering and mending his clothes since we moved in together. In the beginning, he would think there was no point in repairing a pair of jeans, and would simply throw them away. Granted, he will wear things in a tattered state for a long time before doing so, but I’ve been working to show him how many types of garments can be repaired or altered.

These days, when something tears or isn’t fitting right, we talk about the ways I could alter it to make it last a few more months.

Also, in regards to work boots, Gabe now has complete faith that I can find a pair of steel-toe leather work boots with good arch support for $30 on Ebay- instead of purchasing a $200 brand new pair like he would before we were married. When he needs shoes, I begin hunting them down on Ebay, and he doesn’t ever choose to buy them new.

 

plant milks at home

It has been very difficult for him making this switch, but I am celebrating the fact that he has not consumed dairy milk more than a handful of times in the last year. He still likes it better, but thankfully is willing to use soymilk on his bowl of corn squares. I’ve been quite vocal about dairy being so full of estrogen, and I think that helps to discourage the desire to drink it.

 

teaching him to cook simple things he likes

My husband knows how to cook meat, but that is about the extent of his willingness to cook.

Last month, while I was making our bread for the week, I asked him to come make biscuits next to me so I could teach him how. I don’t eat biscuits myself, they just aren’t something I enjoy very much, but he made a batch that he was very happy with, and now knows he can make than pretty easily should he want a snack 🙂 I hope that as time goes on, I can teach him to cook more vegan or vegetarian meals.

 

The little things

These are all the little things that he (usually) now prefers in the vegan or more sustainable form 🙂

Just Mayo>regular mayo whenever possible

sustainably-sourced tuna>the cheapest option

homemade bread>polyethylene-wrapped bread

Field Roast sausage>regular sausage (Gabe loves sausage so this one is crucial haha)

a vegan butter>dairy butter

homemade oil-free sweet potato fries>regular fries

a small plate of seafood>beef

steel straw>plastic straws (he did this without any prompting from me)

more eco-friendly beer brands ( like Ballast Point or Boulevard) > other brands

my homemade hemp socks> cheap polyester socks

cotton>polyester t-shirts

 


The funny thing is, it’s easy to point out that we aren’t vegans, Zero-Wasters, or living in a tiny house. I tend to be overly critical of us, or myself, and always feel lacking. But we make a great team trying to do our best…and making our best better each day than it was the day before 🙂

 

Are you and your partner on the same page when it comes to sustainability? Or does one of you take the lead?


Main photo by taylor hernandez on Unsplash

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