The Challenges of Living Green with a Roommate (and what I can do better)

In my short-ish life, I have never lived all alone.  I’ve lived with my parents and with roommates.  There was a brief stint where I was between roommates for a summer, but that was before I decided to become greener and I spent my freedom watching Netflix and eating ramen. And wishing my apartment allowed dogs.  I still wish for that.

Through the years, I’ve discovered some things–mainly, that living green is hard with a roommate that doesn’t share your views or passions.

It was easiest with my parents: they understood my quirks and my desire to learn new things, they allowed me to experiment with making lotion and toothpaste in a basement room that sort of turned into a makeshift laboratory (they may have even let me make soap if I’d had the funds), and I was successfully able to convince them to get a recycling bin when our city adopted recycling.

They always tried to educate themselves on the issues, and together we would bemoan our city’s limited recycling options, revel in thrift-shop finds, watch in amazement at sprouts growing in the windowsill, and listen as I explained to them how quickly a burn healed when I put aloe pulp on it.  They let me commandeer their kitchen in the winter when I decided to try growing seedlings indoors for that year’s garden (they died) and when I brought in several pots of herbs that I’d cultivated during the summer (they survived the winter, but died when I put them outside the next summer–my thumb is not very green).  My mom even got excited and returned to her roots from when she was a child, growing yeast for whole wheat bread, dehydrating fruits and vegetables, and getting her brother to build her garden boxes, which she’s faithfully and successfully used ever since.  Basically, they supported and encouraged me, even though I was a boomerang child.

I have not had as good of luck with roommates.  Every roommate I’ve had (before and after I decided to become greener and crunchier) has differed from me politically, intellectually, spiritually, religiously, and emotionally in one way or another to such a point that, in some instances, I’ve been afraid to mention the word green, alternative, or home-made in case it sparked an argument. It’s also made it hard to motivate myself to change.

When you’re trying to make a lifestyle change, any lifestyle change, support is important.  Without that support, it’s hard to change, and when you try to change with non-supportive roommates, you can go insane from all those weird quirks they refuse to change.

Here are some roadblocks that I’ve come across in making my apartment green:

Failure to turn off electrical devices when they’re not in use. (not only is it environmentally friendly, it saves your wallet too!)

Being scoffed at for trying new things. (Thanks…I guess)

The belief that liberals (and that includes anyone remotely concerned about the environment, whether they side with democrats at all) are, literally, of the devil. (I can never speak about certain subjects to certain people. Unfortunately, that means with this person I can hardly speak about anything that matters to me at all)

Roommates who won’t join you for a refreshing dinner of salad, fruit, and a small  fish fillet because it’s not their diet. (What? It’s not my diet either. I suck at diets)

The belief that doctors are all liars and that herbs and alternative medicine don’t work. (Help!)

And then there was that special circumstance, the one that drove me into a depression and made me feel worthless: the Roommate Who Shall Not Be Named, who made me feel unsafe in my own apartment, who made me feel like I couldn’t spend any time in the kitchen making homemade meals, and during which time I got into the terrible habit of eating out for nearly every meal (or skipping meals altogether), which fed my sugar addiction and added who knows how many piles of trash floating around the biosphere (that’s Earth, btw, in case you didn’t know*).

So, without starting a small war in my apartment with whatever roommate(s) I may have, how can I do better?

Ideally, I wouldn’t have a roommate, or my “roommate” would be a husband who loves me and supports me in my efforts just as my parents supported me.  Not because I don’t like people, but because I don’t like it when people judge me for trying new green and crunchy things. But since I don’t live in an ideal world, I’ve come up with a few things.

First, I can stop buying so much junk food and make more homemade food. As I said earlier, my situation with She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named forced me to eat out for most of my meals, and that’s become a costly habit–both monetarily and health-wise.  I’ve started to do Bountiful Baskets again, and my pantry and fridge are fairly well stocked, but it’s just so easy to buy lunch at work.  Unfortunately, every time I buy lunch at work it’s overpriced, oversized, oversugared, and (often) over/undercooked.  They sell salads, but the pre-made salads are always soggy and the salads made right then are overpriced (everything is overpriced) and often come with that lovely bug addition I never ordered. So I need to buck up, stop being lazy, and make my own food.

Second, I can (without mentioning anything in particular) just explain to my roommates, “Hey, I’m going to be making sprouts/bread/dehydrated fruit today. That ok?” Unless they’re a jerk, they should be fine with it.

Third, I can be proactive and get to the recycling bin before my roommates. If I’m the only one who is willing to look into what can and can’t be recycled, then I should be the one willing to paw through the recycling trash can and take out food-encrusted plastic, candy wrappers, etc.

Fourth, I can stop buying so much stuff on Amazon. It’s so convenient, but do I really need to buy colored pencils and an adult coloring book on Amazon? I can find the exact same thing at Barnes and Noble, and then it won’t come in a box that could fit twenty coloring books no problem. Speaking of which, if I think I need something, I shouldn’t just go out and buy it right away.  If I’m still thinking about it a month or so later and missing all the times when I could have used it if I’d had it (like that dehydrator), then I can buy it. And if I can’t find it anywhere else (like that out-of-print book I got my nephew), then I can justify it.

Fifth, if I want to try my hand at herbs again (I do), I should try and find a way that I can keep them in a small space, such as a terrace-style pole (I can see it in my mind, but I can’t figure out how to describe it.  Sorry). That way I can keep it in a corner in the main room, kitchen, or even my bedroom if there’s no space.

Sixth, I can use my library card more often. If a book or movie changes my life or my way of thinking, then I can buy it.  I have so many books that I saw in a store and bought on a whim that I haven’t even cracked open yet. Granted, many of those are from thrift stores, so they didn’t impact the environment that way, but they clutter my room and impact my environment.

Seventh, I can remember to bring my reusable grocery bags when I go shopping. I have plenty of reusables, but I always forget them. Now I have plenty of plastic bags too. (Argh! Do this! Do this! Do this!)

Eighth, I can be smarter about how I store food. I bought reusable food bags for taking sandwiches/other food items to work, but do I use them (even though they’re so cute?)? No. Instead, I use plastic baggies.  This has to change. It’s sheer laziness that it hasn’t.

Ninth, I can read more and watch Netflix less. Oh Netflix, you dastardly beast! You provide entertainment, but so does a good book! And a book uses far less electricity! And maybe I would get through the pile of books I’ve bought! Exclamation point!

Tenth, and most importantly, I can learn to open my mouth.  How am I supposed to share who I am with others if I am not confident enough to tell them? How am I supposed to let my roommate know that I’d appreciate if she turned off her computer monitor if I don’t tell her? How will they ever know that grease-stained paper bags are not recyclable in our community if I don’t tell them? (Yeah, this one might take a while)

As much as I complain, and as hard as it is to live green and crunchy with a roommate who may not share my same views, I know there are things I can change, that I can do better, that I can commit to doing. And until I live in an apartment/home on my own, then I’m just gonna have to deal with the differences. (And I’d better learn to speak up before I’m married , or that’s going to be an interesting conversation (any husband or potential husband is currently fictitious)) So with the new year fast approaching, here’s to living a greener, crunchier life!

*I don’t mean to make you sound ignorant if you don’t know what a biosphere is.  It’s just that this same roommate hated learning but also hated feeling like she didn’t know what people were talking about, which meant that I couldn’t have any conversations with her on the off-chance that I might accidentally say a word she didn’t know, because then she would accuse me of not trusting her or calling her stupid. So now I feel like I have to define everything.  Which is just stupid, I know. Like I said, it was a special case.


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