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Help Me Celeste: “How do I get my partner to stop buying single-use plastics?”

Photography By CELESTE TESORIERO, MASHA KOTLIARENKO

Have a sustainability question you can’t find the answer to on Google? Welcome to Help Me Celeste – a new series from RIISE’s sustainability expert Celeste Tesoriero.

Q: How do I get my boyfriend to stop buying single-use plastics? He’s on board with the sustainability agenda – he even banks with Bank Australia and keeps his shopping habits to a minimum. But, he won’t give up his beloved bubble tea and takeaway food. Help. 

I think many people will be able to relate to you here. But when it comes to influencing other people, you have to be careful about navigating your agenda in comparison to theirs. In terms of sustainability, it’s important we do things according to our own values. He’s already being great with his money by banking with Bank Australia – so he’s on the right path. But the single-use plastics debacle is understandably still an itch for you.

My advice is to let him have his own light-bulb moment. When it comes to sustainability, the more you force something on someone, the more they rebel. That moment of realisation will also be the moment they start to care. And when their heart is in it, they can’t help but take action. It will be a natural ripple effect. Changing “my nagging girlfriend says I shouldn’t buy this”, to “I’ll find an alternative to this plastic option because I want to”.

A great way to “dangle the carrot”, as they say, is to find creative ways to educate him about why single-use plastics have such a negative impact on our lives and the planet. It may call for a Friday night in with wine, a plastic-free snack board and a life-changing documentary such as The True Cost (or choose from this list of RIISE recommended shows). You could also share articles or information you come across that toes the line between his broader interests and the message bedded within. Plant the seed of how bad plastic is, and let it naturally blossom for him.

I’m sure you’re already doing this, but ultimately the best way to change behaviour is to lead by example – while remembering we’re not perfect. This question is timed well as funnily enough my boyfriend and I had a similar disagreement (aka very minor lockdown tiff – happens to the best of us) about changing a certain behaviour. And he said to me: “the best way to learn is if someone else leads by example, then I can see what they’re doing and copy that behavior.”

I thought it was super interesting and relevant to your question. Your actions create a picture of what’s possible; people find that inspiring and catch on. So, next time you get takeout together, bring your own takeaway containers and, when you get that endorphin rush, he’s a part of that. And as I said, it’s all about planting the seed. 

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