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Help Me Celeste: “How can I go green while living with my parents?”

Photography By Daniel Faro, Celeste Tesoriero, Laura Mitulla
Published 12.01.22

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

Q: How can I go green while living with my parents? I live with my parents who do the shopping and buy a mountain of products that aren’t planet-friendly. How can I get them to convert to better options?

Well, firstly, if you’re not financially contributing to the weekly shopping, you might want to approach this carefully! You probably won’t get a positive outcome if you try to convince your parents to make a bunch of switches that are going to cost them more money. But – if you come to them with sustainable swaps that will save them money (and time, because we know how time-poor most parents are) then you might be successful.

That’s my biggest tip when convincing anyone to make a sustainable switch – whether that’s your parents, your boss or your partner. Make it worthwhile for them. If you can frame a swap as being cost-effective and convenient first, the fact it’s also better for the environment will be an added bonus.

Another thing I would recommend is actually being proactive and helping them out. Think about their circumstances, their habits, the way they like doing things and their weekly budget. If you have some of those things mapped out, then you can step in and show them different products to buy or make suggestions that would save them time or money.

For example, you might notice that a lot of food in your household is being thrown out. We know that over 7.3 million tonnes of food is wasted in Australia each year. Instead of just pointing out this problem, you could offer to buy or order the food for one week. My suggestion is to find a local farmers’ market or a service to get organic fruit and veg boxes delivered directly. I use Rita’s Farm which is in the inner west of Sydney. It has a great online store where you still get to choose what you want, but it is delivered (plastic-free!) directly to your home. If you can organise a service like this and show them how to use it, you might find that they really like it and want to continue doing it moving forward. So it’s a win-win for the planet and the family.

You can take this approach and apply it to heaps of different areas of the household. If you hate the amount of plastic that’s ending up in your pantry, offer to go to the local bulk food store and get refillable items (rice, pasta, oats, nuts, etc.) for them. Find an organic grocer or local farmers’ market in your area and ask them to come along with you to check it out. Set up a subscription service online for them, like The Dirt Company which sells a refillable laundry detergent or Who Gives A Crap which delivers boxes of toilet paper. Again, if you can help out or show them a more convenient and cost-effective way of doing the shopping, they’ll be inclined to make the sustainable switch.

The last thing I would add here is I think it’s super helpful to make these switches one at a time. Rather than getting super frustrated with your parents or the person that you live with and wanting them to do everything at once, choose one product, one area of the house or one part of the weekly shop, and focus on that until the switch has been made.

I think it also gives you time to show them the result of that sustainable alternative. Like if you did some research and helped your parents switch to a green energy provider. After the first bill comes in, you can show them where a saving has been made and perhaps convince them to put that money towards buying organic vegetables or investing in a sustainable product for the house, like a kitchen compost caddy.

The cool thing about helping people in your life or household make sustainable switches is that, once they’re working for the family unit, everyone feels really good about it. That usually has a snowball effect and makes people want to do even more. Maybe they will want to start composting or look for more ways to avoid plastic packaging. And maybe not – but the conversation has been started, the seed is planted and you can feel really good about helping your parents make these switches. And fulfilling your own environmental values while still living at home.  

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