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10 Tips for Going Green with a Reluctant Spouse

"Why can't he care about the environment as much as I do?"

"How did you get your husband to go along with cloth diapers?"
"How did you get your spouse interested in switching to organic food?"
"Is your husband into going green too?"

These are questions I get on my blog and from friends in real life.  In the beginning, I think it is safe to say that my husband was not as enthusiastic about going green as I was.  Several years later, he is nearly as gung-ho as I am.  I asked my husband for some ideas that might help turn a skeptical or reluctant spouse into a green-enthusiast.  Here is a list of ideas we came up with.


10 Tips for Going Green with a Reluctant Spouse

1. Go green gradually.  This is much easier for the reluctant spouse to stomach .  Try not to spring a new eco-challenge until the last one is paid for or has become easier.

2. Be persistent (a.k.a. stubborn).  Let your spouse know that while you are willing to be patient, this a priority for you.  Let it sink in that this is not a phase you are passing through.

3. Do the heavy lifting.   The goal here is to make the green change easy-peasy until your spouse has bought into the new way of doing things.  This tip is more doable if you already do a good portion of the cleaning, cooking and child care.  Take cloth diapers as an example.  My husband was not super enthusiastic about this change initially, so I made sure the transition was pretty easy on him.  My husband continued to change diapers, but I did all of the washing, and if he wanted to use disposables occasionally, I tried not to make a big stink about it.  Many months later, cloth diapering was just another domestic chore, and my husband was helping out wherever he could when home.  Last time we went on a trip and used disposables full time, my husband said he was happy to get back to cloth diapers when we returned home!  He even sometimes empties the pail of dirty diapers into the washer (the most difficult part of the cloth diapering routine) for me. 

4. Make sacrifices.  I use almost all my discretionary spending on green things.  I spend very little on typical "female" categories: clothes, shoes, purses, beauty products.  I have been willing to cut my spending in most categories so that we can afford some of the costly green changes.  Put your money where your mouth is.

5. Keep finances in mind.  I try to balance costly green changes with money-saving green changes.  As we have spent more on groceries, we have almost entirely stopped eating out and I have begun to make more things from scratch.  I sold lots of junk on Craig's List to help pay for a natural bed for our kids.  So even though some green changes cost more money (eating organic food, for example), I don't think our spending has increased dramatically. You might want to begin your green efforts with just the free or money-saving changes.  My husband still likes to think about how much we save every month by using cloth diapers.

6. Lead by example.  I changed all of my and the kids' personal products before ever suggesting alternative products to my husband.  I gave up my processed foods before asking him to think about giving up his. 

7. Don't push too hard.  If your spouse really isn't willing to go along with a change at this point, back off and try again later.  I am still (3+ years into this journey) searching for a natural deodorant that is up to my husband's standards.  Think small and steady.  Your spouse needs to see that going green is doable and affordable.

8. Compromise.  Like many people, my husband was pretty attached to a particular laundry detergent, and wanted his clothes to smell "clean" when they came out of the wash.  I have always preferred no synthetic fragrance.  When I wanted to switch to an eco-friendly laundry detergent, I took my husband to the store with me and let him pick one that smelled good to him.  (P.S. Eventually he was fine with no strong fragrance at all -- see  number 1).  Sometimes my husband balks at how much I want to spend on something (a natural bed for our kids, for example).  We try to come up with a middle ground that works for both of us. 

9. Be accommodating.  Since I have a lot of green wishes, I try to abide by my husband's wishes in other areas.  For example, I try to take care of our cars the way my husband wants me to. When it was time to say goodbye to our old TV, I went along with the big (Energy Star) TV that my husband wanted.

10. Provide convincing information.  I put this one last, but this was one of my most effective weapons.  Since I have been serious about going green, I have fed my husband a steady diet of information about the hazards of chemicals and the benefits of more natural and earth-friendly practices. After several articles about ground beef, for example, my husband agreed that our family should not eat ground beef anymore (I already wasn't eating it).  My husband also has become convinced that it's worth spending more on food to have to spend less on health.  I recommend the documentary Food, Inc. as a very accessible way to introduce your spouse to the disfunctionality of our food system.  Try to be convincing without being overbearing.


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