How To Live Sustainably When You Have Housemates

Kate Hall

Picture Pinterest worthy shelves stocked with matching jars, and compostable dish brushes placed perfectly by your bar of natural soap on the kitchen sink.

Imagine crisp paper bin liners, organic cleaners in glass bottles, a compost bin with the perfect carbon to nitrogen ratio, and tea towels made ethically from hemp.

It’s easy to create your own eco-haven when you have full control of the reigns. But imagine adding in a few extra people to the mix.

Image via Vox

live sustainably with housemates

Suddenly, you’re not the only one responsible for maintaining the compost, your mum doesn’t like the idea of using paper bin liners, and your flatmate loves pump soap that comes in thick plastic bottles.

Is it possible to live with other people while embracing your eco-values?

Living with your family, flatmates, or even your partner, can make your eco-lifestyle habits sway, and raise contention in the household (contention is a nice way to put it). Sustainable living is relatively new, and alienating those who inhabit your home by changing their everyday practices, is not an easy practice. Nevertheless, it’s entirely possible.

I’ve been 100% committed to an eco-lifestyle for two years. In that time, I’ve always lived with other people.

Be patient

Instead of coming in ‘gung-ho’ to my living situation, I started slow. I began by expressing my values and left it at that. Slowly, as we all started to gain rhythm and routine, I started changing things. Two years ago, we still used plastic bag bin liners. Today, our bin is liner-free and has been for six months without complaint.

You know what they say: “good things take time.” There’s no point casting yourself as the ‘preachy hippy’ of the household. You’ll lose.

Tip: Take it slowly; implement small changes over a long period.

live sustainably with housemates

Image via Unsplash


Eco-living aside, communication is number one when living with others, and communication doubles in importance when it comes to eco-living. It may sound petty, but if you’re going to change the brand of dish brush your house uses, without consulting your family or flat first, there will most definitely be an uproar.

Ask your housemates before you change anything. Request their opinion on changes, let them know you’re open for suggestions, and brainstorm options together. If you make an eco-swap, check in with them a few weeks later to see how they feel about it.

Tip: Communicate more than you think is necessary.

Take responsibility

If eco-living is important to you, and not equally important to your housemates, you’re going to have to take on more of the household tasks. This all depends on how you structure chores and shared utilities. Here’s an idea that works for me:

I purchase all shared items in our household of four people. This includes tomato sauce, salt, pepper, cleaners, cleaning brushes, toilet paper, spices and herbs, hand soap, oil, and laundry detergents. It is my responsibility to have these items stocked, always. Of course, we all split the bill, but it’s my sole responsibility to source these products. This takes extra time and energy, but it’s important to me that these products are bought in bulk, and are eco-friendly. It is hard at first, but you slowly get into the groove.

Tip: Be prepared to take on more household responsibility.

Describe your why

Changing things in your home will be harder for others to embrace if they have no idea why they’re happening. Kindly, and in little bursts, explain to your housemates why eco-living is important. Again, avoid the ‘preachy hippy’ persona, but don’t be shy about describing your ‘why.’

If your housemates know there’s a reason for the changes, and can tangibly see facts and figures behind the impact of their lifestyle decisions, they’re more likely to get involved. No one will go out of their way to do something if they don’t have an apparent reason why.

Tip: Explain why you’re changing things.

Inhabiting the same space as other human beings can be difficult. Throwing controversial views on home habits into the mix adds another layer of difficulty. I assure you: it’s 100% possible.

Sometimes, I wish I lived on my own with 20 cats. But watching your flatmate’s orders arrive from The Natural Co. without you encouraging it, and seeing them think hard before they put something in the colour coordinated rubbish bins, is all worth it.

Kate Hall

I live and breathe sustainable living and ethical fashion. This alternative way of consuming and existing dominates my every waking moment- and sometimes more. Ethical fashion and living are no longer my hobbies, it has become my mission... to change the future of fast fashion and the way we consume. My husband and I strive to live a zero-waste lifestyle, live at thrift stores, and always look to 'up-cycle' rather than throw out. Eco-living is not a choice for me, it's in my blood, and I am trying with all my power for it to be the new 'norm'.