I have a mixed marriage. Our differences are not racial, religious or ethnic, but rather they are ecological. It has been said that men are from Mars and women from Venus. In our case, I strive to reduce our carbon footprint here on Earth, while my husband seems to be floating in outer space.
To be clear, Mr. Right shares my progressive values and concern about global warming. He takes pride in his car’s fuel efficiency, and favors strong environmental protections and policies. However, while I’m busy reducing, reusing, refusing, repairing, and recycling, his day-to-day habits have not evolved. The result is a constant battle of wits over waste.
The Thermostat Wars
I suspect that we are not the only couple to engage in seasonal Thermostat Wars. I am comfortable living in a house that is a little cool in winter and warm in summer, adjusting my apparel to heat (or chill) my personal space as needed. But as soon as my back is turned, my spouse has flipped the thermostat to make the entire house into a sauna or fridge—not necessarily based on his personal comfort, but on what his mobile weather app tells him about the temperature outside! (I gently remind him that we live indoors.)
Who Turned on the Lights?
Smaller battles are equally frustrating. While I turn off lights when I leave the room, he has been known to turn them on and then leave the room. I carefully use and reuse the smallest portion of a “select-a-size” paper towel, while he employs half a roll to mop up a tiny spill. He can leave the bathroom without responding to the steady drip of a sink or shower faucet that was not completely turned off, or the relentless gurgling of a running toilet. Perhaps most maddening, he subscribes to numerous papers, magazines, and academic journals. Then he reads the articles online and leaves tons of the often-untouched “hard copy” for me to lug down to the curb for recycling.
Old Habits Die Hard
My husband is very intelligent, so I have tried to reason with him on grounds of efficiency and waste reduction as part of an environmentally responsible (not to mention practical) lifestyle. Not long ago, I brought him into the kitchen and pointed to four paper cups lined up on the counter. He had taken a few drinks of water over the course of a couple of hours, using a fresh cup each time. (By contrast, I simply rinse my morning coffee mug and reuse it for all my beverage consumption during the day.) He understood that it was wasteful to use so many paper cups and admitted that he hadn’t been paying attention when he poured the water. He sounded sincere when he promised to be more careful in the future, and I felt that I had gotten my point across. But an hour later, I returned to the kitchen and found a fifth cup added to the lineup!
I’m happy to report that I do win the occasional skirmish. Mr. Right finally agreed to repair an expensive clock radio rather than buy a new one. But after 42 years of marriage, so many frustrating and seemingly “irreconcilable differences” in habits remain.
How do you deal with a member of the household who doesn’t share your attitude toward waste?