How to Deal with Judgmental Friends and Family

The bottom line is not everyone is going to get why you're living a zero waste lifestyle. People aren't going to understand a lot of things you do.

I freak out over penguins and jam out to musical theatre 24/7... not everyone understands and that's A-OK. 

You're not going to please everyone, you have to do what's best for you. Check out these blog posts on going zero waste when a partner doesn't want to or even dating with lifestyle differences

How to deal with judgmental friends and family members - zero waste edition from


We all have family members in our lives that we don't see eye to eye with. This could be about politics, religion, dietary choices, zero waste, opposing sports teams basically everything that makes Thanksgiving dinner awkward. 

We all have them. 

A reader wrote in this past week, "I'm absolutely loving your blog and first off wanted to say thank you! It's really inspiring and amazing to have tools laid out for how I can cut back on my waste, so thank you for paving the way.

Second - I have a cousin who is very conservative and a couple years ago when I started using a diva cup the topic came up and her response was 'Even if you're not using tampons, tampon companies are going to keep making the same amount, they'll still be there anyway.' 

(Very similar to what she said when I became a vegetarian)

I remember being taken aback and not really sure how to respond. I guess my question is, do you have any advice on how to talk to people so deeply entrenched in this mindset, and I wonder about this too. 

Even if I'm doing my part, will these companies continue to produce the same amount regardless?" 

When talking to friends and family members you have to remember *insert any lifestyle difference* is your choice and your choice alone. 

It's important to know your why and bring it back to a very, very personal reason. If you do something for someone or something else, for example, you're going zero waste for the earth or for the animals, you're coming off holier than thou in their eyes. 

You are better than them because you're selfless and their inaction is selfish. 

In order to break that first barrier, you have to make it about you. Make it selfish. I went zero waste for my health. I went zero waste to save money for myself. 

Another example would be biking to work to reduce emissions for the environment vs. biking to work to improve your overall well-being. 

"make it selfish"

Do you see the difference?

People are much less likely to put up a stink if you're being "selfish" or doing something for your own health. 

I'm not saying it's logical, it's just an easy way to level the field when it comes to talking to people that are difficult to talk to. 

Other key points for pleasant gatherings is to avoid these topics and focus on the things you do have in common. Most of the time we can be polite for one afternoon. 

As far as whether or not one person will make a difference, I can't help but think of this quote from Margaret Mead. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 

How to deal with judgmental friends and family zero waste edition from

You can really make your cousin angry when you whip this quote out - selfless and self-righteous all at the same time. 

But, to get to the bottom of the question will one person make a difference. Will just your actions make a difference.... in the grand scheme of things will the actions of one person make a difference?

No, probably not, but it's not just about your physical actions. It's about awareness. 

Your actions inspire others. Their actions inspire even more people, and before you know it there are hundreds and thousands of people who can change the world because of the awareness through your actions. 

Family dinner at a local restaurant in Texas. Kathryn (KK) and conservative cousin (CC), in a particularly cynical mood) meet after several years.

SC 1. 

CC: Even if you're not using tampons, tampon companies are going to keep making the same amount, they'll still be there anyway

KK: Have you heard of supply in demand? It's a very simple principle, where demand goes down and things have to change. They have to start disclosing their ingredients, move to safer product, or change up their packaging.

Plus, I'm not the only one moving away from Tampons, lots of people are. But, even if I was the only person, it really doesn't matter because it's better for my health, and I'm saving a ton of money with my diva cup. 

SC 2. 

CC: Even if you're not using tampons, tampon companies are going to keep making the same amount, they'll still be there anyway

KK: Good thing I'm not the only one moving away from tampons. (Breaks out into Safety in Numbers from The Boyfriend) 

I just had to bring it back to the musical theatre thing. 

After both of those interactions, my next step would be to disengage and talk to someone else. 

It's also important to remember a couple things: 

  1. You ARE awesome!
  2. You ARE making a difference
  3. You aren't alone; you have a lot of people who support you (me!!) 

And, to leave you with this... is it ever a bad idea to make the world a better place? 

Joel Pett cartoon for USA Toda

Joel Pett cartoon for USA Toda