Zero Waste and Roommates

Fun fact: I live with three roommates. 

Can you reduce your waste while you have roommates?

They want to write a rebuttal post titled "Living with a Zero Waster," which could be pretty cute.... could being the opportune word. 

My Roommates from Left to Right: Peter, Justin, and Dylan

My Roommates from Left to Right: Peter, Justin, and Dylan

I've read a lot of emails from people lamenting their roommate situations. They feel as though they can't achieve zero waste while having other non-zero wasters living with them. While it presents a different set of challenges, it's far from impossible. I want to give you sneak peak at my situation and hopefully it will inspire you. 

what to split:

BILLS: We split all of the bills. Including the trash bill.

DISPOSABLES: Justin and I don't chip in for paper towels or toilet paper. Our roommates still use paper towels, but I'm noticing them use rags a lot more. Justin and I still buy toilet paper, but we don't buy much since installing the bidet. We buy 100% recycled paper or bamboo pulp. It comes wrapped in paper and we store it in the built-in in the bathroom. 

CONSUMABLES: I make all of the cleaning products, and they're open for the whole house to use. We all buy our own food, except Justin and I make our meals together. I'm the only person who cooks on a daily or even weekly basis. So, the spices and olive oil are pretty much solely mine. You'll have to make this call depending on how often you and your roommates use them. 

I would offer to buy all of them from bulk bins, and have them split the price with me if we both cooked a lot. 

separate spaces:

We have separate cupboards, separate shelves in the fridge and freezer, separate bathrooms, and separate bedrooms.

This is why you never see a full picture of my fridge. Two of the shelves aren't mine. Having separate spaces really helps me. If there were packaged goods all in my space, it would make things a lot more difficult. There's a peace and joy that comes from how clear and uncluttered my space is. If I had packaging encroaching in my space, it would rob me from a lot of that joy and peace.

I like having my own bathroom. There's no trash can in the bathroom, and my medicine cabinet looks clear and uncluttered. Justin still uses conventional deodorant which is why he says, "I'm not zero waste." But, that's the only thing he buys in packaging. I still think he counts as zero waste. 

Everyone can participate in zero waste, it's a goal not an ultimatum. 

shared spaces:

We all share the living, dining, kitchen, and laundry room. Which means we still have a trash can. It would be so much easier and prettier to not have a trash can in the kitchen. Out of habit, I still sometimes go to the trash can. Then remember I'm supposed to put it in the jar. I do refuse to take out the trash, which I feel is totally justifiable. 

I'm the only person that really cares about how the house looks. I was given free range. Justin obliged in garage sales, thrift store hunting, and late night craigslist pick-ups to decorate our little home. Almost everything we have is second hand. 

Photo by Andrew Burton from an article by The Guardian. The picture is linked to the article.

Photo by Andrew Burton from an article by The Guardian. The picture is linked to the article.

A typical evening involves crowding into the living room, snacking with real plates, someone playing a video game, Nala fighting for a spot on the couch, and I'll probably be blogging.... this may or may not be happening right this second.


I supplied all of the dishes, cutlery, and cups for the house. They were all bought second hand, except my set of china given to me for graduation. We started out using those, but they're really fragile. After having four plates break and a roommate who doesn't know his own strength, they've been relegated to picture taking and special occasions. 


Everyone is welcome to use the cloth napkins, dish rags, mason jars, and reusable shopping bags. When a rag or napkin is dirty, I throw it into the bottom of the washing machine. Whoever does the next load of laundry will wash the rags and napkins.

They're also more than welcome to use my compost bin. Since they aren't big cooks, they don't have a lot of food scraps, but I've definitely noticed them using it when they do. 


Zero waste is my personal choice, no one else's. I don't expect anyone to join me. But, because of how normal, easy, and economical zero waste choices are I have seen a change in my roommates. They're using dish towels and cloth napkins. They're using homemade cleaners and looking at their consumption differently. 

They know I write a blog, but I don't talk about zero waste. I don't tell them what they should do. I just do my thing, and if it interests them - they do it too. 

They will probably always buy Stoffer's lasagna and mac and cheese, but they're still refusing so many disposable items. I'm really proud that our house of four only takes out one 12oz trash bag a week. I'm super proud of my boys! 

Leading by example is the best thing you can do. People will take notice and start to make small changes in their own life. And, small changes over long periods of time done by many will lead to HUGE impacts. 

Do you have roommates? What have some of your biggest challenges been?