Living Low Waste with Roommates

I live in a in Washington, D.C. with roommates, and I am the first to admit that I am THAT annoying roommate that started to change up our normal routines. I am fortunate to live with great friends, so they went along with my courageous attempts to minimize the waste in our home. Below, my roommates will chime in on the MOST and LEAST annoying thing I have subjected them to. 

  1. Composting 
    The first step I took was composting. This is not a normal first step for people, but because my office accepts composting, it was a logical start. We keep a compost bin in the refrigerator and I take as many compostable bags from Trader Joe’s that I can every time I go grocery shopping. Every week I will transfer the compost in the refrigerator to a large Tupperware and take it to work to dispose of. This was welcomed with acceptance because it actually led us to producing less trash and less smelly scraps to deal with. 

    Roommates' Ratings:  very helpful & somewhat helpful
    We actually really like the composting, though we cook a bunch, so we overfill our refrigerator bin a bunch! We'd be down for a bigger bin on the counter or outside.


  2. Herb Garden 

    Growing an herb garden was truly a group effort. We initially had a water schedule in a shared calendar, but, we eventually lost track and stopped watering our plants. However, the rosemary, oregano and mint persevered and continue to live on. Despite the work, I believe this was accepted by the house because it saved us money on buying herbs at the store. 

    Roommates' Ratings: neutral & very helpful 
    We really love having the herb garden outside, it makes our home cooking so much better and the bees love it too! However, it is annoying to maintain.


  3. Outdoor Solar Lights 
    I bought solar lights for both every day patio décor and the holidays. However, my roommates don’t have much a choice on this because our house does not have an outdoor outlet. These lights were both of necessity and sustainability. Personally, I enjoy these lights because they come on at night without us ever having to turn them on or set a timer. They also are great on our electricity bill. One con is that they are not as reliable or bright as normal plug in lights. 

    Roommates' Ratings: somewhat helpful & somewhat annoying
    We like the lights in theory, but they only turn on if it was a really sunny day. On darker days, they stay pretty dim.


  4. Bar Soap I thought that this would be an easy transition. Alas, I was wrong. Before starting Parrotfish, I didn’t realize that people had such strong opinions about soap. My one roommate thought that bar soap dried out his hands, while others thought that bar soap was messy and unhygienic. The bar soap initially lived in my bathroom (which is also the main floor’s bathroom), so I am under the impression that they got used to the bar soap being a new, weird Katie trend. However, once Parrotfish started and I had a plethora of soap samples, I started to integrate it into other areas of the house, such as the kitchen. 

    Roommates' Ratings: somewhat helpful, somewhat helpful
    We love the cleansing bars, shave bars, etc. Sometimes I miss the ease of liquid soap, but at the end of the day it's not that big of a deal. 


  5. Dishwasher & Laundry Pods Again, this is something I thought would be an easy transition. However, the strong soap opinions prevailed again. In our house’s case, one of my roommates has sensitive skin so laundry detergent is important for her to prevent hives. This one roommate has yet to transfer over to the pods out of fear of a reaction (rightly so), however, I do not believe that the pods are a hassle to the other people in the house. Additionally, I have these on a subscription basis so it makes shopping for detergent less cumbersome.

    Roommates' Ratings:  neutral
    This was a super simple change, and I haven't seen any difference in the quality of cleanliness or texture in my laundry.


  6. Silicon Bags The newest transition in our little house is away from plastic zip lock bags. Personally, I am extremely impressed by the durability, size and design of the silicon alternative. I actually PERFER them to the plastic bags and it appears to have been well received by my roommates so far. 

    Roommates' Ratings: very helpful & very helpful 
    These bags are actually so awesome, We weren't sure what to expect, but they really surprised us. Food keeps very fresh, nothing spills, and washing is easy. Yay!


Ultimately, any change to the daily routine while living in a multi-person household comes with an adjustment period, and some serious eye-rolling. I am fortunate to have roommates that are compliant in going along with me on my low waste journey. The best you can do to avoid being voted off the island is to introduce everything gradually, AND with group approval.