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My housemate, a good friend, is very wasteful. We knew each other pretty well before moving in together but I didn't realise quite how wasteful he is. It bothers me a lot. I don't know how to either accept it or change his behaviour. Currently, I'm dealing with it by compensating for his wastefulness.

He's mainly wasteful of four things:

Electricity

He leaves the lights in his room on constantly. They're almost always on when he's home, it doesn't matter where in the house he is. He also often leaves them on when he goes to work. I frequently turn them off when I leave for work or when I get home and realise he's left them on.

Twice now he's left the iron on and walked away. The first time it was on for two days. The second time I don't know how long it was on for.

Lastly, he frequently opens the fridge door and then starts doing something else, like opening a tin of beans or slicing some food. He opens the door, walks away, and doesn't close it again until he grabs something from the fridge. He does the same with the freezer. He'll grab a few ice cubes, prepares some drink / cocktail and only after that's finished he'll close the freezer door.

Food

He's pretty bad at making sure food doesn't go bad. He frequently buys or opens a new packet of something while there's already an opened one. He also never really puts anything in a tupperware. We regularly have friends over for barbecues. I enjoy them a lot but the next day we inevitably have a ton of leftover meat. I don't know why but I always end up putting it in tupperware. I don't mind doing it, but if I don't he'll just leave it on a plate on the kitchen counter. Also, because I don't eat meat so can't finish it the following days. My housemate, for some reason, doesn't eat it either. It's perfectly good meat and he'll have eaten before, but he doesn't eat it as leftovers.

Water

This is the main one. I live in an extremely drought prone area and this year is particularly bad. Summer is about to started and it won't rain much until March. Winters are usually wet but it didn't rain nearly as much as it usually does. There's a real chance we'll run out of water and people are urged to drastically reduce their water consumption, with the government suggesting a daily limit of 87 litres.

I'm making a serious effort to stick to that limit and am pretty sure I am succeeding. I've put a large bucket in the shower that collects the water as it's getting warm. We can then use that to flush the toilet, though I stopped flushing when I only pee. I turn the water off when I am soaping. I also only shower three times a week. I make sure I don't waste any water when I do the dishes. I collect all the rain water I can to fill the flush bucket and to water our plants.

My housemate, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have changed his behaviour. He showers every day and slides away the bucket that's under the shower because he likes the steam (that was his answer when I asked why he does that, I don't understand what it means). He rarely uses the bucket to flush but when he does it's often when he peed, which isn't necessary. He cleans dishes by keeping the water running, except when it's a lot and then he does put a plug in the drain. But then he replaces all that water when it gets just a little dirty.

We've talked about the water crisis, between the two of us and with other friends. I asked him to get better at it and he did for two days before backsliding. He knows how dire the situation is and I feel like I've done what I can to make it easy for him to save water.

Internet

Bit of a strange one. We have capped internet and right now only 20GB a month. I keep track of how much I use and can check how much we have left so I know how much he uses, which is about 50% more than I do. Last month we ran out on the 29th because he watched the new episode of the Blue Planet, I think in HD.

My options

Currently, I'm dealing with his wastefulness by being the opposite. I try to compensate by saving as much water as I can, using as little electricity and internet as possible, and eating leftovers whenever I can. Leftover meat I started giving to homeless people / beggars.

Ideally, he changes his behaviour. I can't expect that from him though. He's an adult, he should make his own decisions. I talked to him about ways to save water; I introduced the flush bucket, told him it's not necessary to flush when peeing, etc. He seems to have just ignored my suggestions.

At this point I'm not sure what to do. It bothers me a lot and it's affecting our friendship, though I think he's unaware of it. I don't want to be the asshole who continuously tells him not to be so wasteful but it's becoming increasingly difficult to bite my tongue.

What can I do to convince him to be less wasteful without being a jerk about it?


Clarifications

  • We currently split the bills 50-50.
  • My housemate has, for the most part, not expressed interest in getting better.
  • We live in Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Fair points but that kind of change in behaviour takes a long time. People don't suddenly start living as if they're camping, even if you tell them the water will run out. My point was that I disagree with your earlier comment, "87 liters sounds like they're not serious yet". As I said, an average shower alone is 65 liters (in the US anyway, based on one source). Add to that your laundry, toilet flushes, dishes, etc. Everyone limiting themselves to 87 liters requires quite a significant change in people's behaviour and that is serious. – duxk.gh Nov 21 '17 at 15:10
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I don't know how to either accept it or change his behaviour. Currently, I'm dealing with it by compensating for his wastefulness...

I commend you on your conservation efforts. For most of my life, I've been a conservationist as well. I don't have a very good handle on why some people aren't, but clearly other things are taking precedence.

By trying to compensate for his behavior, though, you may be making your own life more stressful. You're basically making his problem your responsibility, and that rarely goes well when the other person doesn't care. (If he lived elsewhere and still continued his wasteful habits, would you still continue trying to make up for them?) Be conscientious because it's the right thing to do, not because your house mate is wasteful.

As you said, he's an adult and makes his own choices.

It bothers me a lot and it's affecting our friendship, though I think he's unaware of it.

This isn't going to end well if you want him to change. You have strongly held values which he neither shares nor respects when you explain to him how important they are to you.

I think you have several options.

Let go of your responsibility to make up for his wastefulness.

Difficult, but doable. You can't control his actions; you're not responsible for them. You're crossing a boundary when you take personal responsibility for the actions of others. Accept that and you might find a measure of peace.

I don't know why but I always end up putting it in tupperware. I don't mind doing it, but if I don't he'll just leave it on a plate on the kitchen counter.

You should know why. Put away your half, and let him waste his.

Focus on the values you share.

What made you good friends to begin with? Think about your core values, and the values that you share with your friend (if you do.) Make a list to jog your memory. Be honest. If you're good friends because of his sense of humor or a shared passion, give those credit. If you're good friends because of convenience or proximity, know that there are better reasons to consider when picking a flat mate.

Make sure you don't expect him to be a mind-reader.

Non-confrontational people often don't directly discuss what's bothering them. No one is a mind-reader.

If it really is affecting your friendship, he deserves to know.

In an honest and non-judgemental way, you should talk about this. Tell him how you feel, not what he's making you feel. The former is taking responsibility for your own feelings; the latter is blaming him for your feelings. Examples of non-blaming ways to express your feelings:

When I've explained how important something is to me, like not wasting electricity, and you don't share that value at all, I feel isolated and unimportant.

He can't argue with your feelings; if he says, "That's silly," not only is it defensive, it's wrong. Feelings you have are real. If you feel isolated, he can't tell you that you don't.

A blaming statement:

I feel anxious and annoyed when you leave your lights on all the time.

Kids answer this kind of statement with, "Too bad," because it is both an accusation and giving them the responsibility for your feelings. Better to just own them. It's a fine line, but it's walkable.

Discuss compromises.

Half-way measures are better than none. If he can't do anything to conserve energy/water/your good will, that says something. Half-way measures are better than none.

If all these things fail, start thinking about getting a new roommate. If you don't want to be a nag (which doesn't usually work anyway), look for someone who shares your values or go it alone.

All easier said than done. Good luck, and please update when you've found a solution.

  • My conservation efforts won't change when we don't live together anymore, as you said it's simply the right thing to do and I've gotten used to them. That being said, you're right that I shouldn't see it as compensation for his wastefulness. Not putting his food away even though it's basically no effort for me seems so passive aggressive though. Also I don't think it will do anything, I honestly think he'll just throw it away and not think about it. I'd feel like I'd be producing waste. – duxk.gh Nov 11 '17 at 8:24
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    Your suggestions about talking to him are great, thank you. You're right that he can't simply read my mind and understand it's bothering me. I definitely feel unimportant and not respected when he's being wasteful as he knows (should know?) it's something I care deeply about. It would be useful to tell him this directly and your approach makes a lot of sense. I will try this when a good moment for it arises. – duxk.gh Nov 11 '17 at 8:27
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On things that you share costs like water and electricity, politely ask him to stop being so wasteful and try to cut costs on his own way. He does not need to do exactly as you do. You guys could also try setting a cap for how much can you guys expend on services, and if he exceeds in one service cap maybe go for a 20%/80% share on the excess.

That said, try to learn that others actions repercussions are theirs to bear and not yours. You can't force people to share your ideals, no matter how important or righteous do you think they are. Tell him once, and that is all. If he gets it, perfect. If not, move along and let go. How would you feel if he started judging your style of life? You might say, "I'm the one who is right", but, this is not a matter of being right or wrong. It is a matter of respecting each other ways. You are trying to conquer his personality, that is what is bothering you. Try to better yourself, not others.

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    Commendations on saying succinctly what it took me many paragraphs to say. +1. – anongoodnurse Nov 10 '17 at 16:00
  • Thank for you this answer. I think you're right, I need to make sure I explain my position properly and the benefits of it, and if he still doesn't change his behaviour so be it. I like your last sentence a lot. That being said, I feel like it's not only about respecting each other's ways and "being right". His wastefulness, especially of water, is hurting our whole city. It's not that I think saving water is morally right, it's simply desperately needed to avoid a disaster. He knows this, yet doesn't act accordingly. – duxk.gh Nov 11 '17 at 8:20
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What can I do to convince him to be less wasteful without being a jerk about it?

I think the best thing you can do here is to be open and honest, and start a dialog. Tactfully explain to your room mate why you feel the way you do, and the benefits of your conservation efforts.

The why is an important tool in changing peoples behavior. If you just list out all the ways he is wasteful, versus how you are conservative and why you are passionate about it, there is a chance his perception and behavior will change.

Have a prepared with a list of benefits to your position, such as saving money and being a good Samaritan. (your efforts to provide left over food to those in need for example)

Be careful if you approach shared expenses when discussing this issue, as you will have a hard time defining how much actual money he is wasting. You could say your are wasting X amount a dollars a month, but you won't be able to measure that accurately, and arguing this could weaken your position.

If you're not sharing expenses and you bring this up, you could put your room mate on the defensive and they might shut down.

There are some people who don't care or see the need to be consciously conservative with resources. Your room mate may be one of those people, and if he is you may want to start thinking about a long term plan to cope with the behavior or consider a new room mate.

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    You make some very good points, the why is the most important thing. I have no intention of bringing up the financial cost, I don't think it's important who pays for it, wasting anything is just unnecessary. – duxk.gh Nov 10 '17 at 14:25
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One of my ex-girlfriends loved to stay in the shower for at least 30 minutes, sometimes up to an hour. Natural gas water heaters provide an infinite supply of hot water, as long as you don't mind the carbon footprint and the bill at the end of the month.

Strangely enough, when I decided we should share the natural gas bill, her showers shortened to about five minutes tops. Whaddyaknow!

Therefore, contrary to the touchy-feely answers above, I'm going to hit it where it hurts.

Simply tell the roommate that considering how much he wastes, from now on you'll no longer be in the mood to pay for 50% of the bill. You don't want to be the one paying for his careless use of energy/water/etc. You will pay 20%, tops. Unless he leaves with the lights on, in which case it will be 10%.

That should get him thinking. I mean, he obviously doesn't give a damn about the planet, so hit the wallet instead.

Since you're a veg/etari/an and he's always throwing away meat, don't split the groceries 50/50. Why should you pay for killing cute animals? Don't. Note that I love eating meat, yet consider throwing away meat to be very rude to the animal that was murdered. It's just common decency.

Now, the bucket in the shower is ridiculous. Get a water-saving showerhead, they're pretty cheap and don't require extra effort, which is compatible with your lazy roommate. You can also adjust the toilet float and fill valve to lower the amount of water used in a flush.

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    Not a percentage. A flat rate, 40% of the average of the previous bills (correcting for seasonal heat use). He pays all the excess, and he can waste all he wants to pay for! – Harper Nov 10 '17 at 22:54
  • @Harper yeah that would also work. – peufeu Nov 10 '17 at 23:04
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    I’ve used water saving showerheads that were annoying and counterproductive. If it doesn’t get my hair wet, I just have to stand there longer until it starts to accoumulate. If it doesn’t rince the soap off, I just have to shower longer. – JDługosz Nov 11 '17 at 4:04
  • I really don't want to take the money route. That's not what it is about for me. Also we don't evenly split groceries and just kinda buy things whenever it's needed. I never buy meat as it is. – duxk.gh Nov 11 '17 at 8:08
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    @Qsigma there really isn't, it's all behind the wall. We're renting the place so I'm not keen to start messing around with that – duxk.gh Nov 11 '17 at 13:45

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