“I saw that you were perfect, and so I loved you. Then I saw that you were not perfect and I loved you even more.” - Angelita Lim
Love is beautiful, isn't it? And to spend your life with someone you love is just the stuff dreams are made of. But, sharing your life with a partner is a lot more than a bouquet of roses. It takes effort, patience and even a bit of compromise to co-exist with the people we love. With a partner or spouse who’s passionate about sustainability, the learning is a lot more.
I’m Zashank Bhatia, and I’m married to Chaitsi Ahuja - The founder of Brown Living. Having been married to an eco-warrior for 5 years (and been in love for 8 years) has changed my life in more ways than one. If any of you readers are also married to, or, live with partners who are sustainability enthusiasts, you know that living consciously becomes a part of the house rules.
Today, I’m here to share my experiences of what it’s like to love & live with an earth-loving partner (and hopefully trigger some ‘DITTO’ moments out of you, along the way!)
“Honey we need to talk….about sustainability”
Okay here’s the deal - When people look at us or talk to us today, the first assumption they make is that we have this ‘sustainable living thing’ nailed. Fact is, we’re on as much of a learning curve as any of you.
Back when Chaitsi and I first started dating each other, we both led routine, consumerist lives while stuck in the corporate rut. The only thing that kept us a bit more grounded was the fact that Chaitsi always had an affinity for nature and her curiosity kept her restless.
As our relationship grew stronger over the years, so did our desire to make a change. And that was it! We’d taken that first step towards living a more conscious life without a second thought, and before we knew it, Brown Living was born! But more on that a bit later.
Adjusting to marriage, and sustainable swaps!
See, if there’s one thing marriage and sustainability have in common, it’s the fact that both require some adjustments, and neither of you is going to be perfect at it. But if you just make it about finding your flow together, it’s surely a ton of fun! When Chaitsi & I started overcoming these challenges together, it also evolved our relationship; we grew closer than ever before, found a common passion (other than our love for each other), and also began to bond in different ways. Overall, taking this sustainable journey together has given us a lot more than just a conscious way to live!
A lot of times when we discuss low-impact living with our friends and family, they tend to ask us if we find it tough or if they can do it too. And while we always say (and believe) that sustainability is for everyone, here’s a reality check - Making any lifestyle change is a tad tough in the beginning, but the gradual mindset shift makes it easier. Before you know it, you’ve transitioned into the new routine.
Back in our early days of our transition, we’d become highly alert to the plastic waste issues and decided to follow a strict policy of not buying single-use plastics. So as a rule, we’d both carry our water bottles from home. Me being me, I forgot to carry mine on a hot summer day and eventually, my thirst got the better me. In any other circumstance, I probably would’ve given up and fetched bottled water. But, that little voice in my head (that sounded a lot like Chaitsi ;)) reminded me there could be a better way.
This is how the gradual mindset change truly works - You realise you’ve begun thinking differently only in such times. Soon enough, I managed to find a nearby cafe that served me a glass of water. Personally, that’s the day I realised I was changing.
In the event that I had bought that bottled water too, I know now that I would’ve probably carried it back home for reuse, and it would’ve found a place in Chaitsi’s home garden, amongst our many upcycled coconut shell & plastic bottle planters!
Our eco-conscious dates turn into nature trails!
Even after 5 years of marriage, Chaitsi & I continue to ‘date’ each other and keep the excitement alive! One of my favourite things about being married to a nature-lover like Chaitsi, is her ability to turn our dates into adventures. Her constant desire to stay closer to nature, leads to many explorations for the both of us.
In fact, one of our most memorable dates is when we decided to go on a trek one weekend. What was supposed to be a long climb, ended up becoming a treasure hunt for trash! We remember bringing a lot back home, and not realising how fast time went by.
The best part about dates like these is that they helped us grow more certain of our values. In fact, even Chaitsi’s initial passion for sustainability began hitting us strongly after we started signing up for beach clean-ups and drives together. Getting our hands dirty and seeing the impact of things so closely, is what ultimately got us fixated on changing our lifestyle (and eventually creating Brown Living!)
All that being said, it’s not like we won’t go to concerts anymore, or do the things we did earlier. Rather over time, we’ve begun to realise that just doing the same things a bit more responsibly can make a world of change. So when we do go out to a party or a music fest, we at least know better than to leave litter lying around!
Sharing the eco-load
Sustainable living, and building a low-waste home aren’t things that can be done alone. It takes teamwork and support. I’m not one for giving advice, but if I had to, it would be just this - Share the load!
Between the two of us, Chaitsi began her sustainable journey before me. Even when I couldn’t fully relate to her choices, it was enough to just show up and lend a helping hand. After all, that’s love isn’t it?
Her willingness to let me grow into it at my own pace, and my willingness to try, lifted so much pressure off both our shoulders. Okay now that I am doling out some advice anyway, here’s one for the more sustainable better halves too - Resist the urge to call out or guilt-trip your partners into living life your way. Rather, show them how easy it can be and lift the pressures of perfection!
Building a Life Together
To sum up our life and relationship so far, I’d say life with an Earth-Loving partner is a constant joyride of learning and growing together. Even after years of living with Chaitsi, there are days when either of us might accidentally make an unsustainable choice. What used to have us up with eco-anxiety has now taught us to let go and simply find ways to make up for it.
My biggest learning, being married to an eco-warrior is to learn to let go of the illusion of perfection. Make mistakes, and when you do, learn from them. But most importantly, laugh through it all.