It is common knowledge that people in romantic relationships tend to pick up some of their partner’s habits or interests. Sometimes it is more recreational – say learning to play tennis, for instance. Others are more subconscious and may not be noticed right away – starting to use the other person’s phrases or eating preferences for example. Some couples sync up immediately while others maintain their own hobbies, but small changes here and there are frequent. While most of these situations occur naturally, there are some times when there are things about our partner we want to change. Perhaps your partner leaves their dishes in the sink too long or is constantly late. These habits can be irritating but it is important to remember that we do not control our significant others – or anyone for that matter – except for ourselves. People often learn this the hard way when a big change is desired yet impossible to gain. Luckily, there are subtle ways to help encourage a significant other to add or drop certain hobbies or habits. Note: These changes will not take place overnight and results may vary. It should also be mentioned that every person – and every habit or behavior – is different. When it comes to going green, though, most people are game, as there are so many different benefits. From living a healthier life to saving money on energy bills, encouraging your partner to be more sustainable may be one of the easiest changes to obtain.

State your case in an inviting way

Nobody wants a lecture every time they toss a soda bottle in the trash can or waste their leftover dinners, so when approaching the subject of sustainability with a significant other, it should be done so delicately. If your partner is lacking in the recycling department, casually mention that you found out about a community organization that provides free recycling bins. The idea of a free way to take care of an issue is always a winner. Some things are not as easy to discuss with a partner, specifically when it comes to bigger lifestyle choices. If you are concerned with your carbon footprint and bike to work every day, finding out your date has a beefed up SUV can be unnerving. Major differences in opinion may lead to things not working out, but there are ways to compromise. Perhaps if things work out with Mr. or Ms. 6-miles-per-gallon, you could encourage them to join you on recreational bike outings. They may find they enjoy it, and depending on the situation, could even convert to a two-wheel commute!

Mention the fringe benefits

Going green is not only awesome for the planet, but also for the body – and pocketbook. If your partner is health-conscious, remind them that commuting to work via bicycle or walking will help to keep them lean and will save on gas money. Along those same lines, if you notice your new boyfriend or girlfriend always leaves his or her lights on when leaving the home, say something! Remember, you don’t want to lecture, so find teachable moments. For example, when perusing the home improvement aisles at Target, mention the benefits of LED light bulbs as a cost-saving technique. Or tell them about an energy audit you had done where you found out exactly where all of your utility costs are coming from.

Make it a challenge

Many couples love to compete each against each other and if your relationship falls into that category, then make going green a challenge. One fun game for cohabitating couples is to have a recyclables challenge. Post a scorecard above the recycling and garbage area of your home. Every time someone recycles properly, they get a point –if you catch your partner throwing glass into the wrong bin, you get a point. Bring the challenge into the public for a real game – the person with the most points at the end of the week gets a special reward – and bragging rights, of course.

Actions speak louder than words

Remember to walk the walk while you talk the talk and practice what you preach. If you bring up the topic of saving water through taking shorter showers, don’t lounge in a full bathtub every single night. When deciding that there will only be local foods in the refrigerator from now on, eating at a fast-food chain for lunch every day is a bit counterproductive. Remember that people do rub off on each other, even if it’s subconsciously. If your partner sees you sorting the recyclables, they may start to do it too. Do not try to force change – instead, try to encourage subtly and sensitively to find success.