We’ve all had those awkward family moments at the dinner table. A ‘casually’ racist comment in between “please pass the salt” and “so, have you met someone yet?” An eye-roll as soon as someone utters the word “vegan”. The holidays can be tense at times. So, how do we avoid a nuclear fallout at the dinner table and facilitate healthy climate conversation instead?
Turkey dinners and climate conversations aren’t always an obvious match. However, the holidays can actually be a great time to gently persuade your loved ones to become more eco-aware. This time of year is traditionally a busy time for socialising; office parties, drinks with friends, dinners with family. But, for a lot of us, family time can be full of tension. While our chosen families likely share our values, our relatives often have a wider range of political leanings and opinions. And then there are the tricky dynamics that can sometimes be present. How can we avoid an eruption when Uncle Steve insists that climate change is a hoax? Or irritation when Grandma refuses to stop buying everyone tons of cheap stocking fillers that no one really wants?
Lead with love, not judgement
Back in 2019, we might have taken the festive season for granted. After two years of social distancing and intermittent closing borders, millions of people haven’t seen their loved ones in a long time. This year will likely be an emotional one as families around the world reunite. Of course, we want those close to us to join the fight against climate change but we also just want to spend time together.
Between the pandemic, the climate crisis and everything in between, people everywhere are experiencing a lot of trauma, stress and anxiety. The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration. So, rather than judging our loved ones for something we see as harmful (whether that is towards the environment or other people), this is an opportunity to show how much joy there is in living a more socially and environmentally conscious lifestyle.
Whether you are staying with family or just visiting for the day, look for opportunities to sneak in subtle climate conversations. These can be sparked by joyful topics like gifts, food, books or nature.
Gift-giving presents us with a beautiful opportunity to introduce our friends and family to new things. Rather than preaching or ‘debating’ our values and lifestyle, the season is a chance to share in a loving way with the people closest to us. Be thoughtful about gifts that will delight and inspire. This is your time to support your favourite brands and introduce them to your inner circle. Get them hooked on ethical brands and handmade crafts and watch their interest in conscious consumption grow naturally.
Check out some of our gift guides for ideas. Start with the “no-gift gift guide” for low cost, low impact present ideas guaranteed to make your giftee feel appreciated. For conscious brands we love, we’ve got that covered too; Your Conscious Gift Guide: Europe Edit, Your Ultimate Guide to Conscious Christmas Gifts in Singapore.
Why not put extra effort into wrapping presents with materials you already have? Not only will this create a fun talking point about upcycling (more stealthy climate conversations!), but it can also be a great pre-holiday dinner mindful activity. Pour a glass of wine, find the perfect playlist on Spotify and get crafty. (If you need some inspo, Pinterest is a great place to start.)
Mealtimes are the bedrock of the holiday season. The kitchen is where we pass cultural and familial recipes from generation to generation, how we remember our roots and where we make memories. Seize the opportunity to cook climate-friendly dishes, with locally-sourced produce and plants in abundance, and take your favourite organic wine to the party. It’s widely agreed that reducing meat consumption will have a positive impact on the climate but we know that getting people to go fully vegan is a huge challenge. Instead, you can use holiday mealtimes as a chance to get your family to fall in love with plant-based recipes that they can’t wait to incorporate into their diet.
When everyone remarks on how much they are enjoying it, you get to share another recommendation that will hopefully begin to cultivate more interest. Perhaps in this instance, the climate conversations centre around sharing the recipes – you could even gift the cookbook so they can try it themselves.
Don’t forget to bring your tupperware to ensure food is not wasted. You can also rustle up delicious new plant-based meals with the leftovers.
One of the most powerful ways to inspire environmentally-friendly action is to foster a deep connection with the earth. We know it’s difficult to peel yourself off the sofa after a decadent meal but get outside with your family and just appreciate the outdoors together. Take a post-movie marathon walk in the forest, on the beach or wherever you go to get your dose of fresh air. Maybe it’s not full-on climate discussions in the great outdoors but, surrounded by the benefits of nature, we can appreciate what we are trying to save. Families often have their favourite spots outside that bring back memories of picnics, birthdays, beach days. Reminiscing about the good times is the perfect way to share what you love about the place that means so much to you – your favourite tree to picnic under, the view on that hike you did every year as kids, listening to the waves as you contemplate life.
Pick your battles
As we close out another challenging year and start to look forward to the next, rest is crucial. Use your energy wisely and avoid situations and conversations that leave you feeling frustrated and depleted. You are only one person and you’re not going to save the world debating someone hellbent on disagreeing with you. Don’t take it personally when you don’t seem to be getting through to someone, we all form our views based on a whole host of factors like past experiences, our upbringing, where we live, who we are surrounded by. It’s rare that one single conversation or moment will change someone’s mind. You’re just sowing seeds, you don’t need to go from zero to joining a climate action group. No one was born a climate justice advocate, we all started somewhere.
If you do feel emboldened to have heavier climate conversations with some of the more sceptical figures in your life, make sure you’re showing up to that battle well-armed. Refresh your knowledge of some of the more divisive topics like overpopulation, offsetting, consumption, plastics, and net-zero. We’ve got you.
FEATURED IMAGE: Photo by Libby Penner on Unsplash | IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A table is set for a festive meal. There is a green and white checked table cloth. On top of that, are six places set with green and gold placemats, white dinner plates and dark green napkins. The centrepiece is a white vase filled with pampas grass. On each side of the vase are three candlesticks in various greens and golds in different shapes. Each holds a lit candle. The scene looks warm and inviting.
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