Conversations about the climate crisis aren’t always welcome at the holiday dinner table

Rather than getting frustrated with our friends and family, or begging them to pay more attention to the state of the planet, here are some accessible ways to approach climate change talk this holiday season and invite more people to make sustainable choices in the coming year.

1. Show how delicious sustainable foods are

People love to eat—and food is an easy way to transition into a conversation about sustainability (especially when vegan and regeneratively grown foods are so incredibly delicious). When you pull out a dish that has everyone’s mouth watering, you’ll be able to mention that it’s made with that farm-fresh Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) produce you bought and preserved this year, or that it’s a totally organic or dairy-free recipe. Food is an easy way to connect over sustainability and you may inspire someone to make dietary changes at home without compromising foods they love. You’ll be surprised by who might come up to you later to ask for that recipe.

2. Show how amazing your thrifted outfit is

It's the best feeling when someone says they love your outfit and you get to tell them it was $5... from a thrift store. Watch jaws drop as you slip into a conversation about how thrifted or sustainably made items don’t have to be burlap or hemp-heavy, but can be made of threads of buttery smooth Tencel (eucalyptus or tree pulp). Finding a price point or style that each family member is comfortable with is the key to guiding them towards sustainable fashion options.

3. Show them how simple eco-friendly alternatives can be

Many people think they have to turn their entire lives upside down to be more eco-friendly, so it’s important to show them that isn't the case. Gift family members a fun Swedish dishcloth to replace paper towel; wool dryer balls to swap out their dryer sheets; or help bridge a barrier by purchasing a local food CSA for someone for the entire year. Don’t forget to leave a note on their gifts of the big changes that they’re making with their small swap—it will help encourage them to embrace sustainability with products that make their lives easier.

4. Show how their interests fit into the conversation

Unfortunately, not everyone can be swayed to make changes by simply hearing about climate crisis statistics—they need to know how global warming could affect them personally. When we understand what our family members care about, we can adjust our conversations to better fit in how environmental issues might impact them. This can be anything from how their favourite coastal vacation spot might disappear, asking them how they feel about certain current events, or making it about their favourite hobby or interest. Hearing them will help you to better understand where they’re coming from so that you know how to engage with this person and when to exit the conversation.

5. Show empathy over fear

Fear is often a massive hindrance to someone’s openness to learning or understanding— nobody wants to hear that the world is in danger, so don’t forget to practice empathy. Remember that these are human beings with lives and worlds they’ve worked hard to build for themselves, and they want to feel a sense of control. Present solutions that are accessible and achievable and you’ll have a more productive conversation rather than engaging in a heated debate.

6. Show your willingness to stay calm and accept

Getting loud may feel like the best way to get our messages across, but people will stop listening when you're flustered and frustrated. It’s hard to stay calm when we feel that our ideals are being attacked, but we have to remember it’s often not about us—it’s hard to change people’s minds. The goal isn’t to change someone’s mind immediately, but to leave them with a nugget of inspiration—one that might take weeks or months to settle in. Although that feels like a long time given the state of our planet, a few weeks or months to instil change is better than never.