Raising a family in times of climate change can often feel overwhelming. The recent COP26 conference failed to unite all nations in the fight against global warming, and short-sighted policies draw us ever closer to a climate disaster. Understandably, this may cause you to experience serious eco-anxiety.
However, it’s worth remembering that the fight against climate change isn’t over yet. You still have the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in your local environment, and can use your voice to promote greater climate awareness amongst policymakers and voters.
Engaging in this kind of eco-activism as an individual can be effective. But, the best way to engage in eco-activism is to get your whole family involved in a cross-generational effort to improve climate consciousness and promote sustainability.
Food and Eco-Activism
Climate change is a complex issue and explaining the impact of human activity to family members can be challenging. The best way to approach climate change is to start simple with something everyone can understand: food.
Food production is accountable for just over a third of all greenhouse gasses, as production, transportation, and retail of food require massive amounts of energy. But some diets have a lower carbon cost than others. In particular, plant-based meals typically require a fraction of the energy required to plate up a dish that includes lamb, beef, or farmed fish. This is because plant-based foods typically require less energy during production and transportation, meaning a vegan diet can cut personal carbon emissions by roughly 50%
You can help your family understand climate change and engage in eco-activism by talking about your food choices and shopping for organic or local produce. You can also involve children and teens in your efforts by cooking plant-based meals together. This is sure to prompt productive family dinner conversations that can help you connect with your whole family and bond over a common cause.
Personal Sustainability at Home
It’s no secret that personal sustainability choices alone aren’t enough to combat climate change effectively. However, that doesn’t mean that you or your family should shirk your responsibilities toward sustainability on a personal level. We will all have to live more sustainable lifestyles in the future, and now is a great time to build good habits.
You can get your family engaged with personal sustainability by working together toward a zero-waste lifestyle. This involves things like giving young children plastic-free toys and getting older children involved in gardening produce. You should follow up on these choices with a short conversation where you teach your children about how their actions affect their local ecosystem and the planet on a wider level.
Making personal sustainability choices like eating more plant-based meals or gardening is a great way to get your family interested in eco-activism. But, personal responsibility is only a piece of your family’s eco-activism puzzle. If you want to step up your family’s commitment to fighting climate change, you need to find appropriate community-based projects that help amplify your eco-activism efforts.
Choosing the right community group to support can be a little tricky. There are plenty of coalitions and organizations to choose from, but you’ll need to find the right fit for your family. This is particularly important for children and teens who will benefit greatly from youth environmental activism and will learn the importance of civic engagement while volunteering with eco-activist groups.
When searching for an eco-activism group, pay special attention to their social media campaigns and look for examples of the work they do in your community. This will help you steer clear of more controversial eco-activism groups that may run counter to your family’s values.
You can find credible activist groups in your area through social media or by searching through sites like USCAN and 350.org or by registering with The Climate Group. These organizations help you connect with local climate activists and routinely sponsor community efforts for data collection and environmental responsibility initiatives.
Dealing With Pushback
Recent opinion polls show that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that climate change is real and affecting their local community. However, that still means over 30% of the population is yet to understand how humans are contributing to global warming. Dealing with this kind of pushback can be particularly frustrating if someone in your own family is behind the times when it comes to climate change.
It’s easy to lose patience with folks who think they understand the climate better than climate scientists. But, it’s also worth remembering that combating climate change doesn’t hinge on convincing your uncle that climate change is real.
When dealing with pushback towards eco-activism, ask yourself whether addressing the issue is worth your time and effort. If you decide that it is worth dealing with, consider a Rogerian approach to the argument, as this will save you emotional labor and is particularly effective when dealing with raised emotions.
Eco-activism is a great way to alleviate the anxiety you may feel around climate change while bonding with your family. You can start at home with simple steps like growing your own produce and eating more plant-based meals. If you have older children, consider teaming up with a local climate advocacy group that can help your whole family develop civic responsibility while you make changes that help in the fight against climate change.