Our first challenge for the year is a big one! And you won’t be able to do it in a week. But a lot of it is just about learning to talk climate with co-workers — so it won’t take any additional time in your schedule, just a little dose of bravery to get out of your comfort zone. The brushfires are in the news these days though, so it’s a decent way to start a conversation. Just share how they make you feel and see if your coworkers have made the connection to climate change and then just listen.
Waking up a workplace has three steps:
- Feeling People Out.
- Finding Allies.
- Picking an Action.
It could mean attending a strike, it could mean reducing business travel, it could mean a climate crisis lunch and learn for the whole office — you decide and make it happen! And then use the action network you’ve created for further projects.
1. Feel People Out
Try to get a sense of where people stand on climate change. You can fire off a company-wide email if you’re feeling frisky, but casual conversation will work better.
One way to turn climate into water cooler talk is by making it part of your daily life. If you attend a climate rally or send a letter to an MP, you can mention it when people ask what you did on the weekend. If you follow climate science and policy news, it will be on your mind and it will feel more natural to discuss it at lunch or in the elevator. Try to share feelings instead of facts — mention that you are worried about climate breakdown. ASK QUESTIONS. Do you ever worry about climate change? Do you think we can do anything about it? And then just listen — process the answers. Ignore the deniers and string out the conversations with other people. I was thinking about what you said and… I looked into that question you raised and discovered…
Try to figure out who is open to learning more and who is ready for action. Also, try to figure out if anyone in management is open to either of these things — you might be surprised, they live on the same planet after all.
2. Find Allies
Once you’ve got a rough sense of who might be receptive, invite people to talk more about climate anxiety or how your workplace can take action on climate change. You will know better than I do how to set this up — you might do coffee one-on-one, you might do a group lunch, you might start an email group for sharing news — the key is to normalize talking about climate change and set up a mechanism for doing so. I have been helping out with climate organizing at my former high school and the staff there have found that organizing around mental health and climate anxiety makes sense for them. Parents and teachers are concerned about their children’s health and happiness, so meetings and workshops about climate anxiety makes sense within that context.
3. Pivot to Action
Now that you have your small group, get people thinking about what you can do in your workplace. Some possibilities include:
- Reduce your workplace’s direct impact. If you work in a restaurant, you can tackle food waste or reduce the amount of red meat on your menu. You could reduce business travel. If you are in architecture or engineering you could apply a climate lens to your projects.
- Educate the Public. If you manage a store or have a website, you can think about putting a bit of climate info and advocacy into the mix. Get in touch with us and we can help you design a display, provide pledge sheets, whatever you need.
- Educate your Coworkers: Several people who have attended presentations we have helped with have adapted our slides for lunch-and-learns at their office. Hearing about the climate crisis from people you already know is very important!
- Act like the Emergency is Real: If we were taking the climate crisis seriously, we would be slowing down business as usual, so we could all pitch in with climate organizing and activism. Talk to HR about getting a special leave for climate activism — maybe it’s an unpaid month, maybe it’s one day a month, maybe it’s a company-wide volunteering project. This will sound crazy coming from one person, but if several people approach HR together saying that they are having trouble focussing on their day-to-day tasks with a looming climate emergency they will have to take you seriously.
Once you’ve accomplished one project, you have a network of people ready to accomplish more and you will know who to go to for quick responses to future calls for action!