If there’s one thing this pandemic and subsequent eruption of much-needed dialogue around race and privilege has taught us, is that just because you are mates, or indeed family, doesn’t mean you share the same philosophies, concern for the future or approach to life. It is an area that has come up time-and-time again here at Sustainable Table as we grapple with how to gently bring people along with us, without appearing self-righteous or alienating those who don’t immediately share the same views. What we grapple with as an organisation mirrors what so many people struggle with daily, so in this mini-series we aim to distil our learnings into simple actions. We’d love you to share yours too, here goes…


Tip 1: Everyone has a different set of values; find that sweet spot and work it.

You may have curbed your meat consumption for environmental reasons, someone else may do it due to animal ethics, another may not see what all the fuss is about, HOWEVER, they may strongly believe in supporting Australian produce and producers and can’t stand seeing milk sold for $1 a litre. So, there’s your hook!

Don’t beat your dad over the head with clips of tortured animals in factory farms, because it just ain’t gonna work. Chat about a fair go for farmers, what skimping on price does and conversely why buying direct at farmers’ markets or from family-owned brands helps your dollar go further and keep families on their farms.

Everyone values something. Find out what it is and use this to help guide them to expand their list of things they actively care about.


Tip 2: Lead by example

Never underestimate the power of your actions. The smallest actions can change someone else’s behaviour, purely by the humble act of witnessing it.

An example may be when we quietly implement a zero-waste act. Be it taking a cloth bag to the bakery to avoid plastic, taking your Tupperware to the deli or butcher to stock up, or carrying your own plate or bowl to your favourite lunch venue for them to fill and take back to the office.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. The smallest actions can change someone else’s behaviour, purely by the humble act of witnessing it.

When you do this in public, people notice, they comment, they engage in discussion (both positive and negative), or they may say nothing at all and simply make a mental note. Never underestimate the power of this.


Tip 3: Actively listen

Our world is compounded by a myriad of issues right now. It’s clear that the world is changing, ever-evolving and advancing, and our insights, opinions and intellect must as well. If we expect others to change, then we must be willing to change ourselves.

Read, investigate, ask questions, advance your learning and most importantly – listen. Listen to the opinions and concerns of those around you and be willing to humbly change yours. You may need to do this when it comes to acknowledging privilege, how little you know about indigenous history and culture, climate change or indeed the food system and why it needs our urgent attention.

It’s okay to acknowledge that you don’t know enough. It’s even better to proactively deepen your knowledge of issues that concern us all.

Our world is compounded by a myriad of issues right now. It’s clear that the world is changing, ever-evolving and advancing, and our insights, opinions and intellect must as well. If we expect others to change, then we must be willing to change ourselves.


Tip 4. Educate yourself before trying to educate others

Education is the beginning of empowerment; we owe it to ourselves and each other to do our part to be conscious consumers and citizens. Whilst you don’t need to have a doctorate in order to have an opinion, it does help if you’ve read-up on the areas you seek to have influence on. If you’ve been wondering how to quickly grasp the complex issues that have led to a food system that undervalues farmers, the environment and animals; that has led to a diet that is killing us too young and too soon, there’s a great little summary on our website, which was written by Julian Cribb (there’s pretty headings so it’s not completely overwhelming). Read the article here.


Tip 5. Rally the troops, lead the charge. But also know when to back-off.

When we really really really believe in something it can hard to think outside of this, to understand why others are joyfully booking their overseas trips or ordering their pork chops without enquiring about the source, when all you see is the carbon emissions racking up. We hear you; we do indeed find ourselves in urgent and pressing times. However, maintaining that intensity, that level of urgency at all times may create distance between you and your pals. It may also lead to burnout.

Remember to practice self-care and allow yourself to see the humour and joy in the day-to-day, even if it’s not militantly in-line with your general ethos. The last thing you want is for people to cross the street when they see you coming or to keep scrolling on their social media feeds. If we stop conveying light and shade, then we lose our humanity and others lose their ability to connect.

Rest assured, your concerns are valid, they do deserve to be heard and actioned, but not every second of every minute of every day. Choose your moments wisely, you can invite your mates to a rally, you can ask them to sign a petition, but you can also offer humour and recklessness, and fun. It will make them infinitely more likely to join you on your next crusade.

To summarise, when sparking change amongst those around you, we encourage you to remember:
1. everyone has a different set of values; find that sweet spot and work it
2. lead by example
3. actively listen
4. educate yourself before you educate others
5. rally the troops, lead the charge. But also know when to back-off.

We hope you found this useful. We’re also still learning ourselves, so would love your feedback on what has worked for you. as you navigate important discussions amongst your peers.