How do I invite coworkers to think about everyday social justice issues?

This question was submitted to Busted Halo’s Summer School contest.

How do I invite coworkers to think about fair trade, recycling and other everyday social justice issues?

Mariela Zamora, an agronomist, examines the health of coffee trees with coffee farmer Rosa Amelia Centano in Nicaragua. (CNS photo/Rick D'Elia for Catholic Relief Services)
Mariela Zamora, an agronomist, examines the health of coffee trees with coffee farmer Rosa Amelia Centano in Nicaragua. (CNS photo/Rick D’Elia for Catholic Relief Services)

There are a bunch of possibilities here. The first is to take advantage of times when these issues naturally come up. So, you might organize a special event for Earth Day or bake and share Christmas cookies made with fair trade chocolate. Another example: when the environment or another social justice issue comes up in conversation or current events, you might share what Pope Francis and Catholic bishops have to say about it. And more likely than not, if your coworkers know you are Catholic, they will be turning to you when they hear Pope Francis in the news. This is an excellent opportunity to talk about the importance of Catholic Social teaching and social justice issues.

Next, think of everyday office rituals where you might inject your passion for social justice. Have a taste test with several fair trade coffees, teas or chocolates, and then order the winner for the office kitchen. Suggest an environmental audit of your office to examine issues like recycling and excess energy use. You could invite student interns to come in and complete the audit and then ask them to create an affordable budget for their plan that will actually save the company money in the long term. Or you could create a self-evaluation tool based on some of these guidelines from the Sierra Club.

You could also take a very hands-on approach to addressing social justice concerns and plan a volunteer service opportunity for you and your coworkers. Invite them to volunteer at your parish food pantry or another program that helps people in need in your community — maybe even close to where you work. Start local and, if there is interest, down the road you might be planning an international trip. Service opportunities help people understand the effects of social injustice at a personal level.

Most importantly, lead by example and speak up about the issues that are important to you when you can. Be brave. These are important issues to the Church and the entire world, so when you make them a priority in your life and work, you are making a difference.

Mike Hayes

Mike Hayes

Mike co-founded BustedHalo.com in 2001. Currently, Mike is the director of campus ministry at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. A frequent speaker on ministering to young adults, Mike is the author of "Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in Their 20s and 30s" and "Loving Work: A Spiritual Guide to Finding the Work We Love and Bringing Love to the Work We Do."