The Conversations of 2021 We Can’t Stop Thinking About

friends talk at the holiday table

“Remember, what gets talked about and how it gets talked about determines what will happen. Or won’t happen,” writes best-selling author, public speaker, and business thought leader Susan Scott in her book Fierce Conversations. “We succeed or fail, gradually then suddenly, one conversation at a time,” she adds.

Ultimately, conversations, whether they are in-person or online, are vital to creating change. Something that we desperately need if we are going to create a kinder, fairer, more sustainable future for the planet and everyone on it. This year, we aimed to start a few conversations about some major topics, from the merits of flexitarianism, to the consequences of fast fashion addiction, to the importance of respect and understanding when encountering cultures, foods, and traditions that are new to us.

So, as 2021 comes to a close, here are our top reads from the year to send over to a loved one to start a meaningful conversation. (And you never know, you might hear a point of view that totally changes your perspective.)

A woman looking at second-hand jackets
Give old clothes a second chance by thrifting instead of buying new. | Lechatnoir/Getty

Am I Still an Ethical Vegan If I Thrift Wool and Leather?

Much of the responsibility for changing things for the better lies with lawmakers and major corporations, but our daily spending habits make a difference too. With that in mind, more of us are choosing to thrift and give old clothes a second chance. But what if you’re a vegan, and the old clothes you want to buy are made with leather or wool? They’ve stood the test of time and are probably more resilient than cheap faux polyester options, but is it ethical to buy them, even second hand? Our writer explores the question.

A piglet
Should everyone stop eating meat? | Meat Me Halfway

Should Everyone Go Vegan? New Doc ‘Meat Me Halfway’ Doesn’t Think So

Do we all need to go vegan to save our planet? Meat Me Halfway, a documentary co-produced by Riverdale star Madelaine Petsch, argues that no, it’s not necessary. Instead, it examines the notion that there is an approachable path for everyone to reduce their meat consumption in a variety of ways in order to protect the planet. We spoke with the documentary’s producer Brian Kateman about why he chose to make the film, why he’s excited about alternative meat, and what he hopes viewers will take away after watching. 

A woman charges an electric car
Are electric cars the sustainable future of travel? | Maskot/Getty

Are Electric Cars As Good As We Thought?

Electric cars have been dubbed the sustainable transport of the future. But are they the capitalist cure-all that some manufacturers are making them out to be? (The very same manufacturers who created all of the gas-guzzling, polluting vehicles of the past.) Well there are many things to consider (including prohibitive costs and difficult disposal). We spoke with a clean transportation expert to unpack the nuances of an all-electric vehicle network and to find out if it really is the best, most sustainable solution to transportation emissions.

Greta Thunberg, Nicola Sturgeon, and Vanessa Nakate
Women’s voices are often overlooked on climate change issues. | Andy Buchanan/Getty

Want a Sustainable, Livable World? Listen to Women.

Women around the world have been sounding the alarm for years: climate action is urgent. And they’ve also been proposing some of the boldest ideas and solutions to the problem, too. But their voices are being overlooked. Amid COP26 in November, we explored why it’s time for everyone, but predominantly the men in power, to listen and act. Before it is too late.

Ellen DeGeneres
Is Ellen DeGeneres’ beauty brand a genuine attempt to course-correct? | Warner Bros

Ellen DeGeneres Has a New ‘Kind’ Skincare Line. Is This Her Apology?

This year brought with it a million celebrity beauty brands. Well, it feels like that anyway. And one of them was Kind Science, a vegan-friendly “age positive” skincare line by Ellen DeGeneres. But the talk show host has been widely criticised for being the opposite of kind. (Earlier this year, one former employee from The Ellen DeGeneres Show claimed that behind the scenes, “racism, fear, and intimidation” were rife.) Our writer looks at whether DeGeneres’ beauty brand is a genuine attempt to course-correct, or just good old celebrity opportunism.

A woman walks past a clothing store window
Fast fashion’s environmental impact is severe. | Scott Olson/Getty

How I Kicked My Fast Fashion Addiction

Fast fashion has a detrimental effect on the planet and factory workers, there’s no doubt. But knowing that and then acting on it comes with a set of challenges. Here, we discuss the serotonin hit that comes with making a fast fashion purchase, why we spend more money on meaningless purchases when we’re lonely or sad, and how we can all try to make better consumer choices.

Kim Saira sits wearing traditional Filipino attire with a fan
For many people, food has a strong cultural connection. | Kim Saira

I Was Shamed for My Culture’s Food. Here’s What I Wish I’d Said.

Food is intertwined with culture and tradition, and certain recipes and dishes have unique, sentimental histories. Here, our writer recalls an experience of introducing Filipino food to two white friends, and discusses why, to them, their reaction was painful and offensive. They also evaluate why rejecting someone’s cultural heritage and food choices without opening a dialogue or giving thanks for being introduced to it can not only cause harm, but the loss of a deeper connection.