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How to talk about the climate at Christmas

The climate crisis isn’t the most cheerful subject, and if you’re thinking about ways to reduce your impact at Christmas, it can be difficult to convince your loved ones to do the same.

The climate emergency isn’t the most cheerful or festive subject, and if you’re thinking about ways to reduce your climate impact at Christmas, it can be difficult to convince your friends and family to do the same. When it comes to buying presents, this can be a potentially complicated topic that needs to be addressed carefully, as Christmas is an important and emotional season for many people. We’ve put together a short guide on how to talk to your loved ones about limiting your environmental impact this festive season. 

Pre-school children

Babies and toddlers have no expectations about Christmas, and soon get bored if they are asked to open lots of presents. Not only this, but they don’t differentiate between new and second-hand gifts, making them easy to buy for sustainably in the festive season.

If relatives are keen to give them something first hand, encourage them to choose responsible, long-lasting presents that the children will enjoy playing with again and again.

In the run-up to Christmas, ask your family and friends not to over-emphasise the ‘presents’ side of Christmas, e.g. ‘What’s Santa getting you this year?’, ‘Have you made your Christmas list yet?’ etc. Instead, they could ask who the children are going to see on Christmas Day, what games they’d like to play, what their favourite festive film is, whether they are going on any nice outings and so on.

 

Primary-school children 

Primary-school children are probably the most vulnerable and demanding when it comes to Christmas presents. They see lots of adverts encouraging them to ask for very specific branded goods as presents, and may be under a lot of pressure from school friends to get this year’s ‘must-have’ Christmas gift. They might also be used to receiving lots of presents, and might not understand why they are receiving fewer presents than last year. 

We do need to start talking to children about the future problems that climate change will bring, but we don’t want to over-burden them with anxiety and guilt. Be sympathetic when talking to them if you are planning to buy less than they are used to, and don’t ask them to give up more than they can bear. Emphasise the fun things you plan to do on Christmas Day, and offer other experiences in the post-Christmas period such as special outings or sleepovers. 

Teenagers

If you are a teenager, the chances are that you are already more aware than your elders about the problems that climate change is going to bring in your lifetime. You are also more likely to critically view the advertising hype around particular products, and to be happy with the idea of getting second-hand gifts, or better still, money, so you can choose for yourself how to spend it in a useful and responsible way.  

One good question to ask yourself is how frequently you need to upgrade your tech. If it was good enough last year, can it be sufficient for your needs this one too? Talk to your relatives about your ideas. Be sympathetic to their urge to show their love through gift-giving, but remind them that a healthy and comfortable future would be the best gift they can give you.  

 

Adults

Talking to adults about the environment at Christmas can be the hardest conversation of all. Adults can be very fixed in their ways when it comes to Christmas. For example, they may have a lot of emotional attachment to presents, or think that the size and cost of the gift represents how much you value or respect them. 

Talking about the climate emergency and what we can do about it is a difficult conversation we all need to keep having. Understand that some people are resistant to hearing that big lifestyle changes are needed, including in their approach to Christmas, and accept that change can be slow. For example, this year you might make a small change by buying fewer presents or buying responsibly-made presents.

Do you have any tips for talking to your friends and family about a future-friendly Christmas? Share them on social media using the hashtag #candosouthyorkshire.