June 19, 2021

Greta Thunberg at 18: ‘I’m not telling anyone what to do’

Environmental activist says she has stopped buying new clothes but will not criticise those who fly or have children

The environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg says she has stopped buying new clothes and holds no grudges against people who fly or decide to have children.

In an interview to mark her 18th birthday, the Swedish activist offered a relaxed view when asked about celebrities who trumpet their environmental awareness yet contribute to carbon emissions by using passenger aircraft.

She did say, however, such figures could be accused of hypocrisy. “I don’t care,” Thunberg, who usually travels overseas by boat, told the Sunday Times magazine.

“I’m not telling anyone else what to do, but there is a risk when you are vocal about these things and don’t practise as you preach, then you will become criticised for that and what you are saying won’t be taken seriously.”

Asked about campaigners who say having children is irresponsible at a time when the planet is under pressure, Thunberg said she did not consider it selfish to have children, adding it was “not the people who are the problem, it is our behaviour”.

She said her ideal birthday present would be for people to do more to help the planet – though a physical gift of new headlights for her bicycle would also be welcomed.

But unlike many teenagers, the desire for new clothes is not on her birthday list, due to the environmental impact of clothing production and demand.

“I don’t need new clothes,” she says. “I know people who have clothes, so I would ask them if I could borrow them or if they have something they don’t need any more. The worst-case scenario, I guess I’ll buy second-hand.”

Thunberg also admitted to guilt over the pressures brought on her family – including death threats – through her three years in the public eye. She said she did not care what people said about her online, but “when it impacts the people around you then it becomes something else”.