I’m dreaming of a low-waste Christmas, but my family doesn’t get it

Julia Sampson
Story by Julia Sampson • CBC Kids News • Published 2019-12-16 14:14

Truth is, it’s just as hard for me as it is for them


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an opinion piece by Julia Sampson, a teen climate striker who aims to create as little waste as possible in her everyday life.

CBC Kids News was curious about how her lifestyle would affect her and her family at Christmas, and asked her to share her own point of view.


On the morning of Sept. 27, 2019, I stood in downtown Halifax on the front lines of my fourth climate strike.

It was one of the biggest protests in Nova Scotia’s history.

As the Mi’kma’ki grandmothers sang the honour song to open our strike, tears streamed down my face. In that moment, I remembered why I did this, why I put so much effort into this movement and my individual actions.

Because this was the most important fight a 17-year-old in 2019 could ever fight, and I wasn’t alone.

:  The September 27th climate strike in Halifax was part of a larger youth-led global movement, spearheaded by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg.  (Submitted by Julia Sampson)

Despite this, I’m constantly having to remind myself why I continue striking when there are so many people who just don’t understand.

Earlier this year, I wrote an open letter in response to an article in my local newspaper that discredited the work of climate strikers and called us a “climate cult.”

And then there’s my loved ones

As Christmas approaches, I struggle to defend my fight to family members who see it as “just dramatic,” and to figure out how a low-waste lifestyle fits into tradition.

How will my family and extended family respond when I ask for low-waste gifts? When I ask them to leave gifts unwrapped? Will they appreciate the low-waste gifts I give them?

At a time of year that’s supposed to bring people together, I can’t help but feel my lifestyle is alienating those closest to me.

Along with organizing several climate strikes, Julia Sampson made a presentation to Nova Scotia’s legislature on what she believes the province’s climate goals should be. (Submitted by Julia Sampson) 

And then there’s my own personal battle

Living in a world where I’m having to act like an adult because governments are not doing enough, I long for memories of my youth where I didn’t worry about the climate crisis. I long for traditions and I long for nostalgia.

Changing these traditions⁠ — or giving them up entirely ⁠— feels like I’m giving up my childhood.

For example, my family always individually wraps every single thing in our stockings. Opening them brought me a lot of joy as a kid, but it creates a lot of unnecessary waste. This year, I’m talking to my parents about not doing that.

And this conversation — along with the ones with my extended family, and even myself — centre around the same argument: That these gifts are things that we want, not things that we need.

What we need is a societal shift in the way we view the holidays and consumerism.

One of Julia’s gifts this year includes a handmade produce bag and a gift-card for a local business. (Julia Sampson)

With that being said, here’s what I’m actually doing for a low-waste Christmas:

What would a true zero-waste Christmas look like?

I’d love to work toward a zero-waste Christmas in the coming years, but this will involve even tougher questions around what we really value and need.

And yes, that includes the biggest Christmas tradition of all — the Christmas tree.

There’s been a lot of conversation around whether a fake or real tree is better, but the reality is that they’re both wasteful.  There’s no easy solution to this, but it’s worth thinking about why exactly you value a tree.

Could decorating a tree in your yard bring you the same feeling? Or a tree in the park? What about creating your own tradition?

  Another of Julia’s gifts includes a handmade necklace and scrunchie in a reusable bag, bought from a local business. (Julia Sampson)

In the end, it’s government action that will stop the climate crisis, so it’s important not to stress too much about doing zero-waste perfectly.

At the same time, your choices make a difference.

A lot of little people doing little things can lead to big actions, and that’s what drives the climate striker movement.

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About the Contributor

Julia Sampson
Julia Sampson
CBC Kids News Contributor
Julia Sampson is a 17-year-old climate striker from Halifax, N.S. She is a high school student and has been organizing climate strikes since March 2019.

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