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Engaging youth in climate conversations

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3 August 2023

by Valerie Leisten

Weston Communicating Climate Project Manager.

Article

Article

Delve into key strategies for engaging Gen Z in climate conversations, straight from Gen Z themselves.

Engaging the younger generation, particularly Gen Z, in climate conversations is crucial for driving meaningful action against climate change. With their unique preferences and values, it is essential to adopt specific strategies that capture their attention and motivate their involvement.

Gen Z are already actively engaged in climate conversations, but by complementing their involvement with additional strategies, we can further empower and amplify their impact.

In this blog post, we will explore three key strategies, presented by Dentsu’s Gen Z community (called VIZ) during our ‘How to Engage Gen-Z in the Climate Conversation’ masterclass. The VIZ Community is a Gen Z cohort of over 100 members, providing Dentsu’s Gen Z’s with regular opportunities to progress their career and network with other people in the same demographic, through networking events, panel sessions, workshops and more.

1. Catering to short attention spans

One of the most common characteristics attributed to Gen-Z is their short attention span of 8 seconds, which often demands engaging content from the very beginning. Constant exposure to social media and their tendency to flip between several screens has influenced their preference for quick information consumption.

To capture their interest, it is essential to utilise captivating visuals and interactive mediums, such as videos.

Short, impactful videos can effectively communicate complex climate concepts in a concise and visually stimulating manner. For instance, organisations like WWF and 350.org are highly popular on social media platforms and use short videos to share environmental messages!

The key is that their videos can be shared easily on social media platforms, ensuring maximum reach and impact. Why not check out popular youth led climate change charities like Sunrise Movement or to see how Gen Z communicate on their platforms? Or check out how Greta is using a creative video to raise awareness about the planned development of an oil and gas field.

For more inspiration, see our resource on ‘Making your visual storytelling unmissable’.

It is worth mentioning that Gen Z’s upbringing in a fast-paced, digitally engaging environment has impacted their capacity to multitask and efficiently process information.

2. Linking climate action to health and wellbeing benefits

Gen Z, like any other generation, places a high priority on their health and wellbeing. To engage them in climate conversations, it is vital to establish a clear link between climate action and the benefits it brings to their personal lives. Emphasising how sustainable practices contribute to cleaner air, improved mental health, and a healthier lifestyle can resonate strongly with this generation.

For example, showcasing how walking or cycling instead of driving not only reduces carbon emissions, but also promotes physical fitness and mental wellbeing. can effectively capture their attention. By highlighting the interconnectedness of climate action and personal wellbeing, Gen Z can be motivated to take an active role in addressing climate change. 

Nonetheless, actively engaging in the fight against climate change is becoming more difficult due to the rising occurrences of extreme weather events and biodiversity decline. Many young people are experiencing heightened levels of fear and distress about the future of our planet, leading to around 70% of them experiencing climate anxiety.

To address this growing concern, there is a pressing need for positive climate communication. By adopting an approach that focuses on achievable solutions, empowering actions, and fostering hope, we can help reduce the anxiety and inspire Gen Z to become proactive agents of change. 

3. Valuing intersectionality

Gen Z are also known for valuing intersectionality, recognising that various social, economic, and environmental issues are interconnected.

To engage them in climate conversations, it is crucial to highlight the links between climate change and other global challenges, such as social justice, racial equity, and economic inequality. By demonstrating that climate change exacerbates existing disparities and affects marginalised communities disproportionately, we can foster a sense of urgency and empathy among Gen Z.  

For example, discussing how climate change impacts access to clean water, food security, and the displacement of vulnerable communities can help Gen Z understand the broader implications of climate change beyond just environmental concerns.

Check out charities such as Friends of the Earth UK, who highlight how climate change disproportionately affects marginalised communities and advocate for policies that ensure a fair transition to a low-carbon economy, or RSBP, who advocate for policies that protect natural habitats, help wildlife adapt to climate change, and ensure that communities dependent on these ecosystems are supported. These charities have been actively working to integrate climate justice narratives into their communication strategies to raise awareness, advocate for policy changes, and engage the public in climate action.

Gen Z are already at the forefront of climate activism, and by continuing to engage them with innovative approaches, we can foster a generation that drives positive change and creates a sustainable future for all. By utilising engaging video content, linking climate action to health and wellbeing benefits, and highlighting the interconnectedness of climate issues with other global challenges, we can effectively capture their attention and inspire their active participation in addressing climate change.

Valerie Leisten is the Project Manager for the Weston Communicating Climate programme. To find out more about the programme, visit the Weston Communicating Climate webpage.

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