Cultivating community and care through Climate Cafés

Wildfires, species extinction, forced migration, draughts, extreme storms, “code red for humanity” – it’s all a lot to process. According to a 2021 study by the Office for National Statistics, 43% of adults reported having been “very or somewhat anxious about the future of the environment over the past month”. 

We should view these feelings of distress and anxiety as a healthy response to what’s going on in the world, and providing safe and supportive spaces for these feelings to be expressed is a key reason why members of the Sustainability Team and Bristol Su are running Climate Cafés at the University of Bristol. 

Climate Cafés have sprung up all over the world in recent years, and they come in many different forms. They can be held in community centres, living rooms, universities, workplaces, an actual café – you name it. They range from informal discussion groups to more orchestrated events with guest speakers, with the common thread being that it’s an opportunity to come together with like-minded people to discuss our thoughts and feelings about the climate and ecological emergency. 

Climate Conversations and Crafts
Climate Conversations and Crafts

At the University of Bristol, we’ve run two Climate Cafés so far, this academic year; one for World Mental Health Day and one for the first day of COP28, which was part of Force of Nature’s Global Activation Day where young people ran 46 Climate Cafés in 31 countries on the same day! 

The Sustainability Team are still experimenting with formats. We’ve had sessions including journaling and even crafting – always over a cup of Fairtrade tea or coffee! Creating a welcoming space for staff and students to come together and share feelings enables us all to feel less alone. The beauty of these spaces is that once we’re given a chance to express ourselves, we can begin to move through sadness, anger and overwhelm and find a sense of calm, shifting us from a mindset of powerlessness to agency.

Journaling prompt
Journaling prompt

There is never any pressure to ‘take action’ as a result of a Climate Café, but feeling a sense of solidarity and community with other people who share similar worries is often a catalyst to being a little more hopeful and inspired to take action. 

Here are some feedback quotes from a previous Climate Café: 

“The relief I feel from just knowing that other people care so much has made me feel a hundred times lighter compared to when I came in. I have a ‘we can do it’ kind of feeling now.” 

“I feel inspired by how eloquently people expressed themselves and the care that people have for the world and all those who inhabit it.” 

“This has been a bit like a group therapy session, thank you for this lovely space.”  

To find out about our next Climate Café sign up to our newsletter 


Further reading and resources: 

Office for National Statistics 

Three-quarters of adults in Great Britain worry about climate change – Office for National Statistics ( 

Climate Anxiety Resources from Bristol SU:  

“How to cope with eco-anxiety” by Caroline Hickman for Friends of the Earth:  

“Anxiety and biscuits: the climate cafes popping up around the world” The Guardian: