Climate activist Greta Thunberg hitches ride with Australian family

Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg has hitched a ride with an Australian family as she begins her return trip across the Atlantic aboard a 15-metre catamaran.

Greta is leaving North America on the boat which leaves little to no carbon footprint and boasts solar panels and hydro-generators for power.

It also has a toilet, unlike the boat on which she sailed from the United Kingdom to New York in August. That one only had a bucket.

The owners of the boat are Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu, an Australian couple who have an 11-month-old son named Lenny.

The family, which has a large online following, responded to Thunberg's call on social media for a carbon-free ride to Europe. An expert sailor, Nikki Henderson, is also coming along.

"There are countless people around the world who don't have access to a toilet," Greta said about the upgrade.

"It's not that important. But it's nice to have."

Greta Thunberg (centre) on board the boat with owner Riley Whitelum, skipper Nikki Henderson and Elayna Carausu with 11-month-old Lenny. Source: Instagram

Thunberg spoke inside the tight confines of the catamaran, named La Vagabonde, as it was docked in Hampton, Virginia, near the Chesapeake Bay's mouth.

She's hitching a ride to Spain in hopes of attending a United Nations climate meeting in Madrid in early December.

The trip could take two to four weeks, and November is considered offseason for sailing across the Atlantic.

As Greta spoke Tuesday, the temperature had dipped into the 30s as sleet turned into light snow.

But the 16-year-old, who refuses to fly because of the carbon price of plane travel, didn't seem bothered.

"I'm looking forward to it, just to be able to get away and recap everything and to just be disconnected," she said.

Thunberg just finished a nearly three-month trip through North America, where she gave an impassioned speech before the United Nations and took part in climate strike rallies and protests from California to Colourado to North Carolina.

Greta Thunberg stares down US President Donald Trump. Source: Reuters

She's become a symbol of a growing movement of young climate activists after leading weekly school strikes in Sweden that inspired similar actions in about 100 cities worldwide.

She's also drawn criticism from conservative commentators in the US as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But she brushed off the criticism during her round of back-to-back interviews in the catamaran on Tuesday, saying that yes, she is too young to be doing this.

"It should be the adults who take that responsibility," Greta said.

"But it feels like the adults and the people in power today are not."

When she looks back on her time in the US and Canada, Greta said the things that stick out the most include a glacier in Canada's Jasper National Park that is destined to disappear "no matter what we do”.

A visit to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where there have been protests over a pipeline, also left an impact.

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