Let’s not beat about the bush too much: people tend to conform to the times in which they are living. Over two thousand years ago, young Greeks would aspire to become wise philosophers, practising their persuasive and oratory skills in their polis’ bustling square (or ἀγορά, to be precise). In the 18th century, new generations started to set aside spirituality and superstition in favour of logic and reason. Nowadays, millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Z (born from 1997 onwards) share an increasingly concerned outlook on the future of our planet.
The frightening effects of climate change are becoming more and more apparent. In response, young generations are teaming up to address the ongoing issues. A study from the University of Bath found that 41% of youngsters aged 16-25 are even hesitant to have children because, in short, they are worried about what the future may hold for their kids. Millennials and gen Z are actively forcing changes within society. More and more, younger generations are denouncing the damaging consequences of specific lifestyles and finding ways to tackle the current environmental situation. With this in mind, this article explores how our young generations are promoting sustainability and fighting to preserve our ailing planet.
Older generations often look at technology with a hint of suspicion. In truth, it has its fair share of cons and downsides. But it also undeniably widens people’s accessibility to information at the push of a button. Having grown up with and around technology, millennials and gen Z are arguably more aware of its uses. One of its advantages, for instance, is that using tech saves on paper waste. When booking a train or concert ticket, youngsters can choose to simply download it onto their smartphone.
With the aid of the internet, millennials have developed a deeper understanding of complex problems. This includes topics such as climate change and global warming. As content flows constantly on social media, they have become more socially conscious and are able to openly showcase their views. Additionally, this understanding allows millennials and Gen Z to discover which brands are not adhering to sustainability standards. They can then opt instead to select alternatives that meet the requirements of their own ethos.
As briefly mentioned, downloading documents onto a device, rather than printing them out, is becoming the norm. That’s already one significant way of reducing one’s carbon footprint.
In this sense, younger generations are increasingly taking to heart the importance of sustainable waste management. Indeed, it is fair to say that millennials and gen Z are at the front foot of plastic and packaging-free products. According to a German survey, 73% of young respondents said they are willing to overlook a product if it does not comply with their own environmental standards. Excessive packaging has also been proven to be a huge turn-off.
By embracing a ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle, youngsters are encouraging brands to ditch single-use goods. Instead, they are now coming up with more durable items. Making products out of recyclable or sustainable materials such as timber or bamboo.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that teens and youngsters tend to care hugely about their appearance. Clothes, in essence, are the perfect tool to let their personality shine and maybe showcase their physical qualities too. Young people’s priority in the past would have been to simply wear trendy and good-looking outfits. Today, young consumers’ focus is not on the end product only, but also on how the garment was processed in the first place. Consumers are more aware of how fast-fashion brands waste tonnes of water and regularly exploit their workers. As such, millennials and gen Z are gradually boycotting ‘polluting’ companies in favour of more sustainable competitors.
Ultimately, youngsters are not afraid to spend a little more on brands that are ethical and eco-friendly. Indeed, they no longer stop at the label and price tag but look into the business’ values and perceptions. It’s not just t-shirts and trousers we are talking about – it’s glasses too. With this in mind, fashion brands will have to take action to implement more sustainable processes in their outfits’ creation.
It is difficult not to love animals. On the whole, it is a shared sentiment across all generations, both older and younger, that we care about them. With this strong interest in animal rights and environmental conservation, millennials and gen Z are eating less meat. Interestingly, this change can have a significantly positive impact on the planet too.
There has been a substantial rise in vegetarianism and veganism over the years. A large proportion of this is made up of youngsters who are switching to plant-based diets. Some may not have fully committed yet but have introduced more flexible weekly menus. These diets alternate plant-centric portions to meat, fish and dairy meals. In fact, as a GlobalData report shows, almost 70% of the world population is cutting down on meat consumption or simply ditching it altogether.
Therefore, it is fair to say that food brands will need to prepare for an ever-growing wave of consumers wishing to avoid animal proteins. International fast food chains, including Burger King and KFC, are already rolling out meat-free options. Moreover, in the near future, organisations outside of the food industry will have to truly rethink how they evaluate new products. Youngsters will no longer tolerate animal testing in any products.
As our planet cries for help, millennials and gen Z are actively playing their role in trying to preserve our environment. They are opting for sustainable purchasing decisions and bearing increased social responsibility. Ultimately, it is evident that the younger generations are working hard to force necessary changes within society.
Tony Munro is Marketing Director at Reconomy.