Millenials & Green: Loving the Lifestyle, Lukewarm About the Label

031814Millenials3_SquareResearch released by the Pew Research Center earlier this month reveals that American millenials – who range in age from 18 to 33 – are a complicated bunch. Half call themselves political independents. All are “digital natives.” They also have a complicated relationship with environmentalism, says a new article by Grist Fellow Samantha Larson. Only 32 percent of millenials consider themselves environmentalists, compared with at least 40 percent of all older generations. Yet in practice, millenials are actually pretty green. They’re far less likely to own a car than their older counterparts. They also tend to eat less meat, even though they’re reluctant to call themselves vegetarians.
What this all points to, Larson argues, is the emergence of a new generation that embraces green without the associations that often come with it. Millenials don’t make the choices they do because they care about being environmentalists. They’re being green because it’s more affordable, more enjoyable, and — in Larson’s words — just “makes sense.” Another factor at play could be millenials’ internalization of the complex relationships between the environment and other issues like business and technology, which helps them understand how green fits into the bigger picture.
Considering the fact that climate and the environment continue to rank abysmally low on Americans’ list of priorities, there may be something climate and environmental advocates can learn from millenials. Rather than trying to push more people to be green for green’s sake, advocates might want to start explaining what being green will get people, like health, happiness, and help paying the bills.


No, we’re not “environmentalists.” It’s more complicated than that

By Samantha Larson, Fellow at Grist
We’ve been called out: Millennials are not environmentalists. A new Pew Research Center report says that only 32 percent of people born after 1980 identify themselves as such — versus 42 percent of people born between 1965 and 1980, or even 44 percent of those born after 1945. But, as someone born in 1988, I find it hard to believe any of those numbers actually matter.
The old guard loves to harp on us for being an apathetic, unmotivated, and lazy bunch (old guards tend to make a habit of this, regardless of the era). OK, as a generation, we might not be storming the streets, or the seas, a lá Greenpeace — but judging by the host of things still going badly for planet Earth, while that kind of activism may be admirable, it seems clear it’s not the silver bullet. Growing up with a universe of information constantly at our fingertips means we know every issue is complicated and loaded with unintended consequence. We know solutions that rely on preachiness or dogmatism won’t last. So think of us as hipsters who embrace the complicated (though I would never call a unique individual such as myself a hipster. Ahem).
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