Millennials and Climate Change: Closing the Gap Between Attitudes and Actions
Millennials have given the climate movement a lot to feel optimistic about. According to studies, millennials are more likely to seek out eco-friendly products and support environmentally responsible companies than the overall population. The majority believe that climate change is occurring and is caused by humans, and they are highly in favor of climate solutions like clean energy. However, there’s a greenness gap between their attitudes and their actions. As this GreenBiz article points out, the millennial generation actually exhibits fewer sustainable behaviors than other generations.
What’s the reason for this discrepancy? The author of the article (who has a millennial daughter of her own) suspects that millennials expect companies to take the lead on climate action. This offers companies a huge opportunity to reach out to this very valuable demographic by showing how their products help save resources and make people’s lives better. Another way to motivate greener behavior is to present the climate-friendly option as the default option, meaning it’s preselected for the person and they would need to actively opt out. Millennials want to do the right thing – they just need a tangible (and easy) way to take action.
Lee Ann Head, contributor to GreenBiz
We’ve all heard the stereotype: Millennials really care about the environment. We’ve seen studies such as the one published by Morgan Stanley, which finds millennials are three times more likely to seek employment with a company because of its stance on social and/or governmental issues and twice as likely to invest in funds that target specific social or environmental outcomes.
We know what they think — but what do millennials really do?
As both the mother of a millennial and a researcher tracking self-reported sustainable behaviors over the past 10 years, I’ll tell you what the answer is: Not as much as you might think.
Millennials talk the talk
Now, my daughter is no slouch. (Forgive a moment of bragging before I throw her under the bus.) She’s graduating in the top 5 percent of her class and is a member of the National Honor Society. In addition, she was named “Student of the Year for Community Involvement” by our local Optimist Club.
Yet, after years of coaching and cajoling, I can’t get her to put her aluminum cans into the recycling bin (at least they are deposited on the kitchen counter, rather than the trash can). And she never turns off the lights as she leaves a room. But if she hears someone say they don’t believe in climate change, she’ll quickly climb up on her soapbox and set them straight.
And that’s the critical point. Millennials are very attitudinally green, but unlike other age cohorts, those attitudes often don’t translate into action.
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