Humanity has neglected to deal with the growing waste management problem, resulting in increasing landfills, a dangerous plastic problem, and a future of devastating consequences if we allow it to effect global warming and worsen within the next decade. However, dramatic change means drastically changing the world we live in, and for some, it’s nearly impossible to do without plastics when it has become a part of their everyday lifestyle.
Improving on our environment, however, means looking to the future, and not our past. According to several studies, to change our environment, we shouldn’t be looking at the older people in charge today to make decisions, but for the millennials and younger generation to start making a change for the future, when they become the next leaders of the world.
Millennials and the Environment
Studies show that millennials – a growingdemographic holding millions in buying power and with growing influence in the consumer market and other sectors of society – are more likely to shop at stores that highlight eco-friendly practices and boycott businesses found to blatantly be environmentally harmful or use negative methods (e.g. underpaid, third-world factory labor) to produce their products.
The Shelton Group is a research firm dedicated to helping companies sell their products by making it appear more sustainable and eco-friendlier. They found that, for the last 12 years of operation, environmentally-friendly businesses peaked in sales in the last three years, when more people started taking sustainability and the environmentally safe practices into consideration.
From their latest “Eco Pulse” survey data, it appears that nearly all millennials – 90 percent, to be specific – would more likely buy from a brand who promotes environmentally-safe practices.That’s nearly all the members of an age group spending over $600 billion a year, expected to rise up to the trillions once millennials, Gen Z’s, and younger, future generations take up at least 30 percent of the market. This plays a huge significance for brands and the way they manufacture goods.
Changing the Business
In the past, not a lot of consumers would bat an eye when they find out where their products come from. As long as it’s good quality and for a fair price, consumers weren’t really paying attention if the company outsourced their labor from a factory in a developing country using children and underpaid workers to create their products. It’s why so many business sectors have environmentally-harmful practices: skinning animals for their fur, deforestation without any plans to replant trees to replace it, dumping oceans with harmful liquid waste, and contributing huge amounts of raw materials into landfills.
However, the millennial buying preferences slowly changed this. And with more millennials choosing to go green and boycotting businesses that use ethically and environmentally questionable practices, it could change the way businesses market themselves or use their operations. And since we’re in an age where we can put a price on good publicity, the money businesses are saving on cheaper, environmentally-harmful practices may no longer be worth it, compared to costlier environmentally-friendly practices which may see higher customer loyalty.
It is a trend that many businesses are beginning to follow. Whole Foods, Tesla, and The Honest Company are some of millennials’ most trusted brands because they have notable social and environmental practices. We have luxury brands turning towards greener and sustainable practices, with some even steering away authentic fur.
Creating Younger Environmentally-Concerned Citizens
Back when plastic products were used in nearly all everyday situations, it became easy for Baby Boomers, Gen X’s, and older generations to use plastics. So, today, when billions of people are still dependent on plastic, it comes not without reason: Generation X passed adulthood using and disposing plastic without a thought.
While that’s not to excuse them from their contributions to the growing waste problem, their predicament makes it harder for them to unlearn how to use plastics in favor of using other sustainable materials. After all, they were raised by Baby Boomers and The Silent Generation, who have, in turn, been raised during a time of war and instability. So, why spend a few dollars more on an item that’s biodegradable and sustainable when a perfectly good and cheaper alternative exists?
Even at the cost of the environment, people at the time were taught to prioritize what’s economical instead of a waste management problem which they thought could be solved by someone else. That mindset, however, can still be avoided by younger millennials and future generations.
Millennials now own tinier houses and produce much less waste. They prefer eco-friendly tourism and are more environmentally conscious compared to any other previous generation. They support local and sustainable businesses and are less likely to support businesses found to be harming the environment. It is still possible to get millennials and younger people to develop a lifestyle that isn’t centered around plastics and non-renewable resources.
Training the Younger Generation
Perhaps it is time for the government to see the need for more younger environmentally-friendly people. We put our kids in schools for years training them with skills and values we want them to have when they grow up, but when it comes to recycling and the environment, these are only things they learn in their science classes or when they take the time to glance at posters that promote being clean and green or when they read the labels in the garbage cans.
Taking the environment seriously means incorporating the importance of the environment into their studies. They need to learn the effects of pollution in a much larger scale in order for them to be more environmentally aware and therefore more likely to stop thinking their trash is just a smaller part of the picture, because it’s not.
One of the best ways to changing the way we use plastics and handle our waste and non-renewable resources is by changing the way our younger generation sees it. By training our youth, we are training the next generation of future leaders and key players, and by doing so, we give greater importance to the challenges we are facing today so that our future is filled with people who are more careful about the environment and how their actions can affect it.