I came across this article yesterday by Amy Erickson. It’s a response to the claim that 18-34 year olds are less likely to ‘go green.’
Erickson writes that this makes sense given the expense of going green and the time to research green products: that age bracket just doesn’t have the time or money to embrace their eco-conscious concerns in the market. And I agree with this: what the study gives as options for ‘going green’ are mostly things that would be outside the power of a young person to do — replacing toilets with low flush models is nearly impossible when renting an apartment.
I want to add another level of critique here. What about greenwashing? I would argue that eco-conscious young adults are less likely to buy into greenwashing than their older counterparts. Perhaps this is because of the money — we are less likely to spend what little money we have on gimmicks.
My question for the researchers is this: what constitutes a ‘green’ product? Is it something that the company markets as green or is it something that is actually environmentally friendly? There is a stark difference between the two — the newest fad in marketing is to say that something is green or recycled or is BPA free. The young consumer is more critical of what is marketing to us, at least in my experience. This is not accounted for in declaring that young people are less likely to purchase eco-conscious materials.
Second, is following consumer trends of who buys what really a way to quantify willingness to make eco-friendly decisions? The study says ‘Reducing waste in landfills may be important to respondents, but has no immediate benefit to them personally.’ Why is inability to purchase new products seen as not wanting to reduce waste in landfills? Isn’t that exactly what it shows?
A large part of ‘going green’ is to realize where your stuff is coming from and where it goes when your done with it. Annie Leonard has made a name for herself explaining products cradle to grave, with the idea being that we should be aware of what we throw out and if it really needs to be thrown out. In other words, the idea is to reevaluate how you spend your money and what you spend it on.
For example, purchasing a hybrid car may be good for the environment in terms of how much gas it uses, but how many resources does it take to produce that new car?
Read any eco-advice blog and you will see that a key part of being enviro-friendly is to recycle what you already have — and not just putting it into the recycling bin. It means finding other things to do with what you already have. Turning mismatched socks into a fashion trend, or cutting that old tshirt into dusting clothes, or making cloth napkins out of them.
The focus on not buying fits in nicely with the struggling to get started budget of many people in that age bracket. Finishing school, starting that first job, paying off those insane student loans; all of these limit the amount of money to be spend on other things, like Erickson pointed out.
Essentially, I found the study to be based on the false ideas of consumers, without taking into consideration that purchasing things may not be the best way to study people’s attitude toward going green. The study says that doing little things are often done because they are convenient and gives an immediate benefit, but spending money on larger eco-friendly things is not done because it would require too much energy.
Finally, the news reports around this study have cited that youth are not willing to back up their claims of being eco-friendlly with consumer habits. However, what these reports fail to mention is that the 25-34 group is the second most likely, and the 18-24 groups is fourth most likely to be willing to pay for eco-friendly products. The least willing? 45-49 and 50-54.
I can’t help but consider that this is an attempt to discredit young environmental activists by citing hypocrisy on their part. Highlighting the idea that young people are not the most willing to buy green (forget for a moment that most politicians fall directly into those two age groups least likely to buy green) would mean a justification for not supporting further regulation on products that young people are pushing for.
Here’s the link to the Green report: What are your thoughts on the subject?