Baby Boomers vs Millennials: who are the greenest?
The Baby Boomers – AKA that lucky generation born between 1946 and 1964 – were (and always have been) the pioneers of the green movement. They were socially and environmentally conscious WAY before it was fashionable. In fact, they made being eco-friendly cool. Not only that – their demonstrations helped establish lots of planet-saving policies that had a real impact, like the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the Clean Air Act in 1970.
The Baby Boomers’ eco credentials have never been in doubt. But, despite the bad rep they get from the media, could Millennials actually be the greener generation of the two? Please excuse us while we pit parents against children, all in the spirit of finding out…
The Baby Boomers: the world’s first green activists
A study by sustainable real-estate agents Paladino and Co recently argued that we need to make more of Baby Boomers in the workplace, because of their conscientious stances on climate change and their belief that we can change the world for the better. The study argues that this generation’s experience in getting large groups to unite around one mission and unique social conscience makes them invaluable to our work culture. As an example of this, the study cites the Baby Boomers’ organisation of the very first Earth Day in 1970.
The study also notes this generation’s early adoption of eco-conscious behaviours, which appears to show that they’re much better than those notoriously self-centred Millennials at this whole ‘being green’ thing. For example, they’re more conscientious about waste management – meaning they’re much more likely to recycle and reuse grocery bags than their younger counterparts.
And surely sorting out your recycling is the be-all-and-end-all of being eco-friendly, right? You don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk – all the way out the front door, to that big green wheelie bin that’s mysteriously ended up halfway down the street. You put the effort in: rinsing out milk cartons, cleaning out tins and even dealing with those greasy tupperware containers takeaways arrive in.
But perhaps it’s not quite as clear cut as all that…
The problem of climate change sceptics
Despite raising concerns about environmental issues through their protests and activism, there are still a fair few Baby Boomers among the group who are sceptical about climate change. Yes, a large percentage of them do recycle, but we all know being green needs to go much further than that.
With their high disposable income, Baby Boomers have a larger carbon footprint than Millennials – and any other generation, for that matter. They drive more, use more electricity and fly on more long-distance holidays than anyone else.
Though they consider themselves to be environmentalists, their lifestyles don’t always reflect this. And those positive Baby Boomer traits cited in Paladino’s study – idealistic, hard-working, optimistic – don’t automatically mean this generation have adopted a more energy-efficient lifestyle.
Millennials are leading the way for sustainability
Even though Millennials don’t recycle as much as their parents, their beliefs naturally favour sustainability more than the Baby Boomers. In comparison with older generations, Millennials are very active about environmental issues and more likely to recognise that climate change is a result of human activity – there aren’t that many sceptics among them. Rather than focusing on just recycling, they see the bigger picture. And their politics push the agenda for better laws and greener energy.
Not only that but Millennials are also willing to pay higher prices to buy environmentally-friendly products. In fact, a large percentage of them said that the sustainability of a product and whether the company behind it is socially responsible are more important than the product’s price.
Let’s take vehicle ownership for example: a much higher percentage of Millennials than Baby Boomers own electric or hybrid vehicles. When purchasing a car, fuel consumption and the manufacturer’s stance on environmental issues are more important factors to a Millennial than their parents – and the Millennials will happily pay a premium for those eco credentials.
But which generation really is the greenest?
Look, regardless of generation, raising the important issue of sustainability has prompted all of society to live a greener lifestyle – and it’s now easier than ever to do so. For example, we include at least 33% renewable energy on our pay monthly energy tariffs as standard. That means you’re doing a lot for the environment without even thinking about it. And, if you want to do more, we’re even rolling out smart meters to help people who want to save energy manage their own energy use at home.
So, to answer the question, it seems that both Baby Boomers and Millennials have come up with clever habits that help with energy conservation, waste management and sustainable practices. And it just wouldn’t be fair to claim one is superior to the other – as fun as it might be to take sides.
Baby Boomers were pioneering when it came to raising environmental issues and bringing them into the public consciousness for the very first time. It’s undeniable that their activism led governments to take notice of climate change and start to do something about it.
But on the other hand, Millennials sing the praises of sustainable energy practices, such as wind power and solar energy. And they’ll pay more for products that reflect the environmentally-friendly beliefs, which seem to be so close to their hearts.
It seems both generations could learn a little something from each other, after all.
Image courtesy of iStock