Millennials Are Not Really "Greener" Than Boomers

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Today marks the 43rd annual Earth Day, a day devoted to increasing environmental awareness and inspiring more sustainable attitudes toward conserving the planet. Yet, while there is a pervasive trend of consumers feeling that protecting the environment is very important, the DDB Life Style Study reveals that even though attitudinal concerns about the environment are high, reported "green" behavior levels lag. Most are not willing to choose the environment over their wallets or quality of life.

In the past year, reports have indicated that Americans are more concerned about economic growth than they are about the environment. However, this does not mean that people in the US are not aware of environmental issues and trying to do their part to live more responsibly.

When surveyed on the topic, 83 percent of American adults say that protecting the world's ecosystems is important, 85 percent say that recycling is important, 73 percent say that reducing the use of packaging is important, and 72 percent say that whether a business ensures that its practices have minimal social/environmental impact is important. In fact, whether a business is as efficient as possible in its energy use is important to 75 percent of Americans and whether business's buildings are as "green" as possible is important to 63 percent of Americans. 

While 61 percent of American adults say they make a strong effort to recycle everything they possibly can, and an equal number claim they always separate the recyclables from the rest of the trash, only 51 percent use a reusable grocery bag as much as possible, and 49 percent say they use a refillable water bottle when they drink water outside of the home. 

Unfortunately, when push comes to shove, most Americans are not willing to spend more to support environmental concerns. Only 43 percent would pay more for an environmentally safe version of a product, only 37 percent would be willing to accept a lower standard of living to conserve energy, and only 43 percent make a special effort to buy from businesses that are environmentally conscious. 

"Interestingly enough, despite the belief that the Millennial generation is particularly passionate about environmental issues, there are few, if any, differences in their level of concern about the environment or the importance they place on responsible behavior versus the Boomer generation," says Denise Delahorne, SVP/Group Strategy Director at DDB US. In fact, Boomers are significantly more likely than Millennials to say they make a strong effort to recycle everything they possibly can (66 percent v. 53 percent), separate the recyclables from the rest of the trash (64 percent v. 53 percent), and use reusable grocery bags as much as possible (54 percent v. 46 percent). 

While Millennials have some catching up to do on the recycling front, they can be commended for two behaviors where they outpace Boomers. Millennials are significantly more likely than Boomers to say they use a refillable water bottle when they drink water outside of the home (54 percent v. 46 percent) and they are much more likely to say they own a hybrid car (8 percent v. 4 percent) or electric car (7 percent v. 1 percent).

 

 

 

Total

 

Millennials

 

Boomers

SAMPLE SIZE

 

6429

 

1922

 

2221

I would pay more for an environmentally-safe version of a product

43%

46%

41%

I don't think global warming actually exists

28%

25%

30%

I make a strong effort to recycle everything I possibly can

61%

53%

66%*

I always separate the recyclables from the rest of the trash

61%

53%

64%*

I use a reusable grocery bag as much as possible

51%

46%

54%*

I use a refillable water bottle when I drink water outside of the home

49%

54%*

46%

I make a special effort to buy from businesses that are environmentally conscious

43%

42%

43%

I would be willing to accept a lower standard of living to conserve energy

37%

41%

36%

How important is this issue to you: Recycling

85%

81%

87%*

How important is this issue to you: Composting

59%

58%

60%

How important is this issue to you: Reducing the use of packaging

73%

70%

75%

How important is this issue to you: Whether a business ensures that its practices have minimal social/environmental impact

72%

71%

72%

How important is this issue to you: Protecting the world's ecosystems

83%

82%

84%

How important is this issue to you: Whether a business is as efficient as possible in their energy use

75%

73%

76%

[Own a car] I own a hybrid car

6%

8%*

4%

[Own a car] I own an electric car

4%

7%*

1%

*significant difference between groups