The Green Generation's Recycling Gap
Millennials are commonly perceived as the most environmentally aware generation, making environmentally conscious decisions more often compared to their parents and/or grandparents. While there are some amazing millennials like Lauren Singer @ TrashisforTossers who are working hard to do their part, there are many more us who aren't taking the necessary steps to be part of the solution. We believe in the science, but not in the work.
While millennials are, by large, living in more urban areas and biking/commuting more than driving, there is one area that the green generation seems to fall behind their baby boomer parents - recycling.
(Millennials of "Workaholics" on Comedy Central)
Here are some disappointing figures on the millennials' recycling habits (full disclosure: I was born in 1987)
- 68% of Americans say they believe recycling is the right to do, but percentage decreases with age. 62% of adults (18-34) vs 78% of adults (65 and older)
- Younger Americans ages 18-34 (33 percent) are more likely than those ages 35-64 (22 percent) to say they are not always certain if an item is recyclable.
- Millennials drink more from disposable plastic bottles than reusable containers compare to the average American
- Only 28% of millennials always unplug things and turn off power strips vs. 33% of Americans overall
Where are Millennials the Greenest?
In 2013, Eco Pulse did a study looking at millennials and their green characteristics. Here is what I found positive: most millennials believe the science - climage change is happening and it is primarily caused by us. We do a few major things that make us greener than our parents as a whole:
1. We live in urban areas, with smaller places.
2. We participate in shared services, like Uber and ZipCar rather than buying.
3. We buy and use green products more than other age groups.
Where can Millenials be greener:
Here is what I found negative from the 2013 study: while we believe that climate change is happening due to our choices and actions, we don't choose environment over personal comfort or convenience. There seems to be a responsibility gap of which I'm equally guilty of having.
1. We should commit to always recycling aluminum cans, plastic bottles, newspapers and cardboard.
2. We should bring our own bags when we go shopping.
3. We should avoid letting the water run when we brush our teeth.
How we fill the gap:
While towns and cities can make it easier to recycle more varied items, there seems to be a real need to spread the word of how beneficial recycling and reusing actually is to millennials directly. We know land pollution is a top threat, How many college dorms and apartments have a huge trash bin, but a makeshift bag for recycling? It should be the other way around!
The right mindset to make a positive change for the world is already in the majority of millennials. We need to make the right decision so easy that it doesn't compete with "comfort and convenience" that millennials readily choose.