By Matt Rogan
Between the three main generations that make up the world population, the general consensus shows that Millennials, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers share a similar level of eco-consciousness.
Alongside Generation Z, their slightly younger equivalent, Millennial’s have been dubbed ‘The Green Generation’. As the recipients of our current environmental crisis, it’s no wonder that the younger generations have become ambassadors for a more sustainable lifestyle.
With the emergence of the internet, this generation is arguably the most knowledgeable on current issues and the ones that pre-date their own existence (climate change, plastic pollution, etc.). Their activism has been weaponised though and the ‘snowflake’ label has been used to deter millennials into thinking that they care too much.
However, millennials aren’t completely blameless. With modern advancements in fashion and travel, they’ve become over-indulgent to what is available at their fingertips. Fast fashion and cheap travel allows for unlimited freedom and instant satisfaction – both signposts of millennial culture. These supposed examples of ‘technological progress’ are actually stalling environmental progress.
Online consumerism is cheap, convenient but counterintuitive to what you may believe as an eco-friendly, emission-free alternative to physically buying it yourself. By eliminating your own carbon footprint, you only pass it on to somebody else who has to package, post and deliver the goods that most likely could have been sourced from a local retailer.
Although they are the most outspoken on environmental issues, they’re also undeniably contributing towards them too (don’t get us started on the need for population control).
Sandwiched between two radical generations, Generation X are the children of tradition and the parents of modernity. As such, they have been blessed with the best of both worlds: the responsibility of the Baby Boomers and the passion of the Millennials.
Generation X now accounts for 51% of leadership roles globally, as stated by the CNBC
Whereas the Millennials and Baby Boomers spent their formative years living through important environmental events (the Gulf War Oil Spill and the rise in global warming), Generation X had no similarly defining catastrophic moment. This has led them to be perceived as passive environmentalists.
But again, despite what the eco-generational gap would have believe, Gen-Xers are making real change. Whilst Millennials are the largest demographic and Baby Boomers are the richest demographic, Gen-Xers make up the largest percentage of world leaders. Ultimately, even if Generation X are the small and silent few, they’re the ones capable of implementing environmental change.
Though stereotypically seen as the least progressive generation, surveys and statistics prove otherwise. In this survey by Aviva, they were ahead in every category except one: the likelihood of adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet. From avoiding single-use plastic, buying local produce, conserving energy usage and recycling frequently, the Baby Boomers are now a generation of eco-warriors.
The over 55s are more likely to recycle waste (84%), avoid single-use-plastic and buy only seasonal fruit and vegetables (47%) than any other age group, according to research from Aviva
Climate change deniers are the sparse anomalies of the baby boomers. In fact, every generation now considers climate change as a concern, but not every generation considers it a concern that can be reversed.
Baby Boomers are more likely to see it as an inevitable sign of an aging Earth whereas Millennials are more likely to see it as a symptom of corporate excess.
Yet this is likely only because the latter has the resources to educate themselves on the politics surrounding environmental discourse, rather than the former being stubborn and sworn to inaction. To start educating yourself on conscious consumerism, we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 books on sustainable culture.
Just like Millennials, Baby Boomers are also the punchline of internet insults (‘ok, boomer’) that aim to invalidate someone’s opinion simply based on their age. This need to scapegoat a generation in order to feel better about our own generational shortcomings is wrong – especially when we all need to take a slice of accountability.
As we’ve seen, the eco generational gap is an ageist myth to pit generation against generation. Baby Boomers aren’t stuck in their way, Generation X aren’t indifferent to the cause and Millennials aren’t overly ambitious. We’re fed these stereotypes in order to compete against each other when in actuality we’re all striving for the same goal so we should all be on the same team.
This is not about who should be doing more, it is about ensuring we all do more.