Is Gen Z our Last Hope For an Eco-friendly Future? A Teen Speaks Out

By Maya Penn

Lately, there’s been much said about millennials – that is, people born between 1982 and 1996. There are 80 million of them in the USA alone, and according to the press, they’re lazy, self entitled, and have odd consumer preferences. For example, on the one hand, they say they’re interested in buying more sustainable products. But on the other hand, research shows  almost 80% are influenced by price far more than ethics. As much as they say they’re looking for other values from their products like authenticity, local sourcing, ethical production and a great shopping experience, it seems nothing beats a discount for them, no matter what.

So far, Gen Z’ers seem to have inherited many of the same stereotypes applied to our predecessors, but I believe we are shaping up to be less of a “mini-millennial” generation, and more of a genuinely socially and eco-conscious group. What’s most apparent so far about Gen Z is our tendency to have independent thought processes and a fierce resistance to the mainstream dictating how we should live our lives.

Gen Z has a lot of  weight on their shoulders. It’s undeniable that our planet is in a state of crisis. The recent onslaught of devastation  left in the wake of natural disasters brought on by climate change has been our biggest red flag yet. Our generation is often said  to be humanity’s last chance to make a turnaround for our planet before it reaches a boiling point.  Literally.

Here are four reasons I believe Gen Z might be the group to  do that.

1. Speaking with Our Dollars

One of the most prominent examples of how conscious Gen Z’ers are can be found in their spending habits, and the companies they support. Research  published in an  article by Sustainable Brands  shows that 6 in 10 16 to 20 year olds say they will go out of their way to buy  products and services from businesses they know are helping to create a better world. Consumers in this generation know  that each purchase is an investment into our future and has an impact on the planet that lasts for years, perhaps even centuries.

Members  of Gen Z tend to gravitate to organic, eco-friendly, ethical, recycled, and Fair Trade products. This means we’re more likely to go hunting for clothes at  thrift stores, or raid our parents’ garages and attics for things they no longer use. We are markedly elevating the demand for companies that reduce, reuse, and recycle.

2. Using The “Age of Information” to Our Advantage

We’re also called the   iGeneration, since we grew up with technology at our fingertips — and social media has  given us the opportunity to spread information to individuals at a rapid pace never seen before. This has lead to a  majority of Gen Z being more wary of major brands; we have an innate X-ray vision of sorts to see beyond flashy  clutter and marketing gimmicks. We can quickly search for information about a brand’s transparency, and if we smell BS, we call it out on social media, fast. In this day and age, a shiny object isn’t enough — it takes consciousness and brand  transparency for us to gain customer loyalty.

3. A New Generation of Innovators  

Every generation has its innovations and achievements, and its apparent that a focus on new  sustainable technologies will be the center of many Gen Z’er’s lives – and businesses. Did you know my generation has ain increased likelihood to become entrepreneurs?  According to Gen Z marketing strategist  Deep Patel, the newly developing high tech and highly networked world has resulted in an entire generation thinking and acting more entrepreneurially. Gen Z’ers want to be their own bosses, creating businesses that they think will make a difference. As a sustainable fashion designer, I’m but one example of that, but apparently  72% of teens  say they want to start a business someday.

4. Creating an Ongoing Conscious Culture  

There is a plethora of issues plaguing the environment and our communities, but there’s been a hopeful growth of environmental  stewardship, solutions and activism, especially among Gen Z. Some of this  is a product of older generations instilling the thought of eco-conscious practices into what is now Gen Z — creating an  early interest and awareness on environmental issues.

I’m personally a direct product of this, as my parents taught me at an early age the importance of recycling and resource conservation. I remember how growing an organic fruit and  vegetable garden in our backyard when I was 8 years old left me with a strong respect for nature and an awareness about  the importance of where our food comes from, for example. No wonder more people my age are considering careers that take them away from industrially based jobs and back to the earth.

5. No Time To Read About You

Our attention spans have been shortened thanks to quick info coming to us through videos, texts and other electronic forms. That means we demand action, quick. Whilst some may see this as a defect, the reality is that the planet needs saving now – no time to waste! So, I’d consider a desire for fast action to be a great asset.

Every generation gets its chance to run the world, and we want our world to be in good  hands. But in the end, Gen Z can’t and won’t do it alone –   it will take intergenerational activism, solutions, and demand  to shift toward the promise of a greener future.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your comments!

Chere Di Boscio

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