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Boomers do better at green living than Millennials, survey shows

Contrary to popular opinion, young people aren't practicing what they preach.

Young people are usually depicted at the forefront of the environmental movement, protesting in the streets, eating a vegan diet, embracing a zero-waste lifestyle, and buying second-hand clothing. They tend to look with impatience upon older people from the Baby Boomer generation, whom they blame for the environmental mess in which we find ourselves. This impatient attitude was summed up well in the “OK, boomer” rebuttal that made headlines last year.

But according to a survey of 4,003 Britons conducted by Censuswide for UK insurer Aviva, this perception is wrong. Millennials and Generation Z'ers are in fact less environmentally minded in their day-to-day actions than their older Boomer counterparts. Take recycling, for example, which is held up by many to be the pinnacle of green behavior. (It's not, as we've argued for years on TreeHugger, but that's beside the point here.) Eighty-four percent of Boomers are likely to use recycling bins, compared to 66 percent of the 25-34 age group.

Similar disparities exist with food habits. Boomers are more likely than younger people to eat fruits and vegetables in season (47 percent vs. 35 percent), to reduce the amount of meat they eat (34 percent vs. 28 percent), and to avoid single-use packaging (66 percent vs. 54 percent). Boomers are better at buying locally produced goods in general (63 percent vs. 45 percent) and reducing air travel (24 percent vs 21 percent).

The only two areas in which young people performed better were going vegan (9 percent of 16-24 year-olds vs. 2 percent of over-55s) and buying second-hand clothing, although in this category it's the aged 35-44 group that leads at 43 percent, with the under-25s coming in at 38 percent and the over-55s at 37 percent, so not a big difference.

And despite young people expressing more willingness to donate to environmental charities, it is older people who actually do it. Critics will obviously point out that it's because Boomers tend to have more disposable income, which could very well be the case, but that argument doesn't hold up regarding all the other categories that were measured. In fact, consuming less (and, by extension, spending less money) is arguably one of the most effective ways to make one's lifestyle greener.

I'd be curious to know how many of the Boomers surveyed were retired, which would suggest they have more time to shop for minimally packaged, locally grown food and to take slower forms of transportation. I am not trying to make excuses for younger people who can and should do better, but I do think many are driven by convenience, which generates enormous amounts of waste. This has to change.

These findings show that it's time for Millennials and Gen-Z'ers to get off their high horse and start practicing what they preach, because at this rate they're being bested by their parents' generation.

Contrary to popular opinion, young people aren't practicing what they preach.