Millennials more likely to go green, yet least likely to recycle, survey finds

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Millennials may present themselves as a generation keen on climate change awareness and saving the environment by supporting “green” companies, but a new survey finds they’re still less likely to recycle as much as other generations.

Researchers at The Shelton Group, a marketing firm, sought to examine the recycling and purchasing habits of the millennial generation, finding that while they were less likely to throw plastic and glass into blue bins, they were more inclined to purchase products or services from companies that tout themselves as being more green than their competitors.

Garbage at landfill
A new survey finds that millennials may be more likely to support “green” companies, but they’re less likely to recycle compared to other generations.

While the relationship between one’s philosophy on sustainability and broader beliefs may seem somewhat tenuous, the two may indeed be linked.

“Millennials are pushing companies to make a positive impact on the world because they believe global problems are too big for individuals to solve,” explains Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of The Shelton Group, in a press release. “Millennials will reward corporations that take action and address problems for them.”

Terming the phenomenon “reverse crowdsourcing,” Shelton says that many millennials view supporting sustainable brands as being a form of activism.

The attitudes of millennials toward recycling and waste were measured both through previous data, and by asking individuals which types of behavior they would feel embarrassed about.

Forty-one percent said they’d feel ashamed to toss litter out of a car window, while 39 percent said they’d feel guilty about wasting food.

Only 28 and 25 percent of respondents said they’d feel bad about wasting water or failing to recycle, respectively. A previous survey showed that only a third of millennials adjust their thermostat to conserve energy, and about the same percentage recycled their paper and cans.

Yet despite their lack of action to save energy or recycle, 76 percent of millennials are concerned about the effects that climate change will have on their lives, while even more (82 percent) worry about how it will affect their children.

This most recent survey revealed that only about half of the general American populace feels the same way about climate change.

These findings “give companies a real opportunity,” Shelton argues. “Help the planet, help your business.”

Conducted in June with 1,000 millennials, the survey’s margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.


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