Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Are millennials green?

Last month, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published an article by Twenge, a San Diego State psych prof, concluding that Millennials are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources than those of previous generations when they were the same age.

Are millennials green?

Jean Twenge is certainly getting some push-back.

Last month, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published an article by Twenge, a San Diego State psych prof, concluding that Millennials are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources than those of previous generations when they were the same age.

The study was broad, looking at things such as life goals, concern for others and civic engagement. But it was the green aspects that probably surprised her most and represented the biggest change from previous generations.

In particular, according to the Associated Press:

About 21 percent of Millennials said it was important to become involved in programs to clean up the environment, versus about a quarter of Gen-Xers and a third of baby boomers when they were young.

Along those same lines, about 15 percent of Millennials said they had made no effort to help the environment, compared with 8 percent of young Gen Xers and 5 percent of young baby boomers.

Millennials also lagged behind in making an effort to conserve electricity and fuel used to heat their homes.

That certainly goes against what we've been hearing. Since a lot of this was self-reported, I wonder if Millennials have a different definition of "helping the environment" than others. For instance, I still think of recycling as "helping the environment." Perhaps, to a Millennial, this is just an accepted way of life, and no big deal.

And maybe they don't conserve electricity and fuel because they live in apartments where it's included. Since they don't have to pay for it, they just haven't thought of it yet. Who knows?

But the critics have been piling up.  Today, Dale Penny, president of a national group, the Student Conservation Association, wrote a rebuttal that echoed what I had been thinking: "

We no longer take for granted resources like clean air and water, and most Americans practice at least some degree of conservation. It’s part of a modern lifestyle and young people often don’t feel the need to report these actions – they just take them," he wrote.

He noted that as the study was getting attention, students with his group were fanning out across the nation to volunteer in national parks for an alternative spring break.

Likewise, the Energy Action Coalition, which describes itself as the hub of the youth climate movement, has called the study a "total sham" with a "flawed methodology."

"This study is appalling, and completely demeans the very real work that today’s young people are doing on the environment,” said Maura Cowley, executive director of Energy Action Coalition, in a press release.

I suppose the proof will be in the ensuing years. Will youths accomplish what their elders haven't yet? Will they demand more alternatives to oil and force public officials to do more about climate change?

Stay tuned, world.      

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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