The Truth About Millennials

Speaking Sustainably

The Truth About Millennials

We hear it all the time:  “It’s the young people we need to target!  They’ll buy anything green.”

Not so much.

In our soon to be released Eco Pulse study, we see that Millennials (those aged 18-24) are just starting to put their money where their mouths are.

In fact, they do a lot of talking -- and they exhibit some aspirational thinking -- but they’re really only just starting to buy green products and change their behaviors.

Here are a few highlights from our study:

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• Across the board, Millennials are more likely to be talking about energy and water conservation, preservatives and chemicals in food, global warming and VOCs, but those conversations aren’t producing change -- yet.  Millennials are 23 percent less likely to have changed behaviors or made green purchases than the overall population.

• Millennials report that their green activities are most often in the low category (0-4 activities). This may be a function of the activities we list -- many of which apply more to homeowners than renters or students living in dorms.

• The green products they are buying are in a select few categories -- mostly in furniture, baby products, cars, food and beverages.

• However, they’re much more likely than the overall population to be carpooling, riding public transportation and biking/walking.

• They’re also more likely to give money to environmental causes than the overall population (22 percent, index 169).

• And they’re more likely to support the U.S. signing a treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, even if it raises their energy bills.

• Interestingly, this group reported that they’re more likely than the overall population to give up their computers (11 percent, index 157), cars (13 percent, index 144) or their air conditioning (19 percent, index 136) to help the planet.

So we’re seeing that Millennials’ green attitudes are currently outstripping their green behaviors, but expect to see this change as these young adults begin earning more money as they start their careers and build households. In fact, we already see a little evidence of this -- Millennials are buying furniture and looking for green alternatives. They’re buying their first cars and looking for fuel-efficient models.

For marketers, Millennials are a prime group with which to start seeding brand loyalty. Limited by income and living arrangements, they don’t have the buying power of older groups, but they have the desire to see green alternatives.

And since they like to talk, give them things to talk about with their friends -- even if they aren’t buying now, they will eventually. As soon as their economic circumstances improve, they’re likely to seek out brands and products that offer green benefits.

Start building those relationships now and see the strategy pay off in coming years.

As Director of Insight for Shelton Group, Karen Barnes serves as the voice of the consumer for the firm.

Image by sxc.hu user Capgros.