Millennials And The 'E-Word'

Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer than a third of Millennials believe that the word “environmentalist” describes them very well. By contrast, Millennials are more likely to describe themselves as patriotic and religious than they are to apply the word “environmentalist” to themselves. 

While the Pew Research Center did not ask why respondents felt this way, NPR recently looked into this as part of their “New Boom” series. Through interviews, NPR found that for many Millennials, the word “environmentalist” is perceived to be out of date and associated with scolding. 

While this generation may eschew the word “environmentalist,” numerous studies have found that this generation is actually more passionate about the environment than previous generations. As NPR points out, Millennials are more likely to believe that climate change is being caused by humans and favor alternative energy sources. 

What should sustainability and green marketers take away from these findings? 

1. Tone matters: As NPR found, many Millennials associate environmentalists and the environmental movement with a scolding, reprimanding attitude, and they don’t like it. This generation prefers to focus on collaboration rather than chastisement, and our messaging to this group should acknowledge that. This is a solutions-driven generation and there is a unique opportunity to harness their energy and enthusiasm into a positive force for change.  

2. They will shape the market: In order to market to this generation, we need to understand how their choices will impact the market. For example, a recent study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group called “Millennials in Motion” forecasts that Millennials will also be driving less than previous generations. The report speculates that demands for public transportation will increase, gas consumption will decrease, accident rates will go down and insurance policies will change. We need to start thinking about the microtrends that will ultimately shape our future commercial system. 

3. They are growing up: Just like every generation before them, the Millennials will also have to grow up and take on responsibilities – and as some research suggests – this will change them. As reported in the “Millennials as New Parents” study by the Barkley agency, once Millennials become parents, they become more conservative, frugal, and pragmatic. The report found that about 44% of Millennials are “very financially stressed.” Ultimately, this report is a reminder that this generation is not static, but will continue to change and adapt, and marketers will need to be nimble in order to keep pace. 

Tell me in the comments or at @Brigid_Milligan – if you are a Millennial, does this ring true? How do you feel about the word “environmentalist?”

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