Commentary

How To Join Teens In Going Green

This September, a green revolution swept the streets. More than seven million people took part in the Global Climate Strike to demand action on climate change. Many, if not most, of these protesters were school-aged.

USA Today reported that tens of thousands of students in more than 800 locations across the US planned to skip school to participate. Leading the charge was Swedish teen Greta Thunberg, who traveled by carbon-neutral yacht from Europe to New York to speak at the UN Global Climate Summit, where her thundering oration made international news.

During that same week, Canadian teen Emma Lim began the “#No Future, No Children” movement, asking young people around the world to visit her website www.nofuturepledge.ca and vow not to have children until they are sure their government will ensure a safe future for them.  To date, more than 5,300 people have taken the pledge.

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Between this youth activism, the tragic wildfires that have consumed California, and the “Green New Deal” proposed in Congress and endorsed by most Democrats running for president, it’s clear that 2019 has brought us to a climate tipping point. What are some of the implications for youth marketers?

*Build goods to last. A generation ago, fast fashion was all the rage, and teens flocked to retailers like Forever 21 for cheap threads that could be worn once and discarded. Today, Forever 21 is bankrupt, and young adults seek fashion brands with green credentials.

Digital Commerce 360 highlights Everlane, which provides transparency around factories, costs and raw materials, and tentree, which uses sustainable materials, and plants 10 trees for every item purchased. So consider how to make your goods eco-friendly, carbon-neutral and longer-lasting, and how to communicate those value propositions to young consumers.

*Rethink travel. Greta Thunberg has also popularized the concept of “flight shaming,” or encouraging people to avoid air travel unless absolutely necessary. With young climate activists trying to dissuade frequent fliers, cruises on fossil-fuel-burning ships fast becoming an anachronism, and hotels coming under scrutiny for their outsized carbon footprints, travel might soon change radically.

Young consumers might venture only as far away as mass transit or an electric car will take them; stay at an Airbnb; use vacation days to do service projects to help their local community; and use virtual reality to visit faraway locations.

So if your brand caters to travelers, consider ways of evolving to be greener, more geared toward locals, and carbon-neutral. Marriott recently demonstrated this commitment by pledging to eliminate small plastic shampoo bottles from its guest rooms by December 2020.

*Serve greener meals. One of the other big stories of 2019 has been the rapid adoption of meat substitutes from brands such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Suddenly, everybody wants to try a meatless burger, even at qsr chains like Burger King and Carl’s Jr.

The state of California made headlines by prohibiting restaurants from automatically providing plastic straws. And the San Francisco International Airport has banned single-use plastic water bottles.

So the dining experience is rapidly becoming greener, with plant-based foods and compostable materials. Consider ways to serve vegan and vegetarian meals without sacrificing taste, and minimize the use of plastics. The fast food of the future might be salad served in a washable bowl, with a glass of tea brewed from tap water.

Young people are working hard to make sure they still have an inhabitable planet when they become adults, and they’re counting on brands to join them in this fight. Support them in their endeavor, to ensure a future not only for your brand, but for everybody's sake.
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