Recently, millennials have developed a bad reputation. They’re loud and seem to always speak their mind. While this could be construed as a negative thing, it could actually have a positive impact. As a matter of fact, their voices and actions just might save the world.
Dr. Michael Slattery, professor and director of the Institute for Environmental Studies at TCU, has seen a passion for the environment increase in recent years.
The truth is, this behavior isn’t recent at all. Most have been changing their actions in hopes to positively impact the environment for years but lately they’ve been more vocal with their efforts and opinions. And they will not be silenced.
Their determination has not gone unnoticed, especially by those older than them. Dr. Michael Slattery, professor and director of the Institute for Environmental Studies at TCU, has seen a passion for the environment increase from his freshman class through his graduate students. “They do, in general, seem more concerned about their impact on the environment and the difficult decisions that they will undoubtedly face in their lifetimes concerning the environment and having a sustainable planet. Our students now demand a more visible commitment from the campus and the community. It’s very encouraging.”
The real question is, are they alone? Are there other generations speaking up and acting out? Did the millennials learn their passions from their elders? From the outside looking in, it seems that young adults are far more passionate than their parents about saving the environment. “Most of their parents (like me) grew up in the years following the first Earth Day and were probably part of the so-called ‘Decade of Environmental Awakening’ so it’s hard to really say whether they are more or less concerned. If they are, then it’s absolutely a good thing! They seem really connected and informed to what we have done to this planet,” Slattery says.
Some businesses promote environmental concerns by offering recycled products or using profits to give back to those in need.
Not every millennial chains themselves to trees or protests oil spills. It’s not that they don’t care about those things in particular; it’s just that each millennial saves the world in their own individual way. Some focus their impact specifically on the things they buy. And some businesses take advantage of that. Companies like Starbucks, Burt’s Bees and Toms shoes, promote and vocalize environmental concerns by offering recycled products or by using profits to give back to those in need around the world. Of course, these corporations could absolutely have good intentions and care about the environment, but the concern could also be used to specifically target their largest consumer group, millennials. “I think companies are now very in tune with the millennials. How can they not be?”, Slattery adds. “And that is what is going to move the needle on how we care for the planet. Millennials will vote with their wallets, I think, more so than any other generation before them, and companies are taking note.”
Most millennials, while joking how financially broke they are (most aren’t joking), tend to spend their money on things that benefit not only their bodies but also the environment around them. One millennial in particular, Fort Worth resident Janelle Rogers, is no exception. Rogers lives a sustainable lifestyle, meaning she is very particular about what she buys and what she puts on her body, though, being a college student, it’s not always easy to have a healthy diet when on a specific meal plan and even harder to recycle. She understands the importance of recycling but, because it’s such an extensive process, she tries to focus on more reusable items.
“I wasn’t always this way,” Rogers says. “Around three years ago I became more mindful about what I am putting in my body from seeing what friends posted on social media and from documentaries I enjoy watching. Then it clicked for me that I can make healthier options and it’s accessible around me. It’s been a progression.”
In general, everything she uses is completely chemical-free. Not only is this lifestyle healthy for her, but she practices it to ensure the safety of others. When it comes to her clothes, she makes sure it was made in the USA — to ensure fair trade, equal pay, and that no one was harmed during production — and not in a foreign “sweat shop.” She also doesn’t wear a lot of makeup, and what she does wear is vegan and not tested on animals.
“In some aspects, yes, it is more expensive to buy products that are chemical-free and don’t harm humans or animals. But really, I think the dollar is more worth it. I would rather spend a few extra dollars and know it’s doing good. And honestly, I go to the store very rarely. A lot of the products I use, like the unfiltered and unprocessed honey I use on my face, is very inexpensive. I try to use things I can get wherever, like at Target.”
By doing this, Rogers has influenced those around her, like her mother. “The generation above us was all about (product) speed and effectiveness rather than what we were doing to ourselves in the process. But over time we’ve become more medically and technologically advanced and learned what really happens in our body. I think they didn’t talk about it because their parents didn’t talk about it. But as I research things, I share it with my mom. We both educate each other and it’s been really cool.”
Another millennial, Melissa Hedges, Denver resident, Stephen F. Austin State University grad, co-host of the Lighting Myself on Fire podcast and co-editor of CEO Literary Magazine, agrees. “I try to do things in my personal life to limit the effects on the environment and the wholesome side. I’m definitely more willing to pay more for free-range meat products. But with cosmetics, I have a hard time being able to cough up the dough for natural or organic products. If I was able to find cosmetics that had natural preservatives and looked good, I’d be willing to pay more.”
“I’m definitely worried about the environment as far as climate change, pollution, deforestation, waste production and water quality,” Missouri millennial and local small business manager MaryBeth Wright concurs. “I also think better and safer products are important, and play a huge roll in pollution. Using biodegradable products in packaging instead of plastic helps with pollution and is safer for animals. They do tend to be more expensive, but if all packaging is replaced, I think the cost would even out.”
Millennials are working hard to not only save the world one piece at a time, they are also trying to educate those around them that even the smallest thing – like what makeup we use and what packaging is wasted – could have a huge impact on the world around us. And they’re definitely willing to pay the price so that the cost is not greater in the end.