Will the younger generation save the environment?

Nine in 10 British youngsters (92%) believe that damage to the environment is one of the biggest crises that we face today. And although COVID-19 continues to be seen as the biggest issue, when it comes to the health of the planet, 43% of 11-21 year olds believe that their parents are not doing enough, while more than a quarter (28%) think they will be the ones to save it.

These feelings have been reinforced during the pandemic, with over half (59%) of 11-21 year olds across the UK revealing that the pandemic has made them more concerned about the environment – more than any other age group surveyed by Perspectus Global, on behalf of Pro Carton.

Parents continue to play a key role in household recycling, particularly in the eyes of secondary school children. When asked who was the best at recycling at home, most (60%) 11-17 year olds chose their mothers, while a quarter (28%) said their fathers. Despite a third (32%) of the same age group claiming their generation will be the one to save the environment, just 7% of UK respondents believe they are best at recycling at home – the lowest among all European countries. And youngsters are putting pressure on their elders to do more for the environment. Across Europe, 78% revealed that they nag their parents about being more environmentally friendly. Those in Spain (92%) and Turkey (93%) are the most likely to take up the issue with the older generation in their house, while in the UK (65%) adults get let off lightly in comparison.

These arguments are unlikely to remain in the home though, with 89% of secondary school-aged children (11-17 year olds) claiming that companies and brands should be doing more to help the environment.

A third (32%) of these ‘next gen shoppers’ believe that recycling more is the best way to stop climate change. In the UK, paper and board is the most recycled form of packaging and can be recycled 25 times or more.  Over seven in 10 (72%) revealed they would ban single use plastic immediately, if they could. Interestingly, eating less meat and travelling less were distinctly unpopular choices amongst the whole group of 11-21 year olds, cited by just 10% and 5% respectively as top options to help stop climate change.

In late 2020, the United Nations urged governments to declare ‘a state of climate emergency’ during a virtual Climate Ambition Summit of 75 world leaders. At the same summit, 70 of those countries presented details of plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement. Young respondents believe governments must play a part in safeguarding the environment, ranking their responsibility equally alongside brands and businesses. In response to the question, 98% of UK respondents overall said governments should be doing a lot or a bit more, to help the environment.

Tony Hitchin, General Manager of Pro Carton, commented, “The younger generation have firm views on what the environmental issues are, what needs to be done and who should be doing it. If anything, they are more environmentally conscious than their parents’ generation. Young people are the next custodians of our planet, which is why we believe it’s important that we listen to their views and act on their concerns. Taking action is not only important for governments, but also businesses, as they seek to ‘recruit’ this young generation of consumers. Using packaging that is truly sustainable is a sensible starting place.  Cartonboard, unlike fossil-based packaging is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. This study highlights that while our respondents understand the responsibility they must take to force change, they also expect companies and brands to do more. We should all take note.”

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