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A Dive into Gen Z’s Current Attitudes towards Sustainability

To celebrate International Youth Day, we take a dive into how Gen Zs have adapted to the cost of living crisis and how their environmentally friendly habits have changed.

Gen Zs (born between 1997 and 2012) are unsurprisingly the demographic most interested in sustainability, with half in the UK considering themselves as environmentalists compared to the 35% national average (YouGov, 2022). 

However, these attitudes are put into practice in their home-life much less than the rest of the country. Less than a quarter will sort their waste or reduce their heating, whereas 4 in 10 on average in the UK will (YouGov, 2022). Even though Gen Zs show a genuine concern for the environment, there is a surprising lack of sustainable practices taking place in their home-lives. Why is this the case? 

One of the main opinions from Gen Zs is that these individual actions are insignificant when compared to the damage that corporations and governments cause, the majority believing that energy companies don’t care about the environment (YouGov, 2022). With the vote on the opening of the first British coal mine in 30 years taking place next week and the news that the world’s top 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions (The Guardian), this mindset is certainly understandable.

  • 41% of 16–18-year-olds describe their financial situation as insecure, significantly more than the national average (GWI, 2022).
  • Over 6 in 10 Gen Zs don’t mind paying extra for sustainable goods 
  • 1/3 of 16-24 year olds have a Depop account (TechCrunch

Nevertheless, sustainable products still appeal greatly to Gen Zs, with 3 in 4 saying that it makes a difference in retail and 65% stating they don’t mind paying extra (YouGov, 2022). There is a clear demand for environmentally friendly goods, but retailers must make sure they show proof of sustainability in order to maximise consumer engagement. It is vital that the brand isn’t simply virtue signalling or ‘greenwashing’, as consumers have become increasingly distrustful of companies, with less than a fifth trusting a brand’s sustainability claims (Compare Ethics).

Further proof of Gen-Zs high interest in sustainable retail can be seen in the resale market. Due to the previously mentioned financial struggles and increased awareness of the climate crisis post-pandemic, cheaper and more sustainable fashion options have entered the mainstream. Websites like Depop and Vinted have seen extreme growth over the past few years, with Depop’s app users in the UK more than doubling over the pandemic ( . This upwards trajectory in thrifting is not expected to falter: according to a study by ThredUp, the resale market is predicted to double in the next 5 years, reaching $70 billion. 

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