Gen Z’s thumbs aren’t that green.

by Hailee Pickering | Opinion Piece

Over the course of a 10-week period, I made several polls and questionaries, asking the students of BCM212 classes to see if they are taking conscious steps to ensure a better environment. I theorised that Gen Z was taking more steps in their day-to-day life to reduce their environmental footprint. It is an interest of mine that has peaked whilst being at university as I find ways to make most of my assessments about the environment, and the impacts we have on it. The assumption that Gen Z was more environmentally conscious came from our generation supposedly being more woke, and aware. “The pandemic didn’t start the sustainability revolution, but it has put it into hyperdrive, Gen Z in the driver’s seat,” (Petro 2021). But it was because of my research on the BCM212 class that I realised my theory was wrong. It is open for speculation now to figure out what would create an initiative for students to take a greater action that would benefit the environment.

Keep Cups, I’m starting to think it’s more Millennials.

A large portion of the research was conducted on whether students are bringing reusable items into the university when they are on campus. A major focus was on if students bring keep cups, 13 out of a group of 15 participants said that they don’t. A café on campus called, The Ugly Duckling has a Keep Cup Day once a week, making all coffees half price if they bring a Keep Cup. For this report, I sent an email and tried to ring to see if they have more sales on a Tuesday compared to other days, or if it remains the same. But they didn’t respond back. A poll on my Twitter account asked students if they would bring a Keep Cup if they got 10% off their coffee, out of the 5 respondents, 3 said they would and 2 said they would want a larger discount.

During the pandemic cafes all around stopped accepting Keep Cups, so many people fell out of the habit to bring one. In 2020 a survey that was conducted by Keep Cup found that 21.3% of its users used a reusable cup more than 3 times a week. But in 2021 it began to pick back up again as 59.9% of its users used the cup more than 3 times a week. (KeepCup 2022) This study shows that the pandemic didn’t kill the Keep Cup. But it wasn’t a study on I the BCM212 students therefore can’t be taken into consideration when questioning if Gen Z is creating bigger steps for the climate. But can be used to prove that Covid isn’t the reason why people aren’t bringing keep cups as often.

              Water bottles are popular.

Major feedback in my survey was that most people brought their own water bottle to and from the university every day. 14 out of 15 people said that yes, they brought a water bottle and even just to the eye it was clear that most people had a bright coloured bottle of some brand. My theory is the big brands were smart and tried to make the everyday water bottle a fashion statement. A must-have! Both Hydro flask and Frank Green are to thank for the boost in reusable water bottles. Hydro Flask had estimated annual revenue of $43.9 million per year (GrowJo 2021) It was from Hydro Flask that people began to buy insulated water bottles.

A call for more refillable water stations to be placed around campus is one that 13 of the respondents agreed on. With so many students bringing water bottles but not many places to fill them back up, you begin to question what the point is. This is evidence that the university needs to start taking more steps to encourage students to be more environmentally conscious.

              Takeaway is a killer.

In NSW it is estimated that 800,000 tonnes of plastic is generated from takeaway each year with only 10% being recycled (McLaren 2021). 6 respondents in my survey said they get a takeaway lunch, but three said that they don’t eat at the university. So, out of half of the students that answered said that they are getting take away.

              Ethical brands are taking over

Almost every brand is claiming its devotion to sustainability, in a survey by DoSomething 75% of Gen Z respondents investigated brands to see if they were ensuring sustainable efforts. In a survey on my Instagram page 41 people responded, 22 said yes, they do consider the ethical and sustainability of the brand before buying. It is a push from Gen Z that is making brands move into the future of sustainable fashion.

              Discussion

My research was focused on what reusable items people brought with them to the university day to day. If I was to conduct another study, I would focus it on how students view brands and fashion. If they support the fast fashion industry or think before they purchase. This study was found to be otherwise disappointing as I would have thought more students would have thought about their actions and how they are affecting the planet because of the large amount of exposure we have to climate change. A question in my survey asked, ‘If there were more refillable water bottle stations around campus would you be more inclined to bring a bottle.” 13 out of the 15 people responded with yes. This only opens the discussion further, if the university advertised reusability more, would students be more on board?

Original Research Data Report

Google Survey:

Do you bring a water bottle?

14 – yes              1 – no

Do you bring a coffee cup?

13 – no                2 – yes

Do you bring a packed lunch?

6 – no takeaway      4 – yes, from home                  3 – not there long enough                     2 – no I eat in cafes.

If there were more refillable water bottle stations around campus would you be more likely to bring a water bottle?

Yes – 13              no – 2

Do you pack a reusable straw?

No – 15

Do you pack cutlery?

No – 12                yes – 3

How would you rate your efforts to be more sustainable in your day-to-day?

3/5 – 9                2/5 – 4                5/5 – 1                4/5 – 1

Bibliography

KeepCup 2022. Reuse Counts- Our 2021 Reuse Survey, KeepCup (Accessed 1st June 2022) KeepUp – Reuse Counts – Our 2021 Reuse Survey (keepcup.com)

Petro, G 2021. Gen Z Is Emerging As The Sustainability Generation, Forbes (Accessed 1st June 2022) Gen Z Is Emerging As The Sustainability Generation (forbes.com)

McLaren. N 2021. Plastic take-away container recycling not high priority for state governments, ABC News (Accessed 1st June 2022) Plastic take-away container recycling not high priority for state governments – ABC News

GrowJo 2021. Hydro Flask Revenue and Competitors, GrowJo (Accessed 1st June 2022) Hydro Flask: Revenue, Competitors, Alternatives (growjo.com)

Coelho, P. et al. (2020) “Sustainability of reusable packaging–Current situation and trends”, Resources, Conservation & Recycling: X, 6, p. 100037 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rcrx.2020.100037.

Hicks, A.L. (2018), Environmental Implications of Consumer Convenience: Coffee as a Case Study. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 22: 79-91. https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12487

#KeepYourCup for cheaper coffee on campus | Inside UNSW (2022). Available at: https://www.inside.unsw.edu.au/campus-life/keepyourcup-cheaper-coffee-on-campus.

This is how universities can lead climate action (2020). Available at: https://theconversation.com/this-is-how-universities-can-lead-climate-action-147191.

Chudwick. E, Salveminin. M, Welker. A. “Implementing water refill stations across campus to promote reusable water bottle use,” https://www1.villanova.edu/content/dam/villanova/sustainability/Student%20Research/HydrationStation2013.pdf.

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