Hippies vs. Hipsters: Who’s winning at sustainability?
We wanted to find out which generation is actually leading the sustainability charge: Boomers or Millennials? Millennials were long celebrated for being so green. And then they started getting older … and headlines started questioning their reputation. On the flip side, Boomers are sometimes congratulated for valuing efficiency, or credited for environmental conscientiousness attributed to guilt … and sometimes they’re overlooked when it comes to sustainability.
If you’re measuring by action, Hippies – aka Boomers – win.
Hippies are doing more energy conservation in their homes. Fewer Hippies (15%) than Hipsters (27%) say they have NOT purchased any energy-conserving home products, and 13% of Hipsters have NOT taken any water conservation steps at home, compared to only 7% of Hippies.
Out and about, Hippies are more likely to wear their green on their sleeves. Hippies are prouder of their Priuses (19% of Hipsters would be embarrassed of their Prius vs. 10% of Hippies) and more embarrassed (76%) if caught throwing trash out the window (only 59% of Hipsters would be).
There is one sustainable-minded behavior that Hipsters are more likely to say they do than Hippies: purchasing. Forty-nine percent of Hipsters agree/strongly agree that buying/using eco-friendly products is an important part of their personal image, compared to only 31% of Hippies. Hipsters (48%) are significantly more likely than Hippies (32%) to say they had chosen – or stopped using – a product because of the environmental reputation of its manufacturer. We’ve written a whole report on why we think that is: “Millennials Are Crowdsourcing You.” The headline? Hipsters have found an easier way.
We see Hipsters “outsourcing” sustainability to companies and governments at a greater rate than Hippies. Hipsters (50%) are more likely than Hippies (33%) to agree strongly/very strongly that “energy conservation will work better if we price energy correctly through higher fuel taxes to make efficient energy use in people’s own interest.” Maybe it’s because Hipsters recognize what we see in the data – more of their age cohort aren’t likely to follow through with the sustainable action unless encouraged by legislation.
The social impact side of triple-bottom line sustainability, the people part of “people, planet, profit,” is also part and parcel to buying a better future. Hipsters (32%) are significantly more likely than Hippies (16%) to say that a company’s involvement in social issues or nonprofit partnerships and donations has a strong/very strong impact on their decision to buy its products. And Hipsters (35%) are also significantly more likely than Hippies (25%) to say they have chosen or stopped using a product based on a company’s involvement in social issues or its nonprofit partnerships or donations. We’ve recently taken a deep dive on social responsibility in general as well. You can learn more about social purpose’s role in giving brands a lift in our latest report “Brands & Stands: Social Purpose is the New Black.”
- Historical context
- Passed-down values of parents and community
- Life stage
If your target consumers (or you!) don’t feel generational stereotypes match, look beyond birth years and historical context. Dig into the birth years of parents to understand the values the individuals’ experienced in early life. Then take a look at where those individuals fall within life stages: Single? Double income, no kids? Married with kids? Empty nesters? The economist-demographer, Harry S. Dent, tells us that “peak spending” (maximum earning, spending and borrowing) typically starts with having kids. So, it’s possible that Hipsters are still just in an emerging life stage and can’t yet behave the way their attitudes and beliefs lead them. And perhaps as Hippies are past that point of “peak spending” – and maybe even peak keeping-up-with-the-Joneses – they are happy to hearken back to earlier years of doing something to make a difference.