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Going green by generation: Save the planet, or save your wallet?

Gen Z would spend $2,148 more per year to drive an electric car

going green by generation header graphic

Key takeaways

  • Gen X is the least concerned (among our respondents) about the environment.
  • Gen Z saves over $800 per year by using reusable water bottles.
  • Gen Z (82%) wants eco-friendly habits taught in schools.
  • Only 47% of Americans consider the U.S. to be a green country.

How concerned are we really about the planet?

One day soon, humanity may face its largest crisis: an unlivable planet. Global warming, pollution levels, severe weather and plastic waste are just a few environmental problems becoming significant concerns around the globe. Americans see Gen Z as the generation that cares the most about the environment, but is this accurate? How eco-friendly are they really, and what about the rest of the country?

In a recent study, the team at ConsumerAffairs surveyed U.S. residents of all generations about their environmental concerns, their hopes and — perhaps most importantly — their actions toward a greener future. Keep reading to see who’s voting with their dollars and lessening their impact on our planet. You might even pick up a new tip or two along the way.

How are Americans helping the Earth?

Our study began by asking respondents about their eco-friendly habits, then we compared their answers by generation.

graphic depicting americans concerned about the environment

Younger generations reported significantly higher levels of concern about the environment than older generations, strengthening the assumption that millennials and Gen Zers are the greenest generations. Gen Z respondents also saved more money than any other generation by using reusable water bottles and paper towels.

Many green habits are money savers, from using reusable coffee cups to growing your own food. Sixty percent of respondents saved nearly $700 each year thanks to their reusable water bottles. Shopping for secondhand furniture and clothing also generated enormous savings — more than $1,000 annually.

Moving forward, respondents were hyper-focused on reducing their waste and plastic consumption. Eighty-three percent of Gen Zers reported plans to reduce the amount of waste they produce, and more than half of all respondents intend to decrease their gas usage (which may be due in part to skyrocketing prices). Overall, Americans today might feel the need to take green matters into their own hands — only 47% considered the U.S. a green country.

Living green, by generation

Some aspects of green living aren’t necessarily money savers, at least in the beginning; solar-powered homes and electric vehicles (EVs), for example, can be huge investments. Considering this, we asked respondents how much more they would be willing to spend to be more energy-efficient and about their plans (if any) to switch to electric cars.

graphic depicting green initiatives people are willing to pay more for

Most Americans (58%) who responded are willing to pay more for solar energy to power their homes. In fact, they’re ready to shell out an average of $111 per month ($1,332 per year) to make it happen. Slightly fewer people were willing to pay for electric cars, but those who did were willing to pay $149 extra per month to drive an EV.

Gen Z was willing to spend the most by far on both electric cars and solar power. They’d pay up to $891 per month ($10,692 per year) for an EV — that’s a lot more than the average monthly payment, which hit a record of $712 in June. Their stated intentions also corroborated their actions: We found Gen Zers were significantly more likely than any other generation to own an EV already.

graphic depicting individuals' likelihood of having green habits

The environment may not be the only thing taking a hit due to unsustainable behaviors. These issues might even impact dating prospects — we only have so much control over what the rest of the country does, but at least we can choose our partners. More than half of Gen Z (57%) said they considered a person’s green habits when deciding whether to date them, and respondents generally considered their partners to be greener than the country as a whole.

Connecting with the environment

The influences of people around you can greatly impact your motivation and success in going green. The following survey results show Americans’ top resources for living greener lives and how accessible these resources are to others.

graphic depicting eco-influencers

Most wished schools taught eco-friendly habits, even though they learned most of theirs through social media (67%) and documentaries (52%). Gen Zers were the most likely to follow Instagram accounts related to waste-free living (60%), gardening (56%) and keeping the ocean clean (52%). Fewer than half of respondents from other generations could say they were following similar eco-friendly accounts.

Climate strike

Looking to the future may feel grim for those aware of the planetary crisis. This last piece of research asked respondents how they considered environmental issues when they voted and how optimistic they felt about our shared home’s future.

graphic depicting environmental politics

The environment weighs heavily on each generation’s voting decisions — even 37% of Gen X (the least environmentally concerned generation) said they factored it in. Gen Z was, of course, the most likely to consider the environment when casting their ballots, but not overwhelmingly: Just 54% agreed the environment weighed heavily on their voting decisions.

Fortunately, there was a shared sense of optimism among respondents. Even the youngest participants, who some might say will be the most impacted generation, were mostly optimistic (62%) about solving the ecological crisis. Other generations, however, were not so sure.

How green are you willing to go?

If you want to give humanity a better shot at survival, consider your own actions and try incorporating some of these eco-friendly habits our respondents shared. A reusable water bottle or coffee cup can keep microplastics out of your body and the Earth and save you some money. Buying secondhand furniture and converting to solar power were other common choices for respondents trying to go green.

Gen Z showed the greatest environmental concern and most eco-oriented lifestyles of all. Perhaps we could all learn something from our youngest generation’s dedication and optimism. What’s one thing you can do today to take another step in your eco-friendly journey?

Methodology

We surveyed 1,113 Americans to get their sentiments on the environment. Among them, 54% were men, and 46% were women; 25% of participants represented each generation. For short, open-ended questions, we removed outliers. To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, we required them to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question. The margin of error is plus or minus 3%, with a 95% confidence interval.

About ConsumerAffairs

We want to make big purchases — from well-deserved travel to buying a home — easier for all. Find expert knowledge as well as reviews and feedback at ConsumerAffairs.

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