Millennials and the Environment: The One Industry We’re Not Killing (Hopefully)

Millennials are blamed for a lot of things. They’re blamed for so much that it’s actually become a joke, like killing a variety of industries based on their unique preferences and brands not being able to keep up. It’s debatable if these claims are even negative (aren’t we better off without McDonald’s?), but even if we are changing the way we have relationships and own cars and homes, it’s not noted enough how we are improving the world.

Specifically, environmentally.

I am biased because my alma mater, Loyola University Chicago, is one of the most environmentally sustainable universities in the country. I’ve been conditioned to think “green,” but so have many others and we’re often held back by older generations.

When we were in elementary school in the early 2000s, we were beginning to have laptops in class and were told that everything would be digital one day. We knew it was going to happen, but there is still some pushback, even from certain Millennials.

Some people, of all ages, simply like how newspapers feel to hold and read. Others prefer post-it notes to stick throughout planners to keep themselves organized. Some prefer hardback books over e-readers. Some people like to excessively wrap each and every gift, with a card and envelope included. Even if I have a touch screen laptop and can actually sign digitally, my landlord won’t accept electronic signatures, forcing me to print out a 30-page lease. While none of these are bad and don’t have obvious long-term effects, each little bit counts, especially when paper is not recycled properly.

At a previous internship, my boss hated reading anything on a computer. I had to print out every draft and put it on her desk for review. There were often several drafts, and each draft was several pages long. Oh, and I had to keep every copy for future reference in addition to scanning for a low-quality digital version.

“I’ll be the reason your generation has no trees!”

….. K.

Most of these desires are trivial, personal preferences. When do we shed our first world preferences and accept that every little bit counts?

Personally, I don’t use my e-reader often because I’ve learned that I love giving my books after reading them. If blockchain can take over the e-reader industry, I’ll never buy a printed book again. Until them, I enjoy recycling my books so that friends and family can read my favorite books, too.

I don’t take notes on paper. Not only is it more sustainable, but it’s also easier to organize and share, it’s more legible, and it takes less time for me. No, I’m not a typical Millennial glued to Instagram. I’m taking notes on my phone (and maybe Snapchatting too…maybe).

I’ve tried paper planners, but they always annoy me. Still, what do you do with a planner when you’re done? Do you recycle it?

So many others try to recycle items that aren’t recyclable, like greasy pizza boxes. This can hurt recycling efforts because often, everything ends up in a landfill if it’s not sorted properly.

Saving the environment can be difficult in the same way that the health industry can be confusing. What have marketers convinced us that isn’t actually true? How can we be critical thinkers regarding the space to be our best selves?

Always, always educate yourself. If you’re not certain if something is recyclable, Google it and search for a credible resource. If you think that your personal desires are more important than the future of our Earth, check yourself and see what little thing you can do today to help save the world.

The world saw your outdoorsy pic for Earth Day back in April – what are you doing when no one is watching? Like Taylor Ingram said, one of my favorite high school classmates that is always reminding me more about our Earth, you’re only as good as the trash you leave behind. What mark are you leaving on the world?

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