Our Not-So-Green Generation

April 12th, 2012
Alex Lee, Energy Engineer

I remember one day right after break time at a middle school band rehearsal, my band instructor returned with a garbage can, reached into it, and took out a full Coca-Cola soda can.  He was furious that some people are wasteful, and why they would purchase soda if they wouldn’t drink it in the first place.  He also reminded us that back in Day 1, he provided a separate container to throw out the remaining soda that we didn’t want, so that he can properly dispose it.

Also, my grandfather frequently mentioned how people in his generation strived to conserve resources as much as possible back when he was young, and how it is very sad to witness people today becoming very wasteful.  He taught me about the value and appreciation for resources that are provided to us.

Despite the fact that my band instructor had given the same lecture many times and though our fellow millennials have had similar advice laser-ingrained in their minds from their grandparents, contrary to popular belief, our generation, unfortunately, is comparatively wasteful.  We as a generation have consistently shown a lack of appreciation for resources and lack of concern for the environment.  According to an academic study conducted by psychology professor Jean Twenge from San Diego State University, it analyzed surveys over a 40-year period and found that young men and women today are more wasteful and less concerned about the environment than the previous generations back when they were young. So what is really wrong with us as a generation?  Why have we become more wasteful than our parents’ and grandparents’ generations?

To answer these questions, there are many factors that can potentially contribute to our “lazy” lifestyle.  The US is unquestionably one of the most developed, economically stable nations in the world.  Hence, food is abundant, and resources seem unlimited.  We are fortunate enough to live comfortably compared to people in developing countries.  This perception of unlimited resources can be one of the factors that can contribute to our wasteful lifestyle.  Another factor can be our obsession to technology.  With the market availability of computers, smartphones, and portable media players, we become distracted with these devices instead of going outside and appreciating the beauty of nature.  In addition, the news media can potentially play a role as well.  They negatively portray a group of environmentalists as people who wants to see the government burn to the ground or even as terrorists.  With this negative perception, most young men and women do not want to brand themselves as such people.

On a positive note, we should view this problem as a challenge that we can overcome.  With the recent economic downturn, we have witnessed skyrocketing gasoline prices.  Also, with the relatively high unemployment rate, we understand what it is like to live in bad economy. As a result, we are starting to understand the value of limited resources that are given to us.  It appears that the economic downturn can help us learn how to save in the long-term, despite the short-term negative effects.  Perhaps this is an excellent opportunity for us teach the next generation about energy efficiency and conserving resources.