With the potential of being one of the last generations who may be able to able to help tackle climate change, it definitely doesn’t come to a surprise that Gen Z are grabbing that opportunity with both hands.
What is climate change?
Climate change effects many aspects of our lives that you don’t typically realise from intense droughts to severe fires, sea levels rising and declining biodiversity. The consequences aren’t a walk in the park, with the intense changes in one area having a domino effect in others.
The burning of fossil fuels has become the main driver of climate change, alongside natural developments in the solar cycle. Climate change refers to long term shifts in the temperature and weather patterns, when burning fossil fuels greenhouse gasses are released trapping the sun’s heat and raising temperatures. More manmade greenhouse gas emissions that are affecting climate change include using fuel vehicles and landfills as well as heating buildings.
Overall climate change has already affected small islands and developing countries due to sea levels raising and droughts, effecting the health and safety of many individuals. It’s suggested that limiting the global temperature to 1.5°C would allow us to maintain a liveable climate and possibly avoid the some of the impacts, however following the trends of the current climate it’s aimed to reach 3.2°C by the year 2100.
Gen Z’s outlook on climate change
In 2021 a Pew Research report showed that 76% of Gen Z would say climate change is one of their biggest societal concerns, with a following 37% saying it’s their top concern, this can be seen taking place by the 32% making a political engagement whether this is donating or volunteering. In similarity, a 2020 USC survey found only 1% of students were not interested in on campus sustainability, with 79% taking part in sustainable activities.
Gen Z are increasingly aware of the impact climate change has on the Earth and are willing to make a difference due to how frightening their future is. A sustainable lifestyle is something that is becoming more mainstream with conscious decisions on the types of brands they are spending their money on, alongside the values the company they work for carry. It shows how passionate Gen Z are about the planet and the actions they are willing to take, whilst using their voice to the best of their ability.
Greta Thunberg: a Gen Z activist
Greta Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist who has made headlines due to her commitment to the climate change movement, challenging world leaders to take action. Thunberg began to pick up a following in 2018, when she protested outside Swedish parliament at only 15 years old, her sign saying “School Strike for Climate” in an attempt to pressure her government into meeting carbon emission targets. This campaign led to 20,000 students striking in protest around the globe.
Since then, Greta has attended the 2019 UN climate conference in New York, where she told world leaders, “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words”, on top of this she has won many awards alongside being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize three times. Throughout her journey she has received support from public figures and scientists, with Sir David Attenborough and Prince Harry being a few on the list, for the using her voice to inform the public on climate change. Today her school strike's are still taking place almost 4 years later.
Sustainability of fast fashion
Despite Gen Z being environmentally aware, they also happen to be a main consumer of fast fashion, typically one of the world’s most polluting industries. However, in the past few years we have begun to see a shift in buying second-hand clothes with apps such as Vinted and Depop becoming more and more popular, with Depop having 30 million active users across 150 countries. These sites provide a method for reducing emissions with the aim they will be able to reduce the scale of production in the fashion industry within the future.
On top of this when still using fast fashion brands many stick to the eco-friendly ranges, in an attempt to be more ethical, these ranges have been created due to the demand in sustainable sourced materials and reuse manufacturing initiatives. The persistance for a better fashion industry has helped create positive changes in policy work, made possible by Gen z constantly working to re-shift the industry.
Overall, its clear to see that Gen Z are constantly working to make a positive impact on climate change, both educating a range of generations, as well as actively making changes to their lifestyles to adapt sustainable practices. Recognising the important role, they play in leading change and understanding how much of a threat to life climate change poses.