Generation Z are using social media to advocate for environmental conservation and inspire activism.
Generation Z are the first generation to have never lived in a world without the internet. They are also the first generation to have lived with the constant threat of climate change. Born mid-1990s through 2010, they are commonly referred to as the “Post-Apocalyptic Generation”.
Contributing to Gen Z’s anxiety about the environment is media coverage around the fatberg in the River Thames in London, currently the size of 19 African elephants. Another example is the Great Pacific Garbage patch. Picture a pile of rubbish in the Pacific Ocean three times the size of France. Not to mention the number of natural disasters, weather abnormalities and studies contributing to the conclusion that we’re all doomed.
Gen Me vs Gen We
While Gen Z is still in its early stages some clear distinctions are beginning to emerge about this generation.
A recent study by WGSN identified two micro-segments within Gen Z: “Gen Me” and “Gen We”.
“Gen Me” and “Gen We” are a divided generation defined by technology and their relationship with social media.
Where “Gen Me” centres around followers, FOMO and competition, “Gen We” are all about collaboration and self-expression. “Gen Me” is style-driven, “Gen We” is belief-driven. “Gen Me” is filtered, escapist and hypnotised by hype, “Gen We” is unfiltered, opting for IRL (in real life).
The study identified that “Gen We” are concerned with food transparency, activism and sustainability. They use social media to form online communities to “help mobilise support for new causes and issues.”
With this in mind, we identified four ways that this next generation might help the planet.
4 ways “Gen We” might save the planet
1) The power of visuals
When you see a photo, you are a witness. It tells a story. Once you have seen a picture of London’s fatberg, or a diver collecting hundreds of straws from the seafloor of one of Sydney’s beaches, you can’t un-see it.
Instagram is a major channel that “Gen We” influencers use to tell stories with visuals. They have the tools at hand build a community of like-minded people and inspire action.
Wildlife conservation influencer @bee.elle.wildlife says, “Now with the advent of social media, the accessibility of these touch points and the swiftness with which you can engage with communities has multiplied significantly. With greater connectivity, and sharing of ideas, social media can help to catalyse change.”
2) Turning apathy into action
Social media influencers from “Gen We” make environmental action part of an attainable lifestyle. They involve their followers in the conversation by showcasing their eco-lifestyle. This lifestyle seems not only tangible but also desirable.
Eco-influencer @plasticfreemermaid‘s key call to action on her Instagram bio is to quit disposable plastics. Each post is dedicated to educating her 48K+ followers on the effects of plastic waste on the planet.
New tools like Instagram live, IGTV and stories also allow eco-influencers like @plasticfreemermaid to create a dialogue with her followers. The immediacy and urgency of the content helps to inspire action.
3) The accountability of a community
We feel more accountable to a community, especially one which is 24/7. Recycling by yourself at home might seem insignificant, but, connected to a wider movement, even the smallest act can feel powerful.
Awareness raising campaigns on traditional mediums like TV, radio and print shared the message to individuals in a moment. Social media influencers make the message part of an attainable and more attractive lifestyle.
“Gen We” feel passionate about collective progress and working together for positive change. As social media directly connects us to a community of people, it’s not just brands that are held to account, but individuals too.
Many Gen Z have grown into a world where religion is no longer is the primary guiding force for society’s morals in the way that it was historically. Now we’re setting our own moral standards to live by. Our code of conduct becomes part of our own personal brand, reflected in our Instagram aesthetic, product recommendations and the causes we support. Social media creates a forum where people can call out their peers’ behaviour publicly if they do something that goes against their values.
4) Making eco-purchasing decisions
When you see people you admire using keep cups, bamboo toothbrushes and other examples of conscious consumerism on your Instagram feed, you feel more inclined to make eco decisions too.
As a result, more consumers are opening their wallets for environmentally friendly products. The market potential for eco-friendly products and services currently sits at over $40 billion (Source). Consequently more people are consciously selecting products which align with their values. “Gen We” are among those making environmentally conscious purchasing decisions.
Examples include Thank you where they donate 100% of their profits to ending poverty. Their customers can even track their impact with a unique code on the product they’ve bought. Who Gives a Crap, made from forest friendly bamboo and without the un-recyclable plastic you find in supermarket bought toilet paper, is another example of eco going mainstream.
What can brands learn from this?
Consumers are demanding more from brands and opting to spend their well-earned dollar on a product which does good, to make them feel good.
It’s smart marketing that all brands could benefit from. In future brands might have to adapt to this more in order to keep up to a customer base that is more inclined to scrutinise the ingredients label, materials and sustainability of a product before purchasing.
As a brand, if you can remove that post-purchase regret that customers get by allowing them to feel morally good about their purchase decision, you’ll increase the likelihood that they’ll return for more.