OK, Boomers: Generational Differences in Pro-Environmental Behavior

OK, Boomers: Generational Differences in Pro-Environmental Behavior poster

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Research Authorship:

Sarah Cline, Heather B. Truelove, Ph.D., & Jody S. Nicholson, Ph.D.

Faculty Mentor:

Dr. Heather Barnes Truelove, Dr. Jody Nicholson | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Psychology


Existing literature shows positive correlation between age and sustainability efforts, as well as the influence life experience has on generational differences. However, it is unclear how generational influences impact pro-environmental behavior (PEB). Using 244 MTurk participants (64% men, 69% White), the study participants were categorized by cohort; Millennials, ages 22-38 (74.4%), Gen X, ages 39-54 (17.4%), and Baby Boomers, ages 55-73 (8.2%). We predicted that Baby Boomers will show stronger support towards Reusable PEBs when compared to Gen X and Millennials. We also hypothesized that Gen X and Millennials will show stronger support towards Travel PEBs and Food PEBs when compared to Baby Boomers. We found significant generational differences for all PEB categories investigated (Climate Policy Support, p = .003; Plastic Policy Support, p = .033; Recycling PEBs, p = .045; Food-Related PEBs, p <.004; Travel PEBs, p = .002; Reuse PEBs, p = .001). Specifically, we found that Millennials scored higher than Gen X on Plastic Policy Support (p = .029), Food-Related PEBs (p = .002), Transportation PEBs (p = .001), and Reusable PEBs (p = .004). Additionally, Millennials scored higher than Baby Boomers on Climate Policy Support (p = .049). Baby Boomers scored significantly higher than Gen X on Reuse PEBs (p = .014). This study and its results are unique because they look at implications of generational effects on PEB through a developmental lense. By understanding the influence generational effects have on PEB we can better understand why generations display support for different PEBs, as well as how to promote PEB in generations to come.

In this study we were interested in looking at the relationship between generational cohorts and their performance on Pro-environmental behavior (PEB).

We know from previous research that there is a positive correlation between generations and sustainability efforts. Indicating that generational differences do affect shared life experience. However, not much is known about the effects of generational differences on Pro-environmental behavior.

We hoped to help close this gap in knowledge though our research.

This study is composed of 244 MTurk participants, Millennials make up 75% of this sample, 17% Gen X, and 8% Baby Boomers. Participants were asked a series of questions gauging performance on 6 different Pro-environmental behaviors including; Plastic Policy Support, Climate Policy Support, Recycle PEB, Food PEB, Travel PEB, and Reusable PEB.

The data was analysed using multiple ANOVA’s, measuring the mean differences in Pro-environmental behavior between different generational cohorts.

The results suggest a significant effect amongst all 6 Pro-environmental behaviors. With millennials scoring higher than any other generation on Plastic Policy Support, Climate Policy Support, Food PEB, and Travel PEB. While Baby Boomers scored higher on Recycle PEB and Reusable PEB.

At the bottom of the poster we have included a timeline signifying non-normative events that we hypothesize to have influenced the life experiences of each generation, and therefore their subsequent pro-environmental behavior. Some of these events include the Great Depression, the mainstream use of plastic in grocery stores and the launch of apps such as airbnb and uber.

This research is important because in better understanding how generational differences affect Pro-environmental behavior we can explore why different generations display support for certain Pro-environmental behaviors over others as well as how to instill pro-environmental behavior in generations to come.

Thank you!