Our desire to live green lifestyles has skyrocketed in the past decade. In the last 5 years, there has been a 71% increase in searches for sustainable goods, as many consumers now value biodiversity and sustainability when making purchases. This trend towards sustainable living is also evident in the way we run our homes. Eco-friendly homes are being built more often and are seen as more desirable. That means those who are new to the housing market — primarily millennials — can intentionally seek out homes that reduce their carbon footprint. While it’s wonderful that eco-housing exists for millennials buying their first homes, is it right to think they are actually the greenest homeowner? Or is another generation leading the way?
Those born between 1997 and 2012 haven’t yet emerged as consumers with observable spending habits. However, early signs seem to indicate that Gen-Zers have a few distinct consumer behaviors and will operate differently in markets compared to millennials.
As consumers, Gen-Zers are adept at mobile finance and are unwilling to take on debt. Additionally, folks from Gen-Z seem keen to build emergency funds (perhaps due to the pandemic). They also have interests in innovative saving methods.
When Gen-Z does make significant purchases, they are usually through small businesses with personalization. This may be a reaction to the overwhelming volume of mass-produced, insincere, and unsustainable products available to them.
For future realtors and homeowners, aligning with Gen-Z’s rejection of mass production will likely mean that more homes will contain bespoke elements. It is unclear what this means for sustainability efforts in housing, but may mean that sellers need to buy higher-quality, locally sourced materials to attract Gen-Z buyers.
Millennials are climate-conscious consumers who are willing to pay more for products if they believe them to be sustainably sourced. Additionally, millennials feel positive about brands that stake strong commitments to sustainability and are likely to be loyal to companies that hold sustainability as a core value.
Homeownership is a top priority for millennials. Seventy-two percent of those born between 1977 and 1995 claim that owning a home is important to them, but they are usually first-time homeowners. They look for trustworthy agents, do their research online, and value smart-home technology like solar panels and energy-efficient heating.
Millennials who take on renovation projects often prefer sustainable options. In particular, millennials shop for textiles and materials that are sustainable and of good quality. This increased demand for environmentally-friendly materials influences business practices and is slowly changing the face of the building industry.
A recent study from Schroders Global Investor Survey found that Gen-X considers sustainability more often than any other generation when making investment decisions. Sixty-one percent of investors stated that they considered sustainability factors before investing, compared to just 59% of millennials.
Of course, a single survey into investing isn’t definitive and we should be cautious about extrapolating findings. However, it shows that when it comes to large financial decisions, Gen-X cares about sustainability efforts.
Baby boomers are the subject of much criticism among other generations for their consumer habits. However, recent studies have found that the generational gap in sustainability is a complete myth.
A cross-generational study found that much of the conflict about climate action does not exist along generational lines and that most people from all generations are deeply invested in creating a greener future.
Additionally, baby boomers are often the only generation with the capital at hand to undertake green home owning practices. Installations like solar panels require hefty installation fees and come with expensive material costs. Even on the low-end, solar panels will likely set homeowners back $5,000.
This means the baby boomer generation must mobilize and incentivize to make the green commitments that other generations simply can’t afford.
Green Home Owning
Each generation has a new approach to homeownership and sustainability. Millennials can leverage their power as first-time buyers to change industries. While baby boomers can raise the capital necessary for larger home renovations. While speculating about which generation is the greenest homeowner is interesting. What we need is green commitments from homeowners across all generations.
Author: Noah Rue