In our post from Berlin, we introduced the three most frequently cited obstacles encountered by young people on the road to sustainability—lack of information, time, and money. So now that we have identified the main problems, let’s take a look at the current efforts of young people, and some possible solutions they are offering.
First, looking at the answers to the question “How sustainable do you think you live?”, we can see that young people are generally willing to make some efforts. Most of them, however, do not go beyond the regular, basic examples of sustainability, which closely mirror their concerns identified in our previous post. David (24, Management) says, “I try to save energy, I recycle, and use public transportation.”
Then how do these people imagine a society in which their efforts are better supported? What new initiatives do they expect and from whom? One way to go about this, is by focusing on the community aspect of this shared responsibility we have towards our environment and future generations, says Jana (26, Immigration specialist). “In my village we have a waste collection point in the central square, where everybody brings their recyclables.”
Furthermore, sustainability need not always be more expensive, claims Petr (29, working in Sales & Marketing). “The ecological option can also be the economical one by using less, you waste less. For example we have to pay for the collection of non-separated waste. The more you separate, the less you pay.”
Also the business world should not be overlooked, as many young people cite an apparent lack of contributions from this side of society as reason for not seeing the benefit of changing their own behaviour. Ingel (26, Swedish): “The government should give subsidies to companies that are trying to be more sustainable. We need to enlist the free market in this effort, by giving them the right incentives.”
But of course, as Eva (25, Statistics) rightly points out, “the separation of waste works so well, because of constant promotion by the government, and because it is so easy to do.” Repeating this success story for other sustainability issues, such as overconsumption or intensive car use, would be much more difficult—if not impossible—without additional support measures, including a combination of fines and rewards, or even re-organising our cities to enable more sustainable choices. Finally, we need to “educate, educate, educate”, as Daniel (21, Law) puts it. “You can get grown-ups to recycle, but they will still buy too much stuff in plastic bags.” But more on this crucial role for education in a next post.