November 10, 2021

We’ll stop buying plastic and lightbulbs to be green, but we won’t change our diets

Author:
Nick Baker, Chief Research Officer
Overall, 60% of UK adults consider themselves to be ‘environmentally-friendly’ when taking in the full range of sustainability factors such as recycling, conserving energy, being carbon neutral and travelling less by plane.

The debate continues to rage over how much is enough when it comes to being more environmentally-friendly. Our research shows most UK adults are willing to make small changes here and there, but far fewer are willing to make the major lifestyle changes that some climate change experts say are needed.


Three-quarters (74%) of UK adults say they’re willing to forego single-use plastics, a third (65%) will stop using standard non-energy-efficient lightbulbs, and 59% will stop buying cleaning products that contain toxic chemicals.

Older generations are leading this particular charge: the percentages rise for each age group, up to 85% of Baby Boomers (aged 55+) are willing to give up plastics over the next 12 months, 75% to reconsider their lightbulb choices and 63% are happy to opt for eco-friendly cleaning materials.

When it comes to our diets, however, the data tells a different story: a little more than a third (37%) are willing to stop buying food that isn’t grown in the UK – and only 29% are willing to give up meat. In addition, only one in six (17%) say they’ll give up dairy products.

This is where younger consumers take the lead and older generations are less willing to compromise: 37% of Generation Z (aged 18-24) and 33% of Millennials (aged 25-40) are willing to give up meat over the next year, they are also more likely to give up dairy as well (27% and 23%, respectively).

The findings come from the latest Eco Index2021 report from Savanta, which analysed the views on climate change and sustainability of 6,000 respondents – exploring the opinions on environmental issues across the UK, US and Canada.

  • 74% of UK adults are willing to give up single-use plastics next year
  • But only 29% will give up eating meat – and one in six will give up dairy
  • Younger age groups are far more open to making dietary changes.

It also asked UK adults in which categories they would be most willing to modify their purchasing choices to become more environmentally-friendly. Changing gas or electricity provider came top of the list, where more than a third (36%) suggested they’re happy to leave their utility provider of choice if it doesn’t use renewable energy.

Only slightly fewer (34%) are willing to compromise on furniture, clothes and home appliances, and 33% will reconsider their food and grocery shopping in light of those brands’ eco-credentials.

Overall, 60% of UK adults consider themselves to be ‘environmentally-friendly’ when taking in the full range of sustainability factors such as recycling, conserving energy, being carbon neutral and travelling less by plane. Baby Boomers top the age group breakdown at 70%, whereas only 42% of Generation Z feel they’re doing everything they can.

It will be fascinating to see how much the shift to an eco-friendlier lifestyle continues over the coming year. Brands that sell to UK consumers are already developing a range of new products and services to meet that demand – but when it comes to food and dietary choices in particular, it looks like it could be an uphill struggle.

To learn more about how brands can better communicate with Baby Boomers – as well as other generations – on sustainability, click here to download the UK version of our Eco Index 2021 report and here to access the Americas version.


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