Nearly half of Gen Z says its habits are less sustainable

An IBM report shows how the pandemic and tech developments have changed Canadians' environmental outlooks.

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According a new survey from IBM Canada, younger people are more worried about how habits they’ve picked up during the pandemic are impacting the environment, while older generations are more hopeful that tech will make their lives more sustainable for them.

The survey on technology and the environment was conducted in mid-October by Morning Consult on behalf of IBM Canada, polling 1,000 adults 18 years of age and older.

At the outset of the pandemic, many stores paused reusable bag programs out of concern about the virus being carried on fabrics – while stores are accepting reusable bags again, there was concern that momentum behind changing consumer behaviour had been lost. At the corporate level, the pandemic required many sustainability and waste-reduction initiatives at major corporations to be put on hold in favour of pandemic response and cost-management measures. Also, analysts suggest consumer avoidance responses based on fear may be tough habits to break. 

And it seems the most environmentally conscious Canadians have seen these new habits play out. The survey finds that 46% of Gen Z and young millennials say their habits have been less environmentally friendly since the onset of the pandemic.

This is despite the fact that 66% of the same group of Canadians says they are more worried about the environment than they were pre-COVID. Also, 22% more younger adults are concerned about the environmental impact of increased shipping resulting from online shopping than their older counterparts.

The over 50 set, meanwhile, is not expressing any greater concern for the environment than they were a year ago. This is part of a broader generational divide, with older Canadians more sanguine about the promise of technology, and younger ones, more pessimistic.

While the study revealed an overwhelming majority (75%) of Canadians believe the advancement of technologies such as AI and quantum computing is important in protecting Canada’s natural resources, and 74% reported they would personally adopt technology solutions that would help them live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, Canadians over the age of 30 were more likely to believe they could help in actually reducing the country’s environmental footprint.

Older Canadians are also more optimistic that the development of AI and other clean technologies are important in helping drive economic growth and creating more economic opportunities for the country.