The Eco-Concerns of the Next Generation Revealed 

Written by The Modern Milkman

Are the kids really alright? 

Homework. Early bedtimes. Learning about fractions after an hour’s worth of roly-polys on the gym mat. It’s not always easy being a little ’un. And just when youngsters thought they had enough on their plate, a new kid on the block arrived. A new worry that made all these childhood challenges seem like a drop in the ocean – climate change. 

Today, kids are more aware of the pressures facing our planet than ever. From severe weather forecasts to growing uncertainty about the future, it’s no wonder that more than half of children suffer from symptoms of eco-anxiety

While the adults have been away at COP27, we decided to get busy and gather our own committee – one thousand 7-12-year-olds who want to share their eco-concerns with the world. Because if world leaders can have their say, then why can’t the growing army of passionate, worried, young voices waiting in the wings? 

We asked them everything, from who influences their eco-beliefs to the elements of climate change that worry them the most. And the results have given us even more motivation to fight for change. 

So, in true Les Dennis, Family Fortunes style, let’s find out what our survey says. Over to you, kids.   

Fast Findings 

  • 71% of 7-12-year-olds are increasingly worried about climate change 
  • – Nearly 1 in 5 children name plastic pollution in their top three environmental concerns
  • – 96-year-old Sir David Attenborough is still inspiring the young when it comes to environmental issues 

What aspect of climate change worries young people the most? 

Straight out of the blocks, we’ve learnt that a significant number of the children polled, feel increasingly worried about climate change. But what does this actually mean? 

According to our survey, these are the top three environmental concerns the younger generation worries about the most: 

  • – The effect on animals and the natural world (27%)
  • – The growing amount of plastic pollution (19%)
  • – The rising global temperatures (19%)

Saint David Attenborough does it again 

We make no secret about our love of all things Attenborough. Our founders were inspired to act after he highlighted the plastic waste crisis in our oceans, and we make it a habit to always ask ourselves, WWDD? What would David do? 

So, you can imagine how pleased we were to learn about our next result: 

  • 46% cite national treasure, Sir David Attenborough, as their top inspiration and greatest educator for tackling environmental issues. 

Obviously, we couldn’t agree more on this one. And it explains why youngsters have such strong feelings about the effect of climate change on animals and the natural world. 

Although, the positive influences don’t just stop there. In fact, children are finding eco-guidance from all around them, with 37% saying they turn to their school or teacher and 23% finding inspiration from family members. 

Discovering statistics like ‘71% of 7-12-year-olds are increasingly worried about climate change’ can be difficult to digest. Yet it’s good to learn amongst all the anxiety, we’re doing something right. Children might be concerned, but clearly, they know where to go to find hope. So, keep up the good work, everyone. Especially you, Mr. Attenborough. 

Where the action is 

We know it’s impossible to be, ‘all talk and no action’, when it comes to solving our climate change crisis. So, whose responsibility is it to step up? Who can have the biggest impact? Politicians? Future generations? We put it to the kids, and here’s what we found: 

  • – The majority (85%) believe it is everyone’s responsibility to tackle environmental issues. 
  • – Nine in ten (91%) believe personal actions can have a positive impact. 

Let’s be honest, they’re totally right, aren’t they? Sure, children can say the funniest things. But it turns out they can say some pretty smart stuff too. From our results, it looks as though we’re going to be in environmentally safe hands in the future, and there’s no doubt in our minds that young people can change the world. But it’s also up to us to do everything we can to educate, inspire, reassure, and empower them to do so. We’re all in this together, kids. 

The future’s bright, the future’s green 

We asked our group of 7–12-year-olds to pick out the easiest ways to shape a greener future. Here’s what they said: 

  • 70% say recycling is the simplest way to tackle climate issues. 
  • 64% put reducing the amount of plastic we use into second place. 
  • 46% selected switching to reuse and refill packaging.  

Festive Findings

A staggering two thirds (67%) of Gen Alpha’s would be willing to forego a shiny new plastic toy under the Christmas tree this year, if it meant they could help save our planet – with ridding our oceans of plastic as their number one Christmas wish (38%).

Eight in ten children (83%) think their parents spend up to a whopping £10,000 each year during the Christmas period.

Whilst parents do try to make every Christmas as special as the last, unsurprisingly the annual festive splurge comes hand in hand with leftover waste, with wrapping paper (70%), plastic packaging (42%) and uneaten food (34%) as the items 7 – 12-year-olds think will fill the rubbish bin at the end of Christmas day!

As we all try to make our money go further this year, parents will be pleased to hear that rather than splashing out on the latest PlayStation or fancy new bike, their little ones would much rather their hard-earned money was spent helping to provide items for families less fortunate than themselves (32%).

What’s more, the gift of spending time volunteering as a family to help make a positive change in their local community, is also at the top of children’s Christmas wish lists this year. Kids today would be willing to swap a present from Santa’s sack if it meant they could help feed the homeless (31%), support food banks (29%) and rid the nation’s beaches of litter (21%).

There is still time to be put on Santa’s naughty list, we’ve unearthed what children think they can do to make sure they remain firmly on the nice list this Christmas – and being environmentally aware takes three of the top five spots!

The complete list of what Gen Alpha think will put them on Santa’s ‘nice’ list is:

  • – Being good for Mum and Dad (72%)
  • – Doing well in school (53%)
  • – Looking after the environment by recycling plastic and packaging (38%)
  • – Learning more about how to help the planet (16%)
  • – Volunteering to help the environment, e.g., litter picking (13%)

Looking ahead to the future, the next generation has crowned recycling more as their number one eco-focused New Year resolution for 2023 (24%), with growing their own produce (18%) and limiting plastic use (16%) close behind.  

The school of green thinking 

The results tell us that little ones are ready and eager to take on a big issue. In fact, we’ve seen their determination and passion first-hand in our ‘Message on a Bottle’ campaign and in local schools for the Modern Milkman Community Composting Competition. Bit of a tongue-twister! So, how do we keep that eco-friendly fire burning? And how do we, as adults, apply green thinking to our everyday lives to continue leading by example? 

Something for the kids 

We’ve revealed three important things so far. Most 7-12-year-olds are worried about climate change, they want to learn more, and they want to act. Here are a few ways you can use education to help put those eco-anxieties to bed: 

  • – Give them examples of big problems that have been solved. 
  • – Show children that lots of incredibly bright people are working on the problem. 
  • – Help them to learn the basics of climate science. 
  • – Correct any misunderstandings they have. 

Everyone learns in different ways, so for those kids who like to get more hands-on, we have a children’s corner of our own, with plenty of engaging activities to help youngsters feel empowered. Get started with a few of them here: 

Sneaky Plastic Scavenger Hunt 

Unwasted Recipes 

Sustainability Wordsearch 

Composting Critters 

Something for the grown-ups 

Every single step we take towards eco-friendly living helps to protect our planet. But it also reassures all the children who find themselves worrying about climate change. Not sure where to begin, though? If you’re a sustainability new starter, then here are a couple of ideas to get the green going and keep the kids involved too: 

Let the garden grow 

Our previous generation was tip-top at this, adopting the make-do and mend approach to practically everything. Learning a simple skill, like sewing on a button, is a useful strength everyone should have. So, get out the sewing kit and grab those buttonless shirts you’ve been hoarding at the back of the wardrobe and give it a try. It’s a chance for the kids to have a head start on those future textile lessons too. Gold stars, all round! 

Learn to mend 

We like this one. It’s a good-deed triple whammy. By letting the grass grow longer between cuts, you can not only save plugging in the money-munching mower, but it also encourages more wildlife into lawn and garden – a perfect place for you to go critter spotting with your little ones. Cutting every three to four weeks is ideal and allows time to build up the buttercups. It also saves you a job, too.  

Love the leftovers 

Unfortunately, all food has a shelf life. But there are ways to keep things like fruit and vegetables fresher for longer. Before you banish your food to the bin, why not get creative with the kids in the kitchen? Treat your leftovers as ingredients and see what culinary creations you can come up with. You never know – you might just drop on a Michelin Star. That’s how they’re awarded, right? 

Or, as our 7-12-year-olds suggested, one of the easiest ways to shape a greener future is to reduce our plastic use. In which case, our milkround could be just what you need. We offer regular doorstep deliveries of eco-friendly milk, juice, eggs, butter, bread – you name it! And so far, we’ve prevented over 60 million plastic bottles from polluting our planet. We can’t wait to tell Sir David Attenborough. 

The round-up 

If we’ve learnt anything from our survey, it’s that kids should be able to experience childhood challenges without the dark clouds of climate change gathering in the background. The homework, the early bedtimes, the learning about fractions, all that good stuff. Until that point, though, we’ll keep doing our bit, one glass bottle at a time, one doorstep at a time, one milkround at a time. And you’re more than welcome to join us

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