Eco-friendly Straws - Consumer Demographics

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Eco-friendly Straws - Consumer Demographics

Available data and insights surrounding the demographics of millennials, especially eco-friendly millennials, found that the cohort is mostly female (although fairly balanced between male and female), tend to have higher incomes, and are more likely to be married, while education level and race have shown no significant impact on whether a millennial is likely to be eco-friendly. In terms of psychographics, millennials enjoy a range of eco-friendly hobbies including fitness, camping, sports, reading, writing, and gaming. They are interested in spirituality and spiritual practices, performing lots of small but good deeds, eco-friendly lifestyles such as ride-sharing, activism, voting, and social causes. This cohort values health, social responsibility, open-mindedness, and environmental awareness. They are keen to invest in green initiatives, as well as to save for their futures, and are willing to change their spending habits as a result of environmental impacts. In terms of purchase behaviors, millennials seek eco-friendly products that they deem affordable, their sustainable purchases are heavily influenced by social media as this is their primary research tool when it comes to the eco-friendly genre, and they avoid buying from companies that don't share their eco-friendly values. A deep dive of these findings is presented below:

Demographics of Eco-Friendly Millennials

Gender:

  • Millennials make up the bulk of visitors to the SimplyStraws website. This site sells reusable straws and other eco-friendly products. The visitors to this site are about 55% female and 45% male.
  • This data is corroborated by academic studies that have found that women are more likely than men to be environmentally conscious. Likewise, these studies found that young adults are more environmentally concerned than older adults and also perform environmentally-friendly actions more often.
  • Despite these findings, a 2018 survey found that occasional plastic straw use among females is higher than that of males (88% vs. 79%).

Income:

  • Academic studies have found that usage of environmentally friendly products is tied to consumer income levels and that the more a consumer earns, the more likely they are to perform environmentally-friendly actions.
  • According to data published by Pew Research in 2019, "Millennials with a bachelor’s degree or more and a full-time job had median annual earnings valued at $56,000 in 2018 [...] Millennial workers with some college education reported making $36,000 [...] Millennials in 2018 had a median household income of roughly $71,400."
  • In terms of annual household income (households headed by millennials between the ages of 25 and 27 in 2018), the median household income was $105,343 (for those with a bachelor's degree or higher), $62,358 (for those with some college), and $49,363 (for those with a high school diploma).

Education:

  • According to data published by Pew Research in 2019, 39% of millennials in the 25-37 age ground have a bachelor's degree or higher. This is true for 43% of millennial women and 36% of millennial men.
  • Despite this basic demographic data, academic studies have largely found no relationship between education level and environmental-friendliness in general, however, some specific environmentally friendly actions have been correlated with education. For example, people with higher levels of education are more likely to use recyclable bags. This is further corroborated by the World Education Blog which notes "The completion of higher levels of education does not automatically translate into more responsible behavior towards the environment."

Marital Status:

  • As of 2018, 46% of millennials between the ages of 25 and 37 were married. Millennials with a higher level of education are more likely to be married than those with a lower level of education.
  • Some academic studies have found that married people are more likely to perform actions that are environmentally friendly.
  • A survey conducted by Hitwise also found that environmentally friendly consumers are mostly married (56%).

Race/Ethnicity:

Psychographics of Eco-Friendly Millennials

Hobbies:

  • A study by Nielsen found that sustainable shoppers are more likely to be digitally engaged, by 67%.
  • Millennials surveyed in 2019 by YPulse found that the cohort's biggest offline hobbies include music, sports, gaming, reading, cooking, fitness, art, TV/Netflix, crafting, dance, writing, sewing, travel, running, outdoor activities, movies, hiking, photography, shopping, and food.
  • Among 18-24-year-olds, the top five hobbies are music, sports, gaming, reading, and writing.
  • Among 25-36-year-olds, the top five hobbies are music, reading, fitness, gaming, and cooking/baking.
  • According to CB Insights, millennials are embracing camping adventures more and more, especially as they become parents. The U.S. camping industry has been exploding in recent years, which the industry attributes to millennial consumers, who they say are "camping in larger numbers and camping more often."
  • 76% of millennials report exercising at least once per week, a higher number than older generations.

Interests:

  • According to Matthew Hedstrom, a religious studies professor at the University of Virginia, compared to older generations, millennials are more spiritually conscious. And while they are less religious in a traditional sense (34% don't identify with any religion at all), they do believe in connecting with spirituality based around their deep sense of connection to things humanitarianism. According to a 2019 Forbes article, this is shown in their desire to spiritually connect via activities like yoga, meditation, prayer, going to concerts, and a belief in heaven and karmic forces.
  • Millennials are more interested than older generations about doing good deeds, with surveyed millennials reporting they do an average of 339 modern-day "good deeds" each month. Such deeds include doing things like picking up trash. Likewise, 55% of millennials surveyed said they believe the small good deeds they do help to cancel out their non-eco-friendly actions. In addition to this, 83% of millennials surveyed agreed with that small steps can create major environmental impacts.
  • Environmentally conscious millennials are significantly more likely than older generations to show interest in the share economy, with 59% saying they share taxis or rides with strangers and 43% having worked in a shared workspace.
  • 71% of millennials are interested in voting as a form of activism.
  • According to a study of 150,000 millennials in the U.S., some social causes millennials are most interested in are civil rights, healthcare, education, and employment.

Values:

  • Millennials value eco-friendliness as a way of being healthier and improving their quality of life (80%).
  • According to a 2019 Forbes article, "79% of millennial employees are loyal to companies that care about their effect on society. They believe that corporate social responsibility is key to alleviating poverty and improving life outcomes."
  • Because of their exposure to technology and social media at younger ages which allowed them to be more globally connected, Millennials are generally more open-minded, and seek to develop friendships with people across various races, ethnicities and genders. They are typically supportive of diversity and inclusion in all areas of life.
  • A 2018 study found that "millennials grasp the environmental consequences of their actions and have the education, motivation and social awareness to participate in the green movement."
  • 53% of millennials report doing non-eco-friendly things out of necessity, but 73% also report feeling guilty when they do such things.

Spending Habits:

  • 64% of millennials surveyed feel it's worth it to pay more money for eco-friendly products. Likewise, Nielsen states that "millennials report a greater willingness to pay more for products with ingredients that are sustainable, environmentally friendly, organic or natural, or socially responsible products."
  • A 2018 study conducted by Nielsen found that 75% of millennials reported changing their buying habits as a result of focusing on the environment.
  • Because millennials typically value both experiences and sustainability, they are likely to spend their money on experiences that are sustainable and ethical. Eco-lodges and ecotourism are desired by the cohort as a way to have worldly experiences while minimizing their carbon footprint.
  • "According to a recent Bank of America survey, 16% of millennials aged between 23 and 37 have already saved $100,000 in their accounts for retirement. They are keen on saving for the future. Millennials are also putting their monies into socially responsible investments (SRIs), or 'impact investing.' Impact investing, also known as 'green investing,' involves putting money into organizations that have a positive impact on the world."
  • Millennials are more likely than other generations to buy organic food and clothing. This interest appears to stem from an interest in eco-friendliness as organic varieties of fabric, for example, use significantly less water in production.
  • Millennials are likely to invest in their health and well-being, as exemplified by the fact that the cohort spends double the amount on fitness each year compared to older generations.

Purchase Behaviors of Eco-Friendly Millennials

1: Millennials Seek Eco-Friendly Products That They Deem Affordable

  • According to data published by the Harvard Business Review in 2019, millennials are increasingly saying they want brands that embrace sustainability, however, survey results show that among the 65% of those who say they desire to buy from such brands, only 26% follow through on doing so.
  • This aligns with findings by Monitor Research which found that only 38% of millennials report being very or somewhat likely to pull full-price for apparel that has been made in an eco-friendly way. Experts in consumer goods and retail have also reported similar findings among Gen Z, wherein the cohort places a high value on eco-friendly products, but they are unwilling to actually pay for them.
  • A 2018 study of millennials concluded that, although the cohort is fully aware of eco-friendliness and grasp the environmental impact of their actions, they have "not truly begun to fully integrate their beliefs and actions."
  • This collective data suggests that millennials are primarily interested in buying eco-friendly products that they deem affordable.

2: Millennials Are Discovering Eco-Friendly Products Via Social Media and Their Purchase Decisions Are Highly Influenced by Social Media

  • According to data published by the Harvard Business Review in 2019, "social influence is one of the most effective ways to elicit pro-environmental behaviors in consumption." As one study found, there as a 65% increase in sustainable purchasing among a cohort of online shoppers after they were told that other people were buying eco-friendly products.
  • Corroborating this, some studies have found that social media plays a powerful role of increasing sustainability awareness and highly influences consumer buying behavior among millennials. One study, in particular, found this was true in reference to sustainably sourced wines.
  • A study of 150,000 millennials found that millennials are highly influenced by their peers.
  • According to Olivia Valentine, strategic insights analyst at GlobalWebIndex, social media has helped to amplify green consumerism due to the fact that these platforms are playing a significant role in influencing the public's perspective of sustainability and environmental issues.
  • Olivia Valentine notes, "Social media is where eco-consumers are heading to find out more about products and services. Globally, it’s around 4 in 10 eco-consumers (those who say they try to buy organic/natural products and would pay more for sustainable/eco-friendly products) who say they mainly turn to social media (making them 10 per cent more likely to do so than the average internet user). That’s notably higher than the numbers who are checking out the actual brand/product’s website. "

3: Millennials Avoid Buying From Companies that Don't Share Their Eco-Friendly Values

  • Survey results have found that eco-conscious millennials are "value-driven and work to avoid businesses that support things they don't agree with (68%)".
  • Research conducted by The Shelton Group found that 90% of millennials buy from brands who share the same environmental and social practices as them, and 95% recommend such brands to their friends.
  • A study of 150,000 millennials in the U.S. found that 90% said they would no longer give financial support to an organization if they lost trust in it. Similarly, the study found that millennials "consider a company's cause record when applying for employment, and they participate in employee-giving campaigns based on the cause rather than the employer."
  • As this public awareness of environmental issues are growing, so to does consumer pressure on brands and other key players to act and respond to these issues. Among survey respondents in the U.S. and U.K., 52% said manufacturers and producers are responsible for the future of the planet.

Research

To conduct this research, we analyzed the demographics and psychographics of millennials through three lenses: millennials in general, eco-conscious millennials, and millennials who buy eco-friendly straws. Data was found to be highly limited regarding millennials who buy eco-friendly straws, however, we were able to gather some insight by triangulating using website analytics of a reusable straw company. However, most companies in this vertical don't get enough web traffic for analytics databases to effectively track, so only a small amount of data could be collected. Otherwise, surveys and reports regarding eco-friendly straw consumers largely focus on consumers in general rather than zeroing in on specifics of millennials. Despite this, a wealth of information was obtained by analyzing eco-friendly millennials and millennials in general. This information was available largely from surveys, along with industry reports, insights from experts, and trusted media outlets.

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