Generation Green: Baby Boomers and Gen X

Trends / Sustainability
Johner Images
Sandra Michalska
Oct 19, 2021
It’s a common assumption that younger generations are more involved in sustainability practices and climate challenges. Yet, our most recent Visual GPS study reveals that for the second year in a row, Baby Boomers are the most passionate generation when it comes to practising sustainability. Back in 1970, as young adults, Baby Boomers celebrated the first‑ever Earth Day. In 2021, hand‑in‑hand with Gen X, they are outdoing younger generations in sustainable day‑to‑day practices.

Environmentally‑aware advertising is important for all generations; nevertheless, an in‑depth understanding of generational nuances is needed for both brand targeting and activating different demographics' support for a more sustainable future. While Millennials lead with sustainable consumption and Gen Z with activism, Gen X and Baby Boomers start changing the world themselves, with daily individual practices: whether it is recycling, repurposing or stopping the use of single‑use plastics. To that point, there is an interesting consensus for both generations about personal accountability: globally, 9 in 10 say that people cannot expect the world to get better if they aren’t personally doing something to make that happen.
Baby Boomers
At Getty Images, we have been monitoring different generations’ attitudes towards sustainability. Historically, Baby Boomers were committed to individual actions for sustainable living such as recycling, eliminating single‑use plastics or making their homes more energy‑efficient. Further research revealed that they have similar convictions when making purchase decisions, as they are less likely to experience the consumption conundrum—a situation where convenience takes priority over eco‑consciousness. Our newest Visual GPS data shows that there is an opportunity for brands to expand the scope of visual scenarios beyond Baby Boomers' individual actions. They are leaders in sustainable everyday living and they expect to see the same engagement from companies, notably through reducing their carbon footprint by responsible production. So, when visualising this demographic, it is important to show how they are personally involved with the changes that companies are making. When visualising brands' actions, showing structural changes like sourcing organic materials or upcycling practices will reassure Baby Boomers about a brand's authentic commitment to the environment.
Generation X
From individual actions such as recycling to supporting small businesses, Generation X are similar to Baby Boomers when it comes to everyday sustainable living. However, when it comes to their trust in technology, they are closer to younger generations' view of tech as a means of bringing pleasure and convenience to life. Visuals depicting individual actions such as reusing, repairing or composting will resonate with this generation. Gen X has more trust in technology, so fostering sustainable innovations, such as real‑life use of renewable energies or smart home appliances, will also grab their attention. Similarly to Baby Boomers, Gen X expects brands to showcase how they reduce their carbon footprint across the supply chain. Visualising specific sustainable projects that can be adopted both at an individual and organisational level, from e‑mobility in real‑life to digital transformation at scale, will reflect this demographic's sustainable routines.
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