The survey of 4,000 adults found that under 25s are more likely to boast about eco-friendly actions such as limiting water use or donating to charity shops than older age groups. But, they are half as likely to actually carry them out, according to the findings from the insurance company Aviva.
Some experts think that young people are particularly susceptible to feelings of guilt about their environmentally harmful habits, such as plane travel or buying food in single-use plastic. To make up for this, they often exaggerate their eco-friendly behavior, an analyst of the study said.
Another study led by The University of Bath surveyed 10,000 young people aged 16-25 years in 10 countries and found around three-quarters of them felt that the future is frightening. The lack of action by governments and industry also left 45 percent experiencing climate anxiety and distress that affected their daily lives.
So is it any wonder that young people are looking for ways to cope with this influx of bad news and loss of hope for the future? It’s a problem that no other generation of young people has had to cope with, and no other generation has had social media at their fingertips as a way of venting.
Vegan virtue signaling?
The Cambridge English Dictionary describes virtue signaling as:
“An attempt to show other people that you are a good person, for example by expressing opinions that will be acceptable to them, especially on social media.”
But is this happening more amongst young people? And are young vegans more likely to do it?
Ten percent of respondents aged between 16 and 24 in the Aviva study said they follow a plant-based diet — four percent more than the national average of six percent. Under 25s are also most likely to say they have witnessed virtue-signaling (81 percent), compared to 54 percent of respondents from other age groups.
Are young people more likely to answer questions honestly than older generations? Or are they really guilty of virtue signaling and not following through in their claims?
When analysts looked at the environmental habits of under-25s they found just 34 percent of them recycle, compared to the national average of 71 percent.
The study claims that 23 percent of under-25s say they limit their water consumption compared to the national average of 43 percent, while 30 percent of 16-24s give unwanted items to charity shops, much lower than the national average of 63 percent.
Hope for the future
Whether this is a big problem is open to debate.
Kelly Whittington, from Aviva told The Telegraph:
“Green issues are high on people’s agendas and it’s encouraging that most people are taking steps to reduce their impact on the planet. Individuals are feeling guilty about ‘non-green’ actions and are eager to share their efforts on social media.
“This suggests we may see even more positive progress in the future.
“Collectively, there is still much work to be done, but it’s encouraging to see that as a nation, we want to do more.”