I thought the comments about how young people’s desire for instant gratification was nothing particularly new. However, it is worth thinking about the desire for more ‘green’ options being coupled with the desire to get everything instantly. The two are somewhat in tension.
Uncertainty about the future may be encouraging impulsive spending of limited resources in the present. The young were disrupted more by covid than other generations and are now enjoying the rebound. According to McKinsey, American millennials (born between 1980 and the late 1990s) spent 17% more in the year to March 2022 than they did in the year before. Despite this short-term recovery from the dark days of the pandemic, their long-term prospects are much less good.
Youngsters’ appetite for instant gratification is also fuelling some distinctly ungreen consumer habits. The young have virtually invented quick commerce, observes Isabelle Allen of kpmg. And that convenience is affordable because it fails to price in all its externalities. The environmental benefits of eating plants rather than meat can be quickly undone if meals are delivered in small batches by a courier on a petrol-powered motorbike. Shein, a Chinese clothes retailer that is the fastest in fast fashion, tops surveys as a Gen Z favourite in the West, despite being criticised for waste; its fashionable garments are cheap enough to throw on once and then throw away. Like everyone else the young are, then, contradictory—because, like everyone else, they are only human.
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