Millennials vs boomers: Who’s better at saving energy?

Baby boomers and millennials don’t always see eye to eye. From skirmishes over smashed avo to clashes over corporatewear, the differences between the generations can be stark.

But when it comes to saving energy, who does it better? Origin’s Good Energy Report III lays bare the facts.

Many of us assume that younger people – those in the millennial and Gen Z age bracket – are among the worst at wasting energy. With their phones, laptops and constant connectivity, we may as well just hook them straight up to the power grid, right?

But what about baby boomers? They have the means to deck out their homes with pools, air-con and huge plasma TVs – presumably running up big bills in the process.

So, which is it? Are millennials and Gen Zs as bad as we think? Or do baby boomers get off too easy?

Origin’s Good Energy Report III (GER III) outlines a few fascinating insights into how each generation uses power.

Here’s the lowdown.

Choosing energy-efficient appliances

Only 31 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds made a conscious effort to buy energy-efficient appliances, versus 56 percent of 55- to 79-year-olds.

In fact, only 15 percent of people in the millennial age bracket know what the Energy Star rating system even means. A missed opportunity, considering how Energy Stars are a helpful indicator of how much power your appliance will chew up.

Lighting our homes

Across the board, most of us are pretty good at knowing to flick off light switches in unused rooms – this was highlighted in the GER III, where it was the most commonly cited hack to save energy.

Interestingly, more 18- to 34-year-olds use lamps – 29 percent, versus 16 percent of 55- to 79-year-olds – which is a more efficient way to light a room.  

Warming up and cooling down

With 40 percent of consumers identifying heating and air-conditioning as their “most indulgent” use of energy, a lot of Aussies know that an ideal temperature can come with a hefty price tag.  

The most common way people actively save energy is by putting on more clothes instead of turning on the heater. Seventy-four percent of 55- to 79-year-old consumers do this, as well as 54 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds.

The third-most popular way people save energy is by avoiding using the air-conditioner, with 48 percent of millennials and Gen Zs and 58 percent of 55- to 79-year-olds engaging in this behaviour.

Keeping clean

According to the GER III, more than half of 18- to 34-year-olds are taking showers longer than five minutes, versus a quarter of 55- to 79-year-olds.

Millennials and Gen Zs are also taking more baths, with 31 percent jumping in for a soak over 12 percent of baby boomers.

The verdict?

Generally speaking, the Boomers have it. It seems the older you are, the better you are at saving energy in the home.

To find out why that’s the case, we spoke to Claire Madden, a social researcher and expert in Millennials and Gen Z. She puts the difference in energy use down to a variety of lifestyle factors, including increased use of technology and living at home. 

“[Millennials and Gen Z] are at a life stage where many are still living with their parents and haven’t yet felt the pinch of paying the electricity bills themselves,” Madden explains.

“They are also from generations who have grown up with increased lifestyle conveniences and comforts. [They] like to create ideal environments, whether it be setting air-conditioning cooler on a hot day or taking a longer shower to start the day.”

But Madden doesn’t think this means our 18- to 34-year-olds are doomed to a life of inefficiency.

“Some of these practices may continue in years ahead, but no doubt as [millennials and Gen Z] try to balance mortgages or rent and all the household bills, they may also start to reduce some of their energy expenditure,” she says. 

A close look at the research proves this theory. Even though they’re not always footing the bill, millennials and Gen Z still care – 58 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds reported that they had actively tried to use less electricity.

In fact, a whopping 94 percent of people surveyed in GER III said they had tried to do something to help lower their electricity bill. Which means the younger generation is likely to catch up sooner rather than later.

And in the meantime, they can take energy-saving cues from the baby boomers.

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