To start with, Tom Szaky founder of TerraCycle was a strong believer in fully recyclable products. In January 2020 he appeared in an article on ADWEEK about sustainability. He had realised that reusable packages leave far less of a carbon footprint than fully recyclable ones. In 2019 he expanded with a service called Loop. He partnered up with a few well-known brands for the production of all kinds of household goods in a fully reusable packages. As his success grew he sought to discover why customers kept buying his products. He found out that the ‘packaging is the primary driver’ it was not only beautiful but efficiently functional.The second reason was the customers’ urge to be sustainable.
‘Disposability is our competition’ he said. ‘It’s an easy enemy to hate, thank God’
And indeed nowadays people care more and more about purchasing sustainable products with packaging that functions well, is efficient and innovative but also has a beautiful, design.
After some research into reusable and recyclable packaging I discovered that according to the media ‘Millennials’ are the top market for sustainable product packaging. I continued down that rabbit hole and stumbled onto an article by Dr. Andrea Umbach called ‘Your Millennial Doesn’t Want Your Stuff: Why Millennials Are Trending Toward Minimalism’
Now, according to Dr. Umbach, the millennial generation as she puts it is ‘a generation with record-breaking student loan debt as well as lower incomes’ and as one of those supposed millennials I don’t disagree.
My issue with her lovely pice of content is the comparison of the generations as a whole. Dr. Umbach states that the boomer generation preferred purchasing goods to paying for travel. Whereas Millennials prefer travelling and experiences instead of shopping.
But the truth is Millennials travel more than Boomers because travelling has become so much easier and cheaper than it was. We spend more on experiences because the world offers us more than it offed the previous generation.
She continues on to say that Millennials believe in minimalism because they don’t want or need more ‘stuff’, they don’t have the the income or the space to store material goods anymore.
She later mentions that ‘It is hard to say whether Millennials are choosing a more frugal lifestyle or if it is choosing them’ which, however, is where I disagree. I do believe that the frugal lifestyle is defiantly chosen for us because the previous generation wasn’t aware of the implications their lifestyle had on the planet. This is now forcing the production of more and more sustainable products and leaves the current generations with no choice but to lead a frugal life style. So of course we buy the best, more efficient quality products for the lowest prices because we’ll get the best value for them. And if they are reusable even better because we can keep them around for longer. This is sustainable so no one would mind especially if they packaging has beautiful design.
So where does the minimalism fit into it if we indeed keep buying more products in reusable packaging? Well, nowhere really.
Just as an example, think about the water bottles and coffee mugs all of us carry around to work everyday. How many of those does each of us have just laying around the house? We all bought them because like Tom Szaky mentions the packaging was nice and efficient and we justified our purchase with the idea of sustainability. We buy one and use it for a while but, let’s face it, we all get sick of that design eventually so we buy another one and another one. We even purchase them as gifts for others. This applies to everything we buy; clothes, household appliances, electronics and even books.
And this is where the subject of minimalism and millennials comes full circle: books. I am by no means agains reading, as I have shelves stacked with novels. However, so many books have been written about how to live a minimalist lifestyle like: ‘the life-changing magic of tidying’ by Marie Kondo, ‘minimal how to simplify your life and live sustainably’ by Madeleine Olivia, etc. These books mention things like ‘it it doesn’t bring you joy, throw it away’. What if nothing you own brings you joy or worse, what if everything does?
Just to clarify we buy books (which still qualify as stuff) to tell us how not to hoard more stuff?
As Weronika Kuc a 24 year old woman who strongly believes in sustainability and is a proud owner of a couple of these books says ‘Reading about minimalism is my favourite activity whilst resting on my piles of stuff.’
Millennials are indeed in student loan debt and have lower incomes but does not mean they shop less. They simply shop sustainably. Every reusable package they buy encourages them to keep it and the fact that it looks pretty makes them want more of it.
All those things they buy regardless of their reusability, however, will eventually end up as rubbish. Which can still harm the plant. Although, not the advertising industry. We don’t have anything to worry about, we’ll always have jobs because people will never stop buying. ‘Stuff’ makes people happy and that’s certainly not defined by a generation.
All that’s left for us to do is advertise sustainably.