Generational power: from Boomers to Gen Z

Energy consumption looks a little different for everyone. We all have different needs, habits and routines that alter how much electricity we typically use.

But, when taking a look at similar age groups, or generational cohorts, we find similarities in energy use patterns for the people within them. Likewise, from one generation to the next there are some stark differences. For example, with each generation having been raised at a different stage of technological development, it’s not surprising that they would exhibit different ways of consuming energy. In this article, we zero in on the differences of each generational cohort in Canada, from Baby Boomers to Generation Z, and how their common characteristics affect how they each use and think about energy.

Baby Boomers

Born between 1946 and 1965, they grew up in a post-war era in which the ‘American Dream’ was promised to them. Known for their strong work ethic, they have worked hard for their current socioeconomic status.

Despite rapidly changing media platforms and devices, Baby Boomers still lean toward the traditional. This tendency results in higher energy usage. Baby Boomers still using traditional televisions as opposed to tablets or smartphones are consuming up to 200 times more energy – just in media consumption alone.

A study by BC Hydro found that the average Baby Boomer living in a single family home consumes twice the amount of energy as a millennial living in an apartment. In general, Baby Boomers often live in larger homes with an average of 2000 square feet. This added space requires more heating, cooling and lighting. It also affords more space for more possessions that consume energy, such as multiple refrigerators and freezers, home theatre systems, a hot tub and a heated pool. Lifestyle-wise, they are also more likely to prepare home-cooked meals on a daily basis, using an oven and stove-top to do it.

Generation X

Born between 1965 and 1981, this generation is also known as the generational sandwich – stuck in the middle of two very prominent generational cohorts: Baby Boomers and Millennials. They also straddle the old and new media lines, growing up with traditional media (i.e. newspaper, radio, and traditional television) and rapidly transitioning to new digital media (i.e. social media, streaming) – which they are keen to adopt. In fact, this generation is known to spend as many as seven hours per week on Facebook – more than any other generational cohort. Work-life balance is extremely important to them, so they do all that they can to make time for their family, raising their kids and caring for their aging parents.

Being a frugal generation, they commonly seek ways to save their money. This makes them more receptive to adopting a more energy-conscious lifestyle. For this reason, while they may still possess a lifestyle similar to their predecessors, they do so with careful consideration over how it will affect their cost of living – with energy usage being a factor.

Millennials

Born between 1982 and 1991, Millennials grew up during the rise of the internet and the digital age. They are known for their tech-savviness and attachment to working and socializing via digital platforms. They care deeply for the environment, making them champions of green energy and sustainability.

Being digital natives, they leverage technology to make their lives more efficient – from mobile apps to smart home technology. They also spend a lot of time using Wi-Fi and their smartphones. Like Baby Boomers, 95 per cent of Millennials still watch TV, but opt for streaming services instead of traditional cable. While these digital habits are perceived as high energy consumers, modern digital devices are actually far more efficient from traditional platforms. On the flip side, their desire for convenience can increase their energy usage in other areas (i.e. dishwashers, coffee machines, food processors, etc). Likewise, the popularity of video games among Millennials can play a factor in increasing their energy usage.

From a desire to reduce their carbon footprint, paired with a less financially established place in society, Millennials are more likely to live in smaller homes or to rent. This reduces their energy consumption for heating, cooling and lighting their living spaces, while also limiting their ability to invest in add-ons or upgrades that increase energy usage (i.e. radiant flooring or a hot tub). They also possess a strong interest in clean energy sources, and are twice as likely to adopt solar technology as Baby Boomers.

Generation Z

Born between 1993 and 2011, this age group grew up with technology, often playing with their parents’ mobile phones and tablets. The average Gen-Z received their first personal personal device at just over 10 years of age. They are highly connected to the internet and self-profess that they are online almost constantly to stay close to people, companies and causes that are important to them.

Yet to reach maturity, there is still a lot to learn about their energy habits. But with an increasing number of climate change advocates coming from this generation, a greater demand for clean energy and lifestyles with reduced energy consumption is expected.

With each generation come different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to energy usage, but thankfully, all of our weaknesses can be opportunities to improve. The more electricity that someone currently consumes, the more potential there is to find creative ways to change and conserve. As we all face a time of crisis in this COVID-19 pandemic, there is no time like the present to take time to challenge our current habits and lifestyles.

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