Generation woke? Over 55s most likely to recycle, study shows

News headlines about Greta Thunberg and student protests may suggest that young people lead the way when it comes to the environment, but a new study shows that this might not be the case.

By Sarah Lewis

The over 55s are more likely to recycle waste (84%), avoid single-use-plastic and buy only seasonal fruit and vegetables (47%) than any other age group, according to research from Aviva 1.

More than 4,000 UK adults were asked about their climate-conscious actions and, in almost every category, the over-55s were most likely to be taking steps already.

Eco-friendly behaviours included shopping at local stores (63%), using LED light bulbs (88%) and growing their own vegetables (37%).

In fact, the only area where older people scored less well is when it comes to eating a vegan diet, with fewer than 2% of over 55s adopting a plant-based plan compared to 9% of under-25s.

Brits, in general, are becoming environmentally conscious, with two thirds (68%) saying they’re more likely to pick brands with sustainable or climate-aware credentials.

And while all age groups were fairly likely to recycle, fewer Brits plan to reduce how often they fly with people aged 25-34 least likely to change their travel habits (18%).

How climate conscious is the UK? 

Activity to reduce environmental impact All age groups 16-24  25-34  35-44  45-54 

55+ 

Recycling through local bin collections

73%

54%

66%

71%

79%

84%

Giving unwanted items to charity shops

67%

55%

57%

64%

74%

76%

Avoiding single-use plastic items

61%

55%

54%

58%

66%

66%

Turning down the thermostat at home

59%

44%

49%

59%

67%

68%

Buying second-hand items / up-cycling

40%

38%

40%

43%

42%

37%

Using energy-saving LED light bulbs

78%

59%

72%

78%

85%

88%

Eating only seasonal fruit and vegetables

40%

33%

35%

43%

42%

47%

Reducing car usage

34%

26%

31%

33%

36%

38%

Planting trees / growing own vegetables

30%

23%

25%

28%

32%

37%

Reducing meat eaten in your household

32%

31%

28%

33%

32%

34%

Buying from local suppliers

54%

41%

45%

52%

57%

63%

Reducing how often you travel by plane

22%

21%

18%

20%

22%

24%

Becoming vegan

5%

9%

8%

6%

3%

2%

Aviva Group Head of Sustainability Zelda Bentham says: “Green living and climate-conscious behaviours are often seen as the domain of the young, but this research suggests that older people are quietly leading the charge and taking steps to care for the planet.

“Whether we’re reducing plastic, growing our own food or reducing how often we travel, we can all take small steps which can add up to a big difference.”