New research indicates 77 percent of Gen Z believes lifestyle changes are necessary to make an impact on climate change, new campaign aims to overcome remaining obstacles to change
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, January 3, 2023 –While 77 percent of Gen Z respondents indicated that changing the way they live will be necessary to have an impact on climate change, eco-anxiety and other obstacles impede those behavior changes. A climate-focused advertising campaign from WildAid, called “The Environment Excuse”, will help consumers overcome those obstacles when launched in January 2023.
“Climate change news typically highlights scary images of forest fires and floods. But narratives of fear can be counterproductive by fostering despair and anxiety,” said John Baker, Chief Program Director at WildAid. “WildAid believes we can all be part of the solution. Even small changes will help, and they can lead to bigger changes.”
Defined as extreme worry about current and future harm to the environment by human activity and climate change, respondents are suffering from eco-anxiety at alarming rates, with 75 percent of Gen Z reporting a mental health issue due to climate change.
“Anxiety is the result of feeling that events are hopelessly out of control, which is how most of us relate to the climate crisis. Ubiquitous and unavoidable images of wildfires, floods, and droughts make it easy to imagine what’s to come. As crippling as these terrifying headlines can be, personal action is the antidote,” said Dr. Andrew Levinson, MD Psychiatry Specialist.
By easing eco-anxiety and increasing the perceived social expectation of climate action, the visibility of the new WildAid campaign across over 50 metropolitan markets in the United States can help people overcome the most significant obstacles to behavior change to decrease carbon emissions.
“Too many people still feel at a loss when it comes to the actions, they can take to stem the proverbial rising tide of climate change. One of the reasons behind this is climate change, and what an individual can do about it, seems too far away: too far away geographically and too far out into the future,” said Dr. Joe Árvai, a psychologist and Director of Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Southern California. “WildAid’s ‘The Environment Excuse’ is changing that. Not only are they helping people to recognize the risks posed by climate change today, but they’re also bringing insights about everyday actions well within people’s reach.”
Eco-anxiety is not the only obstacle. Research from conservation organization Rare indicates the importance of another key to behavior change: perceived social expectation. Few understand that other people increasingly share their belief in the importance of the same climate action.
“Our research indicates that the single biggest factor to catalyzing important behaviors related to climate change is to increase an individual’s perceived social expectation of that action,” said Kevin Green, Vice President at the Rare Center for Behavior and the Environment. “The more an individual feels that their peers, colleagues, and society at large expect a certain behavior, the more likely they are to adopt that behavior. Conversely, the more they observe apathy and indifference, the less likely they are to change.”
Leveraging approximately $10 million of pro bono out-of-home in 50+ US cities in addition to national social media content, WildAid’s new “The Environment Excuse” campaign will offer viable solutions to quell eco-anxiety through personal and collective action to benefit the climate. With a tongue-in-cheek approach, the campaign will encourage individuals to reduce food waste by eating their roommate’s leftovers and reduce their flight miles by skipping their corporate offsite among other everyday actions. Consumers will also be encouraged to engage in simple yet meaningful advocacy measures to help bring change at the policy level.
Recent reports from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) further validate this consumer-focused communications approach. In its 2022 report, the UN IPCC stated that 40 to 70 percent of all emissions can be eliminated through demand-side strategies by 2050. It further stated that “social influencers and thought leaders can increase the adoption of low-carbon technologies, behaviors, and lifestyles.”
WildAid’s positive messaging uses bold imagery and expert advice designed to help lighten the cognitive load while educating and motivating average Americans to fulfill their role in reducing carbon emissions within their everyday lives.
For more details on WildAid’s eco–anxiety research results, please see the “Gen Z and the Climate Crisis: From Eco-Anxiety to Eco-Action.”, as well as examples from “The Environment Excuse” creative campaign.
WildAid is a global non-profit organization with a mission to inspire and empower the world to protect wildlife and vital habitats from critical threats including the impacts of climate change, illegal wildlife trade and consumption. WildAid works to protect endangered wildlife by reducing consumption of illegal wildlife products, protecting priority marine areas with effective enforcement, and addressing the impacts of climate change through behavior change campaigns and by protecting large areas of blue carbon such as mangroves, seagrass beds, and salt marshes. WildAid has an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners that leverages more than $200 million in annual pro-bono media support.
Stephanie Hill, US Media & Advertising Strategy @ WildAid
Matt Grager, Climate Program Director @ WildAid
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WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect wildlife from illegal trade and other imminent threats. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $308 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.
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