Survey shows young adults ready to change their behavior based on sustainable values

Young adults from Montreal, Halifax and New York City have very specific ideas about what it takes to build a more sustainable world. And they are willing to make the necessary changes to their lifestyles to make such a world a reality. This is the conclusion drawn from a survey sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which surveyed 400 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35.

The survey was part a much larger study of undertaken by UNEP, called the Global Survey for Sustainable Lifestyles (GSSL). The GSSL is one of the first in-depth surveys to be carried out worldwide. More than 8,000 from 20 countries responded to an online available in 10 languages. Questions focused on respondents' concerns and hopes for the future as well as pressing priorities that should be addressed by public officials to advance sustainability.

Four Canadian and American universities collaborated on this international project: Two universities (Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and Concordia University), Dalhousie University in Halifax, and Fordham University in . The survey was led by Solange Tremblay, associate professor of communication and sustainability at UQAM and Professor Guy Lachapelle from Concordia's Department of Political Science.

What emerges from the research is that young adults in the New York City area, Halifax and Montreal share the dream of a better-balanced way of life, inspired by more just and humane values and distinguished by fulfilling work, family and social lives. For these young people, living responsibly means consumption based on necessity, reducing car usage and adopting public transportation for routine travel. They recognize the need to use less water and less energy. Buying local products, recycling and composting are among the practices they are willing to adopt to improve the environment, emphasizing the importance of reducing waste in every form.

Three cities, three ways of viewing the world

These young adults do not, however, all share the same understanding of what is meant by sustainable development. Those from Montreal, for instance, are the most aware of the environmental, social and economical dimensions of sustainability, likely due to the public awareness campaign that followed the adoption of the law on sustainable development in Québec in 2006.

While the survey found young in Montreal and Halifax are convinced that the two greatest global challenges today are poverty and environmental degradation, young New Yorkers are four to five times more convinced that the economy is a more pressing issue than the environment. This difference, say the study's authors, may be partially explained by the unprecedented economic crisis which began in the United States in 2008.

Other ways in which young adults clearly differ in their concerns depending on where they live:

  • Young Montrealers are concerned with their overall quality of life, including the availability of more affordable organic food, expansion of the bicycle path network, and development of solid neighbourly relationships.
  • In Halifax, respondents want to see substantial investments to improve public transportation in the city and its outlying areas, including by the sea; they are also very critical of the sluggishness of local authorities in developing a network of bicycle paths.
  • In the New York City area, young adults clearly identified the lack of decent, affordable housing as a major issue, along with energy consumption, pollution and the difficulty of getting into Manhattan, whether by car, train or bicycle.
Better communication needed

The young adults from all three cities are aware that certain measures require collective action, and a number of them believe measures beyond simple information are needed to encourage different behaviours to respond to global problems such as climate change. While 60 per cent believe they could influence public policy, they say communication is severely lacking.Three respondents out of five acknowledge they know little or nothing about how their communities are managed, an observation shared by young adults from other parts of the world. Ultimately, the study shows that the collective values and distinguishing characteristics of each of the three urban centres, along with those of other regions in the world, offer valuable sources of information for the development of public policy.

More information: The results of the survey on young adults in New York, Montreal, and Halifax can be found on pages 62 to 70 of the publication Visions for Change: Country Papers (www.unep.fr/scp/publications/d… s.asp?id=WEB/0166/PA), which lists the results by country. Visions for Change: Recommendations for Effective Policies on Sustainable Lifestyles (www.unep.fr/scp/publications/d… s.asp?id=DTI/1321/PA) summarizes the results from all the surveyed countries.

Provided by Concordia University

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Increasing young adult smoking linked to smoking in movies

Oct 02, 2007

Do young adults learn behaviors from movies? In a paper published in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, examined the relationship betwee ...

Portrait of gambling behavior in Quebec

Nov 10, 2010

The initial findings of a survey on the prevalence of gambling in Quebec have been released. The study also deals with behavior problems associated with gambling. The study reveals that nearly 70 percent of Quebec adults ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

11 hours ago

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

12 hours ago

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

12 hours ago

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Jun 02, 2011
The only cure for Conservative Denialist Liedeology is death.

The future is typically driven by the vision of the young, who witness the ideological failures of the adult population around them.

America will not survive the last 40 years of borrow and spend Republican Treason. But then Conservatism will not survive the coming generation.