• Helen Lockett

How environmental concerns affect Gen Z’s fashion choices

With trailblazers like Greta Thunberg amongst their cohort, Gen Z have shown to be more environmentally aware than other generations. The climate crisis has been on young people’s minds for many years, and it looks like this won’t change any time soon. A recent survey of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ members found that 57% of child and adolescent psychologists had seen patients who were distressed about environmental and ecological issues in the last year. While this is likely the extreme end of concern, it illustrates just how prevalent concerns about the environment are to young people.


Coronavirus, while disrupting so many areas of daily life, has not stopped young people from caring about the environment. In September, young people turned up to climate protests around the world, adapting to the new restrictions. For example, Greta Thunberg led a strike in Sweden that was limited to 50 people as per local laws (as she tweeted, “so we adapt”), while others used online meetings instead of meeting in person, including a 24 hour Zoom call with contributors from around the world.


But what do these concerns and values mean for Gen Z as consumers? In the world of fashion, we can see Gen Z driving more sustainable initiatives in a number of directions. In a survey by Mintel at the start of 2020, 68% of 16-24 year olds said that they are trying to make more ethical fashion purchases now compared to the last 12 months. This age group are also the most interested in sustainable practices such as swapping fashion items with each other (75%) and using rental services (54%). Young adults (those aged 25-34) are also part of this trend, having bought (52%) or sold (50%) second-hand clothes, and 50% have repaired damaged or worn-out clothes.


This practice of upcycling and reusing clothes lets young people feel like they are contributing towards a more environmentally-friendly approach to fashion, without having to sacrifice style. During the initial lockdown, this could be seen in the types of platforms they were using too – Depop (a peer-to-peer app that lets users buy second-hand items) saw a 90% increase in traffic in April and May, at a time when retail sales fell by 18%. eBay found an increase in buyers of second-hand clothes as well, with over 12 million people having purchased a second-hand item in 2020, and identified Gen Z as the trailblazers for this.


To understand young people as consumers, it is vital to understand the context of their lives and how this affects what and how they purchase. We carry out an annual tracker with young people to explore their behaviours and attitudes toward a wide variety of areas, from media, education & careers, to finance, retail and wellbeing. To find out more, contact Helen or Afra (helen@discoveryres.co.uk and afra@discoveryres.co.uk).